Failing Test - Paperback Edition
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Failing Test Blog Spot
Test Davis has lived a tragic and lonely life. The day comes when he discovers a gift that has rested dormant within him for years; giving him a brief moment of greatness and then exposing his greatest weakness.
Excerpt From Chapter 12
Trust and Friendship
Test was awakened by the shake of a hand on his shoulder and an old man’s voice.
“Wake up, kid. This ain’t no hotel, and you ain’t paid for that coffee yet neither.”
Test looked up to see a silver-haired black man with a heavily receding hairline standing beside him. Hanging low on his nose was a pair of thick-lens, black-framed glasses that were millimeters away from sliding off the tip of his nose. Clenched between his teeth rested an unlit cigar that looked as though he’d been chewing on it for days. His name-tag read “Cliff.”
“Let’s go, kid. You can’t stay here less you pay for somethin’,” the old man complained.
Test sat up straight and rubbed his face. “I’ll pay for the coffee,” he replied with a yawn. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep, sir, I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t realize how tired I was.”
“Oh, you kids and your fast lifestyle. Up all night and sleep all day; it’s no wonder the world’s going to hell in a hand basket,” replied Cliff as he pointed his finger accusingly at Test.
Test watched the old man speak. For some reason, he liked him. Even though the old man was yelling at him, he got the feeling that was just how he was, and didn’t necessarily mean to come off as crabby as he did.
“What are you doin’ out this late, young man?” asked Cliff.
Test took a sip of his now-cold coffee. The bitter taste hit his tongue, and his face contorted in disapproval. He choked the cold coffee down and replied, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Try me,” said Cliff as he sat across from Test. “What’s your name, son? You don’t look familiar to me. Don’t recall seein’ you before.”
“Test Davis, sir,” he replied.
“My name is Clifford Johnston. Folks just call me Cliff,” said the old man as he reached out his hand.
Test shook the old man’s hand and replied, “Good to meet you, Mr. Johnston.”
Cliff dipped his head and turned sideways in the booth. “No, no, no. Didn’t I just ask you to call me Cliff? You kids don’t listen well these days neither,” he said gruffly as he pushed his glasses back on his nose. “Now, back to my original question; what are you doin’ out this late?”
Test looked out the window and noticed that it had stopped raining. The parking lot was full of puddles, and the wind had become still. Glancing back to Cliff, Test answered as honestly as he could.
“I had a party to go to tonight. It was really the first night that I was going to hang out with my new girlfriend. Let’s just say that everything didn’t work out as I had hoped.”
Cliff pulled his glasses off his face and let them dangle on a black shoestring that he’d fashioned into a strap. He slapped his hand on the table and looked at Test with his left eye squinted.
“That’s it? You’re either leavin’ out a bunch of stuff, or you are the most boring kid in the state of Nebraska!” he said loudly.
Test smiled and laughed. “Well, I did kind of do some stuff I’m not proud of,” he replied.
“You on drugs? Damn kids always doin’ them drugs!” said Cliff as he slapped his hands on the table.
“No, sir, no that’s not it at all!” replied Test defensively.
“Then what are you talkin’ about?” asked Cliff as he quickly stood up.
Though Test was twice the old man’s size, he cowered in his seat, afraid of what the old man might say next. Now wide awake, Test answered with his hands held up defensively. “There are these two guys and this one girl that were harassing me and my girlfriend. I just wanted them to stop!” he replied.
“Your girlfriend got a name?” asked Cliff.
Test wrinkled his nose. “What does her name have to do with anything? Besides, I don’t know if she wants to be my girlfriend now or not,” he replied.
Cliff stood idly and waited for his answer.
“Okay, if you need to know, her name is Nicole,” replied Test, thinking now that maybe the old man was slightly touched.
“Thank you,” said Cliff as he once again took a seat across from Test. “Okay, so what’d you do to these two guys and this girl that was botherin’ you?” he asked as he aggressively chewed on his cigar.
Knowing what his reaction was going to be, Test was unable to look at the old man. Reluctantly he replied, “I . . . I smashed their truck.”
Shaking his head in disappointment, Cliff looked at Test. “Always violence. Always them damned drugs and violence with kids these days. Ain’t you kids ever talked nothin’ out?”
“I tried, Mr. Johnston,” he stopped himself mid-sentence, “I mean Cliff. Honest I did. I’ve never been mean to anyone in my life.”
Cliff placed his glasses back on his nose, took the cigar from his mouth, and looked at Test with a great intensity. After several moments of silence, he stood and grabbed Test’s cold cup of coffee.
“You know, son, I believe you. I think you’re a good boy. I can tell ’bout most, good or bad that is. You’ve got a shine to you,” said Cliff.
“What do you mean?” asked Test.
Cliff put his hand on Test’s shoulder and replied, “Some people, they just walk around like they walkin’ in the dark, and they’re fine with that. Day after day just livin’; some days good, some days bad, but either way they just keep walking without any desire or any goal. You, son, I see some fire in you.”
Test smiled. If only he knew, he thought.
“A fire huh?” he replied aloud.
“That’s right, a fire. You’re not lettin’ nothin’ get in your way. You push through obstacles and sometimes fly past your original goal. Yes, sir, you’ve got a fine shine, son; a fine shine. You just keep pushin’ like you know how, and this will pass as well,” said Cliff with a wink.
“Thank you, sir,” replied Test, surprised at the realization that he was feeling much better.
Cliff looked out the window and noticed a white cargo van pulling into the parking lot. He looked at his watch. It was three o’clock in the morning.
“Ah, right on time. My favorite part of the mornin’,” said Cliff as he looked back down to Test with a smile. “Let me freshen up your coffee, son.”
“That would be great,” replied Test.
As Cliff walked to the coffee pots, the front door opened, and the bells rang. In walked a long-haired thirty-year-old man wearing a hat that reminded Test of something a golfer would wear. Test stared at the man’s long graying beard and small round glasses, wondering what planet this guy was from. And then the two of them made eye contact. The bearded man froze and stared awkwardly. Test quickly looked out the window, trying to hide the fact that he had been staring. He could see the man’s reflection in the window. He remained frozen, and his eyes locked on Test. Uncomfortable and confused, Test struggled to keep his composure. He couldn’t recall ever seeing him before, but the man looked at him as if he knew who he was. Startled by Cliff’s sudden appearance, Test jumped.
“Mornin’, Jacob,” said Cliff as he put Test’s fresh cup of coffee down on the table.
“Good morning, Cliff,” replied Jacob, not taking his eyes off Test.
Cliff looked strangely at Jacob and then down to Test.
“Anything good in there this mornin’?” he asked.
Stepping sideways towards the door, Jacob replied in a nervous and hurried voice, “I gotta go, Cliff. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Without waiting for a reply, he quickly turned and walked briskly out the front door.
“He’s kind of a strange guy, huh, Cliff?” asked Test.
“Nah, he’s all right. Somethin’s got him spooked. He ain’t normally like that,” replied Cliff.
Test looked out the window, expecting to see the van flying out of the parking lot. Instead, the van remained sitting where it had been parked. Inside, he could see Jacob talking on the phone.
Cliff walked over to the pile of papers that Jacob had inexplicably left on the floor. He bent down slowly, knees crackling, and picked them up.
“Don’t know what’s got into him,” said Cliff, groaning as he lifted the papers to the counter. “I hope he . . .”
Cliff froze as he examined the front page.