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Passing the Test
By Colleen Messina
  

1     The balmy April breeze felt good in Cathy's hair. Bold red, yellow, and purple crocuses peeked brightly out of patches of soggy snow. Her mom gave her a sympathetic smile as they got out of the car and walked into that bastion of rules and paperwork, the ominous Department of Motor Vehicles.
 
2     Cathy was taking her driver's test. It was an enormous social responsibility to be the first in her group of friends to take the test, and she could not fail! Cathy tried to dispel her pessimism by imagining how she would tell her friends the great news. They would all scream with almost celestial joy. Cathy wished she felt more energetic for this test.
 
3     Cathy felt tired from her demanding English class. Last week everyone in the class had to write an anthology of at least three stories or articles. One girl wrote a trilogy of sci-fi adventures complete with testimonials from "aliens." Another wrote fables. Cathy wrote three short articles about the local state park, and she was the only one who had to attach a formal bibliography. They sure needed something to celebrate after pondering over plots, protagonists, and punctuation! If Cathy passed, her friends would feel a vicarious sense of victory. Then they could assail the mall this weekend!
 
4     Cathy and her mom climbed up thousands of stone steps and entered into a building that smelled like dusty books. Cathy easily passed the written test with finesse. She was glad it was a multiple-choice test. She felt almost ready for her other challenge: the road test. She could make only one mistake on the test and still pass. The thought of failure made her confidence evaporate.
 
5     Cathy walked back out to her car with the driving inspector. She tried to feel "one with the machine," like her brother suggested, but that didn't help her one bit. What a guy thing!
 
6     "My name is Mr. Stickler," said the balding inspector as he peered at her over dirty spectacles.
 
7     Cathy figured that anyone who gave driving tests was probably humorless and afraid for his life. The inspector's thin strands of his yam-colored hair tried to reach across his shiny scalp and mimic a full head of hair without success. His tweed suit had millions of toast crumbs scattered across the lapels. White cat hair decorated his trousers, betraying his servitude to some feline mistress. The poor man looked like a broken-down jalopy with too much mileage on it.
 
8     Cathy thought he looked like a candidate for "What Not to Wear." She wondered if he was a stickler for driving details, even though wardrobe details escaped his notice, and she almost laughed aloud. She managed to control herself. Mr. Stickler did not look like he would appreciate a joke.
 
9     Cathy nervously adjusted her mirrors and fastened her seat belt. She started the engine. The car purred like a well-fed cat, and Cathy eased out into the street. She was determined to give the drive around the block her best effort. After all, she couldn't bear to show up at school tomorrow if she didn't pass her test. Everyone was counting on her to drive to the mall on Saturday.

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