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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 nerves 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 surely 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 what seemed like thousands of stone steps and entered a building that smelled like dusty books. Cathy easily passed the written test with ease. 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 out to her car with the driving test officer. She tried to feel "one with the machine," as her brother had suggested, but that didn't help her one bit.
6 "My name is Mr. Stickler," said the balding police officer as he peered at her over his spectacles.
7 Cathy figured that anyone who gave driving tests was probably humorless and afraid for his life. The officer's thin strands of yam-colored hair reached across his shiny scalp in an attempt to mimic a full head of hair. They did not succeed. The poor man looked like a broken-down jalopy with too much mileage on it.
8 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 into the street. She was determined to give the drive around the block her best effort. 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.
9 Cathy glanced sideways at the officer. He was carefully studying the list of requirements as though he wanted to be sure to catch her mistakes. She pulled out of the parking lot as smoothly as if she had been driving for years. She merged flawlessly into the tiny stream of small town traffic in the neighborhood. So far, so good! Cathy remembered to signal before turning, and she even stopped to let some jaywalking pedestrians go across the street even though they were not using the crosswalk. She smiled with glee and felt a dormant sense of hope come to life.
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