I Thought it Mattered

I really hate copycats. All that copycats do is hand in someone else's work and put their name on it.

I hate copycats, and Danny Taylor was a copycat.

Danny Taylor is really annoying.

Or, at least, he was.

Danny Taylor sits next to me in Math, fourth period.

Or, at least, he used to.

Danny Taylor copies my math homework.

Or, at least, he used to.

Danny Taylor won't ever bother me or copy my math homework again, because Danny Taylor was hit by a car, and Danny Taylor died, three weeks ago.

The whole school is pretty broken up about it. Principal Newman held a ceremony for him at the school, for the students and teachers to pay their respects. Most kids in my grade knew Danny, so they're taking it hard. Kids in other grades didn't, but they still care enough to write things for him.

And then there's the few of us who don't really know how to react. I guess that's the group I fall into.

I didn't know Danny very well. The only thing I knew about him was he seriously needed a math tutor. Oh, and he obviously wasn't an exemplary student.

Well, at least Danny is setting some sort of example. He's made it clear that running into the middle of a street to retrieve a baseball maybe isn't the brightest idea.

I don't mean to be insensitive. It's just that ever since he died, he's been put on this pedestal. I get that we should show our respects. But the speeches written for his ceremony were pretty ridiculous.

Danny wasn't "an excellent student", which is what Mrs. Kramer said. Danny wasn't "a role model for his peers", as Mr. Farrell had stated, and Danny wasn't "kind-hearted, sweet, and caring", an exact quote from Mrs. Harris.

Ask anyone in the grade. I mean, ask anyone who'll tell you the truth. Danny was just an average teenage boy who slacked off in classes, talked back to teachers, and copied other people's homework. 'Other people' being me.

Then again, how would I know? The only conversations I ever had with Danny were in math class. So maybe I'm not the best judge.

Walking into class today feels strange. For the past couple of weeks, we haven't really had classes. This is the first day where the teachers are actually making us get some work done.

"Okay, open your textbooks to page three-eighty-seven. Can anyone answer the first question?" Mr. Thomas waits for someone in the class to offer up an answer.

I raise my hand.

He calls on someone else.

"Before we continue, I'd like you to hand in the homework from two Fridays ago," he says.

I almost laugh a little at myself when I instinctively hide my paper from the seat next to me. There's no one leaning over my shoulder, ready to jot down my answers.

It's weird...I keep expecting Danny to burst through the classroom door, without a late pass, and hop over a few desks to find his seat next to me.

It doesn't happen.

I keep thinking that he'll climb in through the open window in the back of the room when Mr. Thomas isn't looking, his hair tousled, like it always is, offering me a quick nod before taking his seat.

That doesn't happen, either.

I consider putting my books on Danny's desk so that I have more room on mine.

But I don't.

A boy in the back of the room can't see the board, so he moves to sit in Danny's seat.

"Wait," I grab his arm, and he looks at me.


"Could you not…sit there?" I say it quietly, but he hears. He hears and he smiles.

"Sure," he replies, glancing at Danny's desk. "No problem." He walks back to his seat, silently.

Mr. Thomas waits impatiently. "Come on, we're wasting a lot of class time with this!" he says, loudly.

I'm about to hand in my homework. My neat, fully completed page of homework.

And then I don't.

So I wait until everyone else hands theirs in, and Mr. Thomas begins today's lesson.

"On page seventy-three in your textbooks, answer problems six through eighteen. Show all of your work. No work, no credit. If you have any questions, raise your hand and I'll make my way over to you."

I glance at my textbook.

I can almost feel Danny's hand on my shoulder. I can almost hear the sound of Danny's desk squeaking as he moves closer to me. I can almost feel his eyes on me, waiting for me to give him the first few answers. And for a moment, I can almost pretend that he's really here, next to me.

It's just that he's not, and Mr. Thomas isn't planning on giving me the whole period to finish these problems.

I try to concentrate. I try to clear my head. But it's already been a few minutes, and I can't stop thinking about the empty desk next to mine.

So I try to trick myself. I tell myself that Danny took a bathroom break. That he'll be back in his desk soon. He always used to raise his hand and ask to use the bathroom.

Right in the middle of class, he'd waltz out into the hall, without grabbing a pass, and then, without actually going to the restroom, he'd wander around the building for a while.

And that's where he is right now. Roaming through the building.

I want to believe it so badly. I have to believe it if I want to get any work done, today.

So I do.

I finish every single problem just before Mr. Thomas goes over all of them with the class.

It doesn't take long before the forty minutes are up, and the bell rings.

That's when I remember that I didn't hand in my homework yet.

I pull my homework sheet out of my Math folder.

I lean over and let my fingers graze the edges of Danny's desk. The desk is wooden, old, and dented. Nothing sacred, nothing special. It's exactly the same as every other desk in the room, but all of a sudden, it's different.

A few students brush by me on their way out the door. It occurs to me that I'll be late for English if I just keep sitting here.

I look back at my homework sheet. I think of Danny; his face, his annoying smile, his seriously low ambition.

And the way he blatantly copied my answers.

Something comes to mind when I think of him; All that copycats do is hand in someone else's work and put their name on it.

My eyes are glued to last Friday's homework. I see my name, neatly written at the top. My name…because it's my work.

And then I take out my scented, pink eraser, and erase my name.

I erase my name, and then slowly, carefully, I write down a different one; Danny Taylor.

I walk over to Mr. Thomas' desk and hand him my homework sheet. He pushes his glasses farther up on his nose when he sees the name I've written at the top. The wrinkles under his eyes fade when he smiles at me, gently.

He takes his red pen, and writes an A+ on the paper.

I'm pretty sure that's the first A+ that Danny's ever gotten in Math, period four.

As I'm leaving the room, I look back at Mr. Thomas, who's still smiling at me. His eyes twinkle a bit behind his glasses, like he's always understood something about Danny and I that I couldn't.

I guess I never liked Danny.

In fact, I really hated Danny.

But wherever he is right now, I hope that there's someone to help him with his math homework.

And I hope that that someone doesn't mind copycats.

Maybe I shouldn't have minded so much, either.