Storytime: Stumped.

May 31st, 2017

Timothy Lean was in a quandary, which is like a quarry but self-creating. It was driving him to strong language.
The exam leered at him from the vast, sparkling emptiness of his desk. Its surface was a painful white; the white of a blister – from frost, from fire, from sweat. It was making him cross.
(shit, fuck)
Timothy ransacked his skull – oh, how he hated the emptiness of that thing! – and found nothing. But wait, but wait! Just behind that was…
…more nothing.
(BALLS!) he shouted aloud, and was tossed out immediately.

So Timothy Lean picked up his backpack and his hat and his gripes and he dragged them all the way down the subway through the winding ways up beneath the highways and into the farthest pits of the byways, where he found his grandmother, who was a witch.
“Grandmother,” he said to her, “you’re a witch.”
“Yes,” said his grandmother. “You know that. I know that. Everyone else knows it too. You benefitted nothing and no one with that sort of thing. This is why your mother and I don’t speak.”
“Grandmother,” he ploughed onwards, “I am most pretty profoundly cursed in my brains. Every exam I’ve taken for the past six months, I’ve found myself stuck. Caught. Stopped dead. Stumped.”
“Study harder,” she told him.
“Well that’s not very helpful.”
“Neither are you.”
“I know you are but what am I?” asked Timothy, cunningly.
His grandmother had fallen right into his trap – filled with as much disgust as she was at that moment, she would’ve agreed to run over glass barefoot to get him out of there. “Fine. Fine. Here’s your stupid magic, you rotten fruit of my fruit’s loins. Put this little twig around your neck. Then, just before your exam, find a tree. Walk up to it and put your lips to its knothole and say ‘I’m stumped!’ loud and clear. Then get out of the way and go inside and take your exam and everything should work out okay.”
“Will I get As?”
“It’s magic, not miracles. You’ll get Cs and like it.”
“Okay, okay, okay,” he sighed, and he put the twig around his neck and walked home without saying thank-you, which honestly was to his benefit as his grandmother probably would’ve smacked his teeth loose if he’d said one more word in arm’s reach.

Biology. Mitochondria, the Golgi apparatus. Ribosomes. Timothy could already feel them leaking from his head as he hurried back to the campus.
But he had just enough time to stop and lean against a little sapling to catch his breath. And once he’d grabbed it, he twisted over his shoulder, leaned in close, and said “I’m stumped.”
WHOMP, went the air and he almost fell over, because the tree was gone and nothing was left but, well, a stump. A pretty short one.
Timothy scratched his head. Then he went indoors and had the smoothest, best biology exam of his life. He even remembered all the names of all the stages of cellular mitosis.

History was next. Dates and names and places and perspectives and texts and worst of all worst of all WORST of all: critical thinking.
Timothy stopped by a rotten old apple tree outside the building’s door for a quick moment. “I’m STUMPED,” he told it.
WHOMP there it went. The air around him was filled with falling, flying, mushy apples. One landed right on his head.
“Fuck,” he complained to the universe at large. But he knew what he knew, and he knew he couldn’t do much about it.
So he went into class and spent two hours describing post-colonialism and post-communism and the origin of the post-office. With moderate success.

Last class, last gasp, and oh Timothy was running on it. From one side of campus to the other, legs flapping, backpack bouncing, brain broiling.
And maybe it was because he’d been to see his grandmother, but he was a bit more tired than usual.
And maybe it was because he was so happy to have his exams finally turning around, but he was a bit more distracted than usual.
And maybe it was because he was wiping the applesauce out of his hair as he went, but he was a bit more clumsy than usual.
Whatever it was, there he went, up up up the steps and into the doors and woops he’d forgotten his tree and he ran outside and looked around desperately through streaking vision and THERE IT WAS and he ran up and grabbed it and gasped, extremely quiet, on his last puff of breath “imstumped.”
Nothing happened. His heart rate doubled.
“ImStumpt” he mumbled.
Nothing happened. Red fury filled his eyeballs.
“I’MSTUMP!” he roared, and he pulled off the twig around his neck and punched it as hard as he could.

Now, maybe it would’ve been okay if he’d said ‘I’m stumped.’
It could’ve been alright, if he’d had the twig around his neck.
Fewer problems if he hadn’t punched the tree.
And of course, he would’ve been much better off if he’d been talking to a tree instead of a lovely and artistically wrought lamp-post.
But we don’t live in the world with the best decisions so instead Timothy Lean went WHOMP.

Campus emergency services took about sixteen hours to dig him out. He’d put down some pretty deep roots.

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