Taking Note by Soren James (December 2019)
With tired eyes and swollen ankles, Miss Chang stood, clipboard and pen in hand. “Let's find out what it does, then.”
Billy shrugged and readied his finger to press the large red button on the desk.
“Don't press it! We're supposed to take notes before and after – to ascertain its effect.”
Reluctant, Billy put his hand back down at his side. “Does everything get more boring?” he asked sarcastically.
“If you're bored, you can clean the lab instead.”
“I'm not bored.” Billy straightened himself. “I just thought, maybe it made everything else more boring.”
He looked at Miss Chang.
She flinched, then asked, “Is that a dig at me?”
“The boringness thing? Why would that apply to you? You're a math teacher. Nothing sticks to you. Not even boredom.”
Miss Chang gave him an uncertain look, then continued, “Anyway. When I say – and only then – push the button.”
Billy raised his hand, ready to push it.
“No!” snapped Miss Chang, “Wait for me. I need to make notes before and after – to see if anything has changed. Got it?” Miss Chang adjusted the pen in her blistered fingers.
“Good. Now, wait a second, I need to document this.” She pressed a recording device on the desk, then adopted a formal voice, “I'm here…” her voice began breaking up. Clearing her throat, she noticed a soreness there but continued regardless, “… here with my assistant, Billy. I'm going…”
“I'm an assistant?”
“I get paid?”
“No. You're on detention. Quiet, I'm recording.” She resumed her formal voice. “We're about to push the button on the device to ascertain its effect. The time is” – she looked up at the clock – “6:14, and I'm asking my assis… Billy to push the button.” Miss Chang gave an assenting nod.
Billy looked around, uncertain. “You didn't tell me to do it. You only said you were about to.”
“Just push the bu–” Miss Chang's voice broke up again.
Unceremoniously, Billy pushed the red button.
“The button has been pressed. Nothing appears to have changed. Billy, did you notice any change?”
“Did things get more boring?”
“Is that a dig at me?”
“Shall I push it again, see what happens?”
“No! Only when I tell you. Now, did you notice a change?”
“My legs ache more.”
“The device was left here by a higher intelligence. I doubt they invented it to make your legs ache.”
“Maybe they're sadists?”
“That would be a petty form of sadism.”
“Like keeping someone in detention?”
“That's not sadism, it's education – an opportunity to learn from more experienced…”
Billy became bored and, unobserved, pressed the button again.
Miss Chang frowned as a numbness swept through her thoughts. She then noticed a red light flashing on the recorder and reached over to turn it off. “How did I leave that on?” She picked up the device. “And the memory's full! There was over a thousand hours on there. Must be the wrong card. No matter, I'll just take notes.” She tapped the clipboard with the pen, wincing at the soreness of her blistered fingers.
Billy's hand hovered over the red button again.
“Don't push it! You have to wait for me to tell you. What's wrong with your finger? It's bleeding.”
With tired eyes he looked at his hand. “Dunno.”
“Use one of your others. I don't want you getting blood on this thing. Might affect the results. We don't know what it does yet.”