Ben felt like a prisoner in his own stupidity and the teacher’s stare and her glass’s glare made him feel like one of those off-planet captives that come into port wearing titanium shackles and holding a bullet in their mouth. Ben knew it wasn’t a real pullet, only shaped like one. Ben also knew they tasted terrible. He looked up at the teacher and grimaced a smile that told her everything she already suspected. Ben was too stupid for her class and this school and too dangerous to be anywhere else. He scratched harder at his head with blood-caked nails.
With each step, Ben’s head started to smoke. He wrote down all the numbers listed in the problem, but he didn’t know what order they went in. He wrote down all the names, from Harry to Mark (there was a Ben in there too, and he thought it was a sign. It was not), but that didn’t enlighten him, not one bit. Ben’s teacher stared like she always did when Ben started scratching at his scalp, digging out the knowledge he was so sure was inside (it wasn’t) or making a hole for it to enter (it wouldn’t). Ben whimpered.