"Rick? What did you get for Number 6?" "Um... I got Y equal to four-thirds." "Good, Rick. Very good. Do the rest of you see how he arrived at the solution? Rick, can you explain?" "Sure. I multiplied both sides by the value of denominator X..." "...and I had to reduce the left side to a known number..." "Excellent. Thank you, Rick. William? Your answer for Number 9?" "Number 9? Ahh..........." "Right answer, William. Can you come to the board and explain, please?" "... solve for the unknown..." "... had to take the square root..." "...numerator..." "...three point one four one five nine..." "...so it had to be twenty-two divided by seven." "Good, William. You can sit down, thanks." "Danny?" "Something interesting going on outside that window, Danny?" "Thank you, Danny. From the look on your face, I thought you had your attention elsewhere. I'm glad I was wrong. Now, since you were paying attention all along, you won't mind telling us the answer to Number 14, would you?" "Do you even know what 14 is about, Danny?" "Danny. Did you read the chapter, son?" "Perhaps you'd like to read it tonight, then? Because you'll need to know the material. Otherwise, you won't be able to do the ten extra problems I'm assigning you. See me after class." "Well, then... Jason? Maybe you can help us with Number 14?" "I got X equal to the cube root of seventeen-point-five..." Sleet outside the window. Ugly, glarey fluorescent lights overhead. Hard old wooden desk, worn smooth with a generation of writing hands and restless butts. Math class is in session. And it's life without parole. Outside, it's winter. Sleet. The ugliest of all God's weather. Looking down at my desk, partly covered by my homework, which is full of aimless scribbles, and my algebra book, which looks brand-new and unopened. Around and between them, you can see pieces of the graffitti decorating my prison: ``` ichelle blows 4 fre Rand lov recalc SUX! Jenn John 3:1 ``` Michelle blows for free, huh? Like it matters to me. How come you never see "Michael blows for free" on a desk? I wish I could make myself invisible. I'd be on that sidewalk out there. Sleet or no sleet. I'd be down the walk, to the parking lot, and past that, to the main road, and to freedom. Dream on, Danny. No one's moving out there, not on a lousy day like this. And it's a thousand years till the bell rings. Hey, something's moving out there. Something round and black against the gray. And it's getting closer. Oh. It's an umbrella. Somebody's walking out there. Geez, who would walk around on a day like this? Looks like a kid. Well, a teenager. He's getting closer. Can't see his face... Poor kid's getting soaked. Look at his Levis. I guess he has to be going somewhere important. Wonder if I know him? Move that umbrella, kid. I wanna see if you're somebody I -- oh. Oh my God. Ohhh... Star. No. Supernova. Ball of flame inside me. Soundless avatar, in the middle of Tuesday afternoon. I'm transfixed, I'm dying. Boystruck. Strike me dead on the spot. Stab of fear. He called on me. Caught. Twenty kids. And he called on me. "Ahh... no. Nothing." Number 14? Yes, Mr. Deering. I can tell you the answer to Number 14. Number 14 is that boy out there. The one who's around 14 years old. Like me. Number 14 is that boy, the boy with the wet Levis, and the yellow-blond hair, and the halo, that corona of brilliant white light the one that reaches a hundred thousand miles into the sky. He's 14, he's perfect. He came to save me on this lousy, sleety day, when it's a thousand years till the bell, and nothing matters more than being a boy who likes boys and who wouldn't trade places with a boy who likes girls for anything, today. That's what Number 14 is all about, sir. He's past the window now. I can't look. But I feel his heat touching me... and I feel it slowly ebbing, as he walks on. He's leaving. He's going down the sidewalk, out of sight. I can't look. But I can tell. He's gone. Vanished into the gray afternoon. No. No, I didn't. Last night, during homework time, when my mom thought I was studying, I was looking out the window of my bedroom, the same way I was looking outside just now, and wishing for an angel to come to me. And now he's come. And he's gone. And you made me miss him. "Um... no. I didn't read it." Sigh. "Yes, sir." I feel old.

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