TIRED by Kevin Litwin

College student Nick Bruton celebrated a milestone birthday two days ago. He turned 21.

“Happy birthday, buddy,” said long-time friend Tom Stout.

“Nick, I bought you a six-pack, but now we don’t have to buy beer for you anymore,” said David Sly, another long-time friend. “Gimme one of those beers and let’s drink to you finally being able to buy.”

Both Tom and David are seniors at Grosmont College while Nick toils in his junior year, and all three major in engineering but have struggled with their grades. In fact, as they took a couple swigs of beer in tribute to Nick’s birthday, David addressed the subject of their poor academic standing.

“Y’know, guys, I’ve been thinking that because we all have GPAs around 2.0, top engineering companies may not want us once we graduate.”

“Yeah, that’s why tomorrow’s test in Old Man Oberon’s class is so important,” Tom said. “My counselor says I need to start doing whatever it takes to get my GPA closer to a B.”

Nick sighed before guzzling his beer. “I know we’ve got the test tomorrow and should study, but fellas…today’s my birthday. I only turn 21 once. We need to celebrate tonight.”

“True, plus I haven’t let loose in a couple weeks,” David said. “And besides, being such a big test, I’m sure we could all use one more day to study. What do you guys think?”

“I’d love one more day to study, but how’s that gonna happen?” Tom asked.

David glared at his fellow classmates and smiled. “I’ve got a plan.”

*****

The trio polished off the remainder of the six-pack as David revealed his plot.

“Old Man Oberon teaches only one class at Grosmont tomorrow – ours – then he drives to his other job at Yorick College for the rest of the day. He’ll give our test from nine to ten, then he always sticks around the classroom for about a half hour before heading to Yorick.”

“So, what about it?” Nick asked.

“Since we’re all gonna be dead tired after partying all night, how ’bout we sleep until nine tomorrow morning, then somehow get our shit together and arrive at Oberon’s class around ten? We’ll tell him we couldn’t get to class in time, and he won’t give us the test because he’s gotta get to Yorick. We’ll take the test the next day.”

“The next day?” Tom asked.

“Yeah, and Oberon’s make-up tests are always the same as the originals. I know a couple guys who took his make-ups, and they told me the tests were exact.”

“That sounds great, but what’s our excuse for missing the test tomorrow at nine?” Tom asked.

“It’s simple, my friends. All we need to say is that we had a flat tire on the way to class.”

“A flat tire? Are you serious? That sounds so cliche,” Nick said.

“Oberon once saw me in the parking lot and commented on my wreck-of-a-car, with some smart-ass remark about the dents being the only things holding it together. He’ll believe we had a flat tire if we sell it well enough.”

“But we’ll still have to take the test the following morning, and Old Man Oberon’s tests are such a bear,” Tom said. “Maybe we should just study for the test tonight and take it tomorrow to get it outta the way.”

“That would be unfair to our birthday boy, plus I’ve got another part of this plan,” David said. “Oberon said this test is gonna be only three essay questions, right? Do either of you know Olivia Shylock?”

“I’ve heard the name,” Nick said.

“She’s that chunky chick with the horned rim glasses who always sits by herself in the corner, near Oberon’s desk. You know who I’m talkin’ about?”

“Yeah, yeah. She’s nothin’ to look at,” Tom said. “How do you know her?”

“I talk to her once in awhile. You know – I give her a break.”

“So what about her?”

“I’ll make sure I see Olivia at some point after the test tomorrow, and I’ll get her to tell me the three questions.”

“How do you know she’ll tell you?” Tom asked.

“I know for a fact that she likes me, so I’ll use some of my David Sly magic charm that I was born with.”

Nick rolled his eyes before continuing the discussion. “Okay, you get the test questions from Olivia. Then what?”

“Then I get with you guys tomorrow late afternoon, and we figure everything out for the next morning. It’s foolproof.”

The calculating chaps partied like proverbial rock stars that March night, visiting raucous drinking spots like Horatio’s, Gertie’s Grille and Percy’s Palace. They drank hard and often to the point of debauchery, ultimately closing an on-campus dive called The Titania Club at nearly three in the morning before stumbling and slogging home to their individual dorm rooms.

All three experienced angry bouts of vomiting before passing out, each on their bathroom floor.

*****

Nine o’clock the following morning arrived too soon for the hung-over collegians, but they all responded to their alarm clocks and prepared for class. David drove his dent-mobile to pick up Nick and then Tom, and the trio rehearsed their plan one more time during the short drive to class.

“We’re still going with the flat tire story?” Nick asked.

“Absolutely,” David said.

“And you’re gonna get with Olivia for the three questions?”

“Affirmative.”

“What time should we meet later today?”

“Let’s do five o’clock in my dorm room. Bring your books and laptops, and we’ll attack those essay questions.”

Just as planned, they arrived at Grosmont College at 10 a.m. and broke into a steady trot en route to Oberon’s classroom. The expert educator was seated near the front of the room at his mahogany desk, piddling and twiddling with a pencil as the three comrades bolted into the classroom.

“Is the test over? Please tell me it isn’t, sir,” said David, panting with grave concern on his face.

“Yes, gentlemen, it is over. My class starts precisely at nine o’clock, and everyone in attendance was busy taking the test one minute later. Which brings to mind a question – what happened to you three?”

“Sir, I know this might sound cliché, but we had a flat tire,” David said. “We really did.”

“A flat tire? Do tell.”

“Yes, sir. We ran over a nail on Bohemia Road.”

The professor sat up straight in his desk chair and cleared his throat.

“You gentlemen changed the tire, did you?”

“Yes, sir, but unfortunately the spare was deflated,” David said. “We put it on my car, but I was scared that the spare might go flat, too, so we drove to a gas station to inflate it. Anyway, bottom line is that we are late, sir, but it couldn’t be helped. I’m very sorry about this.”

Oberon stroked his gray beard and the top of his bald head before looking straight at the threesome.

“Well, I cannot give you the test right now because I’ve got classes the rest of the day over at Yorick, so I’ll need to give you a make-up test tomorrow. Can you all be here at precisely nine o’clock tomorrow morning?”

The three in unison blurted an enthusiastic “yes” and thanked the professor for his flexibility in the situation.

“You’re welcome, gentlemen. Oh, wait. There is one thing you can do for me this morning before we depart.”

“Yes, sir. Anything,” Tom said.

Oberon opened his leather briefcase and extracted three blank sheets of white paper and three sharp pencils. He handed a paper and pencil to each.

“Mr. Bruton, go take a seat at that desk in the far back corner, and Mr. Stout, you take a seat at that desk in the other back corner, far away from Mr. Bruton. And Mr. Sly, you take a seat at this desk up front here, near me.”

“But sir, we don’t have time to take the test right now,” David said. “You’ve gotta leave for Yorick, and we have other classes.”

“No, no, gentlemen. You won’t be taking the test right now. Just take your seats. Trust me, this will only take a few seconds.”

With escalating apprehension, the collegians shuffled to their respective desks in the three isolated corners of the room and stared with uneasiness at their instructor.

“Alright, gentlemen. Now use your pencils to quickly write your answer to this one question. Tell me…which tire on Mr. Sly’s car went flat?”