Billy hadn’t bothered to show up to class in months, well aware that his grade slipped deeper into despair with each passing day, he couldn’t seem to place the point in spending hours in front of a dusty chalkboard. His dream was to be outside, on his bike or skateboard, zipping back and forth on a ramp and not pushing a number two into yet another column of pale dots.
He knew he couldn’t keep it up forever, with the semester ending, his report card was going to give him away. His mother had a habit of sipping a mug of tea and rolling her eyes over the results as he was to stand there and await his fate. How would she react? Was she going to support his desire to skate instead of study? Was she capable of understanding what it’s like to have a dream?
As the days rolled into one another he learned new tricks and forgot all about trigonometry. Why bother learning something he’d never use when he could be practicing something that could someday pay the rent?
When the day finally arrived that his report card was to be in the mail he spied on the mailman from afar and then skated towards the mailbox, but it was, empty? His friends had been warning him all week that the day of reckoning was coming, well, the day had arrived as there was no misfortune to be found — or so he thought.
When his mom arrived home from work he was halfway through a can of soda and picking at kernels of popcorn hoping to find a half-popped morsel he could crack with his teeth. He turned in his chair and watched as she placed her purse on the table and kicked off her shoes. She removed her coat and before walking it over to the closet pulled a brown envelope out of the left pocket. She winked at him and disappeared to hang up her coat and place her shoes in their rightful place as she always did. When she returned she sat at the table and opened the envelope.
“What’s that?” asked Billy, the words trembling to come out as they climbed over the lump in his throat.
“Your report card,” she replied. “I had it delivered to my work, wanted to make sure we didn’t lose it like the last time.”
The sound of her unfolding the paper banged against his eardrums. As her eyes scanned the document he stood locked in fear.
She placed the paper down on the table, got up from her chair, and opened the refrigerator. What was she doing? What was taking so long? He’d prepared for this, mentally, in the case he couldn’t get to the mailbox before she did, but she’d outsmarted him — perhaps if he’d shown up to school he’d have thought of a better plan. She cracked open a can of diet-cola and returned to her seat at the table without saying a word.
“Well?” said Billy.
“Are we going to talk about it?”
“Take a seat.” She sipped from her can as he approached the table.
His hand trembled as he pulled out a chair to sit across from her.
“I can explain…”
“No you can’t,” she replied. She took another sip, popped her lips, and let out a relaxed sigh. “I see you outside, on the driveway, whipping up and down the street. I remember bringing you to the park when you were still in elementary and watching you tackle the ramps that the bigger kids couldn’t figure out. You have talent, don’t let anyone tell you any different.”
“Thank you, I thought you’d be…”
“Wait, what? Why?”
“I understand you have a dream, I get that. I had one too when I was your age, and every so often I still tickle the idea. Your father doesn’t understand, he has his job and that’s all there is too it, a paycheck is a paycheck.”
“What was your dream?” he asked. “I mean, what is your dream?”
“Promise not to laugh?”
He smirked, he couldn’t help it. “Promise.”
“To be an actress. Nothing glamorous, I don’t need to be in the movies. But to be on the stage, in front of a live audience. I always enjoyed acting, and tried out for everything I could throughout high-school and into college. I didn’t always get cast, which was discouraging, but I didn’t give up. Then life started getting too big, and my little dream didn’t seem so important anymore. I don’t want that to happen to you, but I don’t want you throwing away potential at a different life either. I’m happy, I don’t feel as if I missed about because as I grew older my dreams changed. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“I think so,” replied Billy. He wiped a tear away from his eye using a clenched fist.
“In the Spring I want you to turn your grades around. Check in with your teachers and see if you can make up any work. Finish high-school and then, if you decide, chase your dream with all the energy and passion you have. I looked online while at work and there’s some competitions happening over the summer I think, I know, you’ll do great in. Sign-ups will be in the spring. Prove to me you can do the work and I’ll pay the necessary fees.”
Billy sat in awe at the kitchen table, he wasn’t sure how to react. His fist smeared another tear on his face before it could reach his chin.
“Thank you,” he replied.