The number 78 would not have looked good in black. At the top of a test paper it wouldn't look good under any circumstances. But in red it looked even worse. It was a big, fat, red 78.
It was a disaster.
Shimmy had studied for the science test like any other examination in his long illustrious academic career (he was in seventh grade; he was a pro). But somehow the material had gotten away from him. As he handed in the paper he had a feeling he hadn't done so well. He was expecting something in the low to mid 80's.
But he had never dipped below 80 before, and the sensation he was experiencing as he looked down at his results was not pleasant, not at all. Before him he could see a long road of mediocrity.
Gone were all the enrichment classes he had been attending.
No more teacher's pet.
He wasn't sure he would get into high school at all.
Can you say "community college"?
He couldn't bring this home to his mother. What would she say?
The bus ride home felt like an eternity. Every bump in the road felt like a major pot hole. At every turn he was sure the bus would turn over. He grasped his seatbelt to make sure it was tightly fastened. Shimmy felt like he was having trouble breathing. Was he getting asthma?
It could happen.
The walk down the front path to his house was like a stroll down the halls of a penetentiary ("Boy who got a C-plus walking!"). Shimmy took one step through the front door, looked at his mother and burst out crying.
"Shimon Azriel, what's wrong?"
Shimmy couldn't speak. He thrust the test before his mother's eyes and looked away. He couldn't bare to endure what was going to happen next.
Shimmy looked at his mother.
"You're upset because you got one bad grade? Big deal."
That certainly wasn't the reaction he was expecting from his mother. Rumor had it, she had once asked the principal of his school if there was an honors kindergarten class for her son Shimon, the iluy*.
"You mean you're not mad?"
"Shimon, bubbe, come sit with me."
Shimmy sat across from his mother at the kitchen table.
"First of all, I don't get mad. I get angry. Only dogs get mad. Second of all, of course I'm not angry. It's just a test. We all have bad days."
"Do you know what this week's parsha is, Shimmy?"
"Good boy," she said, pinching his cheek. "And in Miketz, Yosef starts off the parsha in jail. He's been sold into slavery, he's worked as a servant, and then he ends up in jail. But does he lose faith?"
"No?" Shimmy said rather tentatively.
"What was that?"
"I can't hear you."
"NO!" Shimmy said emphatically.
"That's right. Yosef kept his faith in Hashem, and he kept plugging away. And did he get out of jail?"
"He most certainly did. He ended up the ruler of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. So you see? You have to stick with it and not be discouraged by one bad test."
"So if I don't get discouraged, maybe I can end up being President some day?"
"I guess that would be O.K.," Shimmy's mother said. "But if that doesn't work out, there's always medical school."