The Bad Project

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Chapter 21. Caught/Marianne

“Marianne Wu, please raise your hand,” said Dr. Snow. She did, hesitantly.

“Please come to my office today, it’s urgent,” he said.

Marianne’s heart turned over. It had to be the paper. How had he found out? What if she didn’t go to talk with him? She didn’t remember the rules. After class, she fled to her room and flipped through the honor instructions. She read, “After 48 hours, if the professor cannot confer with the student, referral to the Judicial Board is mandatory.”

Crystal came in from chemistry on the way to lunch and found Marianne sitting on her purple silk bedspread, staring into space.

“Whatup? You totally look like the world collapsed.”

“He found out. Somehow he found out. In class Snow said I have to see him this afternoon.”

“How could he know? Like maybe he wants something else.”

“No, I can tell. He figured out what I did.”

“What are you going to do? Don’t get either of us in trouble, now.”

“I looked up and the first honor violation doesn’t give you punishment. You just get a fucking note in your file.”

“And what happens the second time?”

“Suspension or something decided by the J Board, if you request a full trial.”

“Hmm,” Crystal said, “like maybe you better pick a Bad stunt that’s not an honor violation next time.” She pulled her backpack up onto her bed and started going through it.

“Okay, if I live through this one. I’m in trouble.” Marianne’s mind went to the Sex Bad, which she expected to be pleasure, not pain. She wondered again why Crystal wouldn’t talk about sex. Was she molested? Was it something bad? Crystal’s nightmare worried Marianne, but she didn’t feel patient about it any more. She thought Crystal should just get over it, not dwell on it and let it prevent her from living, if she had a problem in the past. On the other had, she felt awful herself about being caught by Snow. That was in the present. What could she do? Would Snow yell and scream at her? Turn her in to the deans with the evidence of her copying?

Crystal finished exchanging notebooks in her backpack and looked up. She said, “Let’s eat lunch, and then talk about what you can say to him. Don’t even think about it while we eat, Marianne, or you’ll get sick.”

Marianne thought Crystal was reading her mind. “How you know I’m sick to the stomach?”

“Been there, done that. I’m your experienced friend, right? But we’ll talk it over after lunch, just forget it right now.” They walked silently to the dining hall.

“Did you ever get caught cheating?” Marianne said while they waited in line.

“Once. I never did it again,” Crystal said.

“Well, c’mon. Tell me about it.”

“It was a big paper in World History in high school,” Crystal said. “I used stuff right out of a library book, a lot of stuff. There was a big hoo-hah, but they finally decided that the f-ing teacher hadn’t made clear what he expected us to do, so I got off with no record and no punishment. But I had a week of hell, and thought my whole future was going down the tubes. Sucked. Not worth it.” Crystal took a hamburger and a salad, plus a banana. Marianne just took some salad and a small roll.

“Not even to get the experience?” Marianne asked.

“I was never looking for that, I had plenty of the Bad in my life. I was looking for the A, so I could come here and jump ahead in my future plans. All that was almost lost, that’s why I didn’t do it again. I was totally almost the only one who didn’t at my school.”

They ate, although Marianne only picked at her salad and ate two bites of the roll. Then they returned to their room. Marianne felt a little better. She said, “This “Room of Our Own” feels secure. I’m so glad we have a pact to help each other.”

Crystal wondered if she had forgotten about the awkwardness there had been between them recently. “Yes,” Crystal said. “This is hard for me because I’m a goody two shoes at heart, but you can count on me to do the best I can since I said I would. But I can’t go with you to see Snow.”

“I know. So what can I do?”

“First off, be very polite. I know you can do that well, I’ve seen you.” Crystal took a deep breath. She was crossing an invisible line here, actually helping Marianne plan to lie about her cheating. She had a precarious feeling, but she kept right on. “Professors love that, they think you’re impressed with them. Then, like ask him to explain what the problem was, and take careful notes. Do you think he knows that you understand the material?”

“No, he doesn’t know any of us yet. He calls on us by pointing and he gets us to say our name before we answer.”

“Then you can play the ‘academic difficulties’ card if you want. I know you hate to look dumb, but you can tell him you really struggled to understand the report material, that you borrowed a report from someone to get ideas, and that you didn’t understand that copying it was wrong. It will sound fucking stupid, but he may not report you.” Crystal shivered. This was the most directly she had ever let herself help with the details of Marianne’s plans, and it could definitely make her look like she was not of good character for the Forscher Award if Marianne did have to have a trial and she had to testify. This Bad was a scary risk, maybe that’s why she felt like taking control and getting Marianne through it as quickly as possible.

Marianne shrugged. “I don’t mind being stupid to him, I’m never going to take another science class anyway.”

“Now that’s the first thing you’ve said that sounds stupid to me. How can you ignore a subject that has such huge impact? Like you can’t control what you don’t understand. You don’t have to be pre-med like your parents want, but you shouldn’t give up on science.”

“Well, maybe you can help me find a more user-friendly science class later, but it won’t be this kind of shitty hard core, biology major class, that’s for sure.”

“The main point is, you don’t object to playing dumb.” Crystal said. “Can you claim not to understand English? My friend Clara in high school was from Taiwan and she always said told the teachers she didn’t understand, in pidgin English, but she spoke better English than me. It’s a ‘bit’ that she did, sort of like improv on TV. You could try it. If the professor explained plagiarism to the class…”

“He did, it was a whole fucking schmear the first day of class.”

“Then you need a reason why you didn’t get it. ESL could be your reason.”

“I like to act, so I probably could do that,” Marianne was interested and looked less fearful. “But it’s pretty ironic that I want Liu to stop treating me like a little Chinese girl that I’m gonna pretend to be. Make me laugh if my stomach wasn’t sick.” She shook her head and smiled.

“Good, you look a little more ready to see the guy.” Crystal opened her Calculus text. “I’d go now, before the doubts set in. Don’t worry, usually they’re only too glad to see a student; they sit over there alone and wonder where everyone is. And look at it this way: it’s experience you can write about.” She felt a cold chill. Would she write about how they both got thrown out of Carson College? Or just how they survived the crisis?

“True that,” Marianne said.

After she left, Crystal took out her own journal and wrote about how guilty she felt helping Marianne to do something so dishonest and dangerous. But, she wrote, it would be a lot more dangerous if she didn’t follow my advice. This way, maybe he will take pity on her and not turn her in to the honor court.

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