Courage and a Clock by Shireen Isakson

“Elliott?” Mom called from the other room. Sighing, I shut my book. 

“Yes, Mom?”

I poked my head around the corner and Mom waved me in. Papers were scattered about the table. I assumed they were from the same place. They looked like forms. Dad sat next to her. He sighed and leaned back in his chair, as if he’d just finished hours of grueling work. Mom capped the pen in her hand and threw it on the table, looking glad to be rid of it. Shaking out her wrist, she reached for a hug. I took a step back, narrowing my eyes in suspicion. 

“What’s this about?” I asked.

“Well…” Mom started. “Your father and I think… you should start at a real school.”

“What?” I asked, unsure I’d heard correctly.

“School.” Dad said. “Real, not homeschooling.” 

I was going into sixth grade this year. That would mean that everyone would be new, not just me, but I ignored that. 

“No way! I’ve always been homeschooled! Why change?” I asked. 

“Well, your mom found a job as a college professor, isn’t that great?” Dad answered. 

“No! Why would that be great?” I asked. 

“Because that’s what I’ve wanted to do, you know that!” Mom said, looking slightly hurt. “I can’t always homeschool you, you know.”

“You could until I finished high school!”

“This’ll be good for you!” Dad said. “An adventure like those books you’re always reading.”

I spluttered. “I read about adventures, I imagine adventures. I don’t go on adventures!”

“Well, we already signed the papers. You should give it a chance, real school isn’t terrible.” Dad said. 

“I’m not going to get a choice in this, am I?” I asked, staring at their faces.

I sighed. “Fine. Can I go now?” Mom and Dad exchanged looks, surprised I gave in so easily. 

“Um, sure, sweetheart.” Mom said. 

I walked out of the room, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. I pushed my door open and quickly shut it behind me. I moved my book to my nightstand and removed my glasses, suddenly too exhausted to stay awake. Then I pulled myself under the covers and fell asleep. 

The last week before school passed far too quickly. We ordered a backpack online, which was yet to arrive. Mom restocked my school supplies, and Dad told me about the new school. 

The last day of summer came and went. I pulled down the blinds and flicked off my light.

“G’nite Mom!”

“Goodnight, Elliott!” I heard Mom answer. 

I climbed into bed and started to wonder what public school was like. Dad said that there were 8 teachers, rather than just Mom. Also, something about a homeroom? And there would be so many kids…

I stared into the pitch blackness of my room, melding with the dark behind my eyelids… 

And then I was sitting at a desk, a hard, uncomfortable chair underneath me, a menacing looking teacher tapping a chalkboard displaying Mom’s college level work. “Homework, Elliott!” she said. Students staring. The bell ringing. The clock ticking, ticking, ticking.

Suddenly I was standing on a ginormous analog clock. The smooth surface was vibrating with each movement of the hands. This clock moved counterclockwise- counting down to 12. I got the feeling I wouldn’t like what happened when it reached twelve- but it was almost too late. Ten seconds… I looked around for anything to anchor myself to… 7 seconds… I tried to break the glass I was standing on… 3 seconds… I bent my knees, trying to hold a steady position as an alarm started ringing, the clock grew brighter and brighter… blindingly bright… the alarm was beeping… overwhelming light… and I was swallowed up in the glare…

I sat bolt upright in my bed. Realizing where I was, I lay back on my pillow. 

“There’s no time for that! Get up, you’re almost late! How he slept through that alarm…” Mom was shaking me. 

“Do not do that!” I said. “Blinding me with bright light. The blinds are closed to keep the light out!” I realized the beeping in my dream had been from the alarm, but that didn’t freak me out any less, the warning flashing through my head…

“Sunlight’s the natural way to wake up! Now get out of bed and get ready!”

Mom stormed around the room, picking up school supplies and shoving them into what I realized was the blue backpack we’d ordered. I looked at the clock on my phone, watching the seconds count down my last hour of being a homeschooled kid. I thought the police should come give it a ticket for speeding.

Abruptly, the time registered with me, and I leapt out bed. Last hour of being a homeschooled kid? Oh no. I ran to my dresser, taking out clothes and changing. I sped out of my room and grabbed the food Dad was holding out for me. 

Mom slung her purse over her shoulder, and we raced out. 

I drummed my fingers as we rode in the car. To soon, we were outside school. I unbuckled, grabbed my backpack, and said bye to my mom, who looked teary eyed. Walking to the front, I took a deep breath. Pushing open the door, I stepped into the fray. 

I made my way to homeroom. Inside, a kind-looking teacher greeted me. I smiled and walked in. I sat next to a girl and boy, twins, it seemed. 

“Hi, I’m Kayla!” the girl said, offering her hand.

I shook it, the boy next to her saying, “Luke!”

“Nice to meet you,” I said nervously.

“Did you know flamingos are pink because their diet consists of shrimp?” Luke asked.

“Luke! What’d we say about flamingo facts? No one cares they pee on themselves to keep cool. That’s disgusting. Ignore him.” Kayla said to me.

I smiled a little. I looked at the teacher explaining our classroom, and two new friends beside me. Maybe school isn’t so bad, I thought.