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These Four Walls

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Book: These Four Walls


Jimmie Beck tapped his pencil on his lip while sitting in his dining room. Textbooks were open in front of him as March sunshine filtered through the sheer curtains.

The walls were painted ‘uptight’ white. A white linen table cloth covered the dark brown dining table which was surrounded by six chairs. A matching china cabinet held his grandmother’s antique crystal and silver.

A chandelier with bulbs the shape of tiny flames threw angular shadows on his notebook.

“Okay. Multiplying polynomials.”

Jimmie sat up higher in his chair.

Rudy Oberon, the teacher living next door, was tutoring him.

“Combine like terms.” Rudy wrote an example on his notepad.

Jimmie hadn’t the vaguest idea when he would ever use these math equations again, other than his freshman year exams.


Jimmie looked into Rudy’s brown eyes.

“Do you want to take a break?”

“I can’t do this. It just doesn’t make sense.”

When Rudy put his hand on Jimmie’s shoulder, Jimmie forgot about his math lesson. “You’ll get it. Just stick with it.”

Jimmie’s mother, Emily, stood by the dining room threshold. “Can I get you anything? Iced tea? Water?”

Rudy allowed his hand to rest on the table. “Iced tea sounds good.”

“I’m okay, Ma.” Jimmie slouched in the chair and set the pencil down.

Rudy moved the textbook closer to himself and fanned through pages. He then, slid the book in front of Jimmie. “Here are sample questions. Why don’t you see how you do?”

His mother handed Rudy the tea in a tumbler glass filled with ice. “Thanks, Emily.”

“How’s Jimmie doing, Rudy?”

“Fine.” Rudy sipped the tea.

Jimmie looked at the end of the chapter to see the questions. He put a bookmark on the page and then flipped to the beginning of the chapter. His mother returned to the kitchen, and Jimmie could hear her fixing dinner.

“Do you want me to read the chapter now?”

Rudy set the glass down on the white linen table cloth near the centerpiece of candles and silk plants. “You can do it later. Just make notes on the equations you have trouble with.” Rudy stood from the chair. “Don’t give up. I know you can do it.”

Jimmie glanced at the bulge in Rudy’s faded jeans. He tapped his pencil eraser on his notebook while Rudy said goodbye to his mother.

Next, Jimmie heard the front door to the house open and close.

Jimmie gazed out of the picture window as Rudy passed by, walking across the lawn to his own home. Rudy looked into the house as he did and smiled at Jimmie.

Jimmie read the information Rudy had written for him, examples of math equations. On the flipside of one of the papers was a note. After reading it, Jimmie erased it. He picked up the glass of iced tea and drank from it, licking his lips.