Chapter 9

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A series of loud groans erupted in the classroom, snapping Alex out of his thoughts. He hadn’t told anyone about his blackout a couple of nights back and didn’t really want to. At first he had been terrified, thoughts that something was wrong with him or that he was going crazy filled his head every night until he fell off to a dreamless sleep. People don’t just heal themselves of broken bones and ugly bruises. Then again, he could have thought he hurt himself worse than he actually had.

The possibility existed that maybe his mind was playing tricks on him again like it did when he was young and the doctors had feared brain damage after the accident. Alex just couldn’t figure out why if that were true, it would have taken so long for something like this to happen. An injury might explain the voices he thought he dreamed when he woke up from the blackout, but why now after so many years had passed? Besides, he really didn’t remember enough from after he woke to know if he had been dreaming or if he had just imagined everything.

 The only thing he knew for sure at the moment was that he was scared. His biggest fear was that he could just be starting to see the early stages of some sort of illness from some lingering injury from the accident all those years ago. He had to try to figure out some way to get checked out quietly, without Mark knowing and having to worry about him all over again.

His thoughts were interrupted when a blue notebook was dropped on his desk. Alex looked up to see his history teacher, Mr. Ludolf smiling down at him. One of the few teachers Alex really liked, Ludolf was tall and thin nearly to the point of being a walking skeleton. He always seemed to be in a good mood and his smile and lightheartedness usually disarmed even the most stubborn students, including Alex himself.

 “You may want to pay attention to this” he said, and moved on to hand out more notebooks to the rest of the class.

 For the first time in days Alex’s thoughts were taken off the blackout. He looked down at the empty blue notebook and sighed. Everyone that took Mr. Ludolf’s senior history class knew what that notebook meant. Most students liked taking his classes, they were usually light on homework and tests and Ludolf seemed to know how to not only get all his students involved in class, but even interested in what he was teaching and the projects he assigned. This one was different, however, and everyone that took his class dreaded it. The tall man looked at the discouraged faces of his students and chuckled. 

“That’s right, it’s time to talk about you’re final. You’ll have the rest of the year to research and write a ten, yes ten page report on whatever subject you’re lucky enough to have drawn. Don’t give me that look Lisa you have plenty of time,” Mr. Ludolf said to a dark haired girl in the front of the room who gasped when he gave the length of the paper he wanted.

“The report will be worth one third of your total grade for the year. I’m sure you’ve all heard the complaints about how high my standards are, so I suggest you take this seriously and not wait until the final week to get started. You know how this works: you’ll each draw one subject out of the box. No ideas about cheating either, no two are ever the same so don’t get any ideas about using the reports you were foolish enough to buy off last year’s class.”

Several of the students slumped in their seats and groaned. Every year, there were kids who took his class that would sell their reports to anyone that would believe them when they said that their subject was standard and everybody got it. They told them not to worry, that Ludolf was handed so many reports that he would never know the difference as long as they changed a few things here and there. Every year a few were always stupid enough to buy them.

Ludolf walked to his desk, picked up a worn shoebox, and shook it a few times. The box was painted bright yellow and had a crude smiley face drawn on its sides. Going from student to student he took out a small piece of paper and dropped it on one desk after another, sometimes smiling to himself when the student looked at the paper and groaned.

“I expect the report to include both historical facts and your own interpretation of them as well as a detailed list of all sources used. I also want the contact information of any person you interview and quote for the report. If they don’t want to give you that information don’t bother using them. I will contact them.” More groans from the class.

As he continued to pass out subjects, more groans and mumblings came from the students. As he passed by Alex’s desk Ludolf dropped a small folded paper onto his notebook. Letting out another sigh Alex picked it up and unfolded it. Local history, families.

At least there would be plenty of places to look for that. All in all, Alex thought he may have gotten off lucky, now he just had to find a family willing to share.  He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around to look at the boy sitting behind him.

“What you get?” he asked

Alex held up his paper, “local history, families. What about you?”

“Damn you got an easy one! I’m stuck with the industrial revolution. Wanna trade?” he asked looking at Alex hopefully.

“No thanks, I think I’ll stick with this one.”

Looking disappointed, he turned around and asked the girl behind him what she got. Alex heard the boy to his right complain about losing forty bucks on a fake report and laughed to himself. Losing interest, Alex turned around and flipped through the blue notebook. Not really much in it except the format for the paper, an example of an outline, and a bundle of blank papers to jot notes down on.

“I’ll need each one of you to write your names on the back of your subject and hand it in on your way out today, so make sure you write it down in your notebook. I won’t tell you the subjects again, and I will grade you accordingly if you forget.” Mr. Ludolf said, talking above the whispered conversations that had broken out throughout the classroom.

When the bell finally rang at the end of class everyone dropped their subjects on Mr. Ludolf’s desk with more than a few complaints. The teacher simply shook his head and smiling, told them to get over it. When Alex dropped his paper in front of Ludolf, he was surprised to get a grin in return.

“So you’re the lucky one huh?” he asked with a smile. Alex looked at him confused, but before he could ask any questions the teacher continued. “This is the only subject I hand out every year, and so far no one has been able to give me the report I was hoping for.”

Curious, Alex looked down at the paper and back up to the teacher, “what do you mean?” he asked.

“All I will say about it is try to look around in more than just the usual places when you do your research,” he said, “you may find a few families in this town’s history a little more, shall we say, interesting than you may think.” Giving a wink, Mr. Ludolf stood up from his desk and gathered up the scraps of paper. Before Alex could say anything else, Mr. Ludolf waved him out without another word. 

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