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MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED/Dan DeWeese COLIN HUSKEY WAS ABSENT due to illness more than any other student at Tyler High School. Four of his teachers had e-mailed his parents, a vice principal had telephoned twice, and, in a final and desperate bluff, the principal had summoned the family for a face-to-face meeting. Colin was scolded. He was begged. He was cajoled, importuned , and remonstrated with—to no avail. He always did at least enough work to pass, usuaUy at the level of a C or D. He never disrupted classes, did not fight with other students, and remained, for the most part, as quiet as possible. Tyler High School had yet to write clear poUcies that allowed for censure of a student whose radical number of absences were, each and every one, excused due to illness. Two administrators were presently working feverishly to write just such a policy, their sole UispUation being CoUn Huskey. Every man has his code, and Colin's was simple: he did not fake illness . When Colin was healthy enough to attend school, he attended, showing neither enthusiasm nor Interest and demonstrating no great hurry to get there, but still: attendance. Colui had a method to his Ulness , one both subtle and effective: he had realized halfway through his freshman year that Ui a high school the size of Tyler (1,500 students, ninth through twelfth), there was, every day, a small but reliable percentage of students "out sick." That meant that approximately the same percentage of students at school every day either were Ui the early stages of some cold, flu, or other virus or were about to be. These were the students CoUn looked for—he thought of them as "carriers." Carriers were the key: they were sick (important) and also accessible (equaUy important). In and between classes, CoUn scanned his fellow students constantly. He looked for drawn expressions, red eyes, sniffles, sighs, shuffling feet, crabbiness, coughs, nose-rubbing, eye-rubbing, forehead-rubbing, scratchy voices, crying, sneezing, tripping, stumbling, falling asleep, falling down, drooping eyelids, dropping books, tissue Ui backpacks, medicine In lockers, lack of vigor, bad hair (gUls), bad breath (boys). When he found one or more of these symptoms in a feUow student, CoUn moved In. The school's enroUment was at its capacity, and no student could walk through the claustrophobic halls without being frequently jostled by other students. CoUn constantly got himsetf pushed Ulto any carriers he saw. During group work Ui class, when he identified The Missouri Review · 189 a classmate as a carrier, CoIm made sure to sit next to the sniffling source. If group work was not the rule of the day, he kept an eye on the carriers Ui class, and if one got up to sharpen a pencU his pencil would suddenly need sharpening, too. He always had tissue Ui his backpack —to attract sick students Ui need. During his lunch period he sat as close as was socially appropriate to anyone he felt might be a carrier. On days when he was having no luck, he resorted to more drastic measures , touching his Ups to the water fountain or flushing the urinal and not washing his hands. One day, when no lunch-hour prospects had presented themselves, he went for a walk around the perimeter of the school. As he passed the principal's ground-level office, she hurriedly opened the window. "Colui Huskey," she caUed. He approached the principal, who now peered through the screen. "Yes?" he asked. "What are you doing?" "Taking a walk." "Where are you supposed to be?" "It's my lunch hour." "It's raining," she said. Fat, cold drops were slapping against the window. "I know." "You'll catch a cold." Silence. "Come inside this minute," she said. "To my office." In her office CoIUi was given a lecture that covered, among other things, proper weather for taking walks, proper attire for being outdoors Ui inclement weather and the value of commitment. She spoke of inspUation, perspkation and enthusiasm, but Colui didn't worry. In the end, she was powerless. There were no rules against taking walks around the school, even m the ram...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 189-202
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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