KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Micro-Fiction: 497 words

As Student Is to Aardvark

by Pat Tompkins

Sample question: Read the following text, then select the answer that fits best:

Lee had extensive experience taking tests. From his job after school, he realized he needed to learn more about the world. Knowing a hypothesis from a hypotenuse would only get him so far. Still, taking tests was an essential skill. Lee wondered if a high score meant:
a. he was smarter than most students
b. he was good at taking tests
c. he was a well-programmed robot
d. all of the above

Decades later, Janet could recall the test, which would determine the outlook of her senior spring. She wasn’t worried about the math part, where answers were either right or wrong, but the ambiguous verbal portion concerned her.

Among the multiple choices for analogies, answers were also either right or not, yet unlike the orderliness of mathematics. During the test’s second hour, she hit Question 12: As Panama is to chapeau, alligator is to:

a. Belgium
b. mermaid
c. satchel
d. badminton

She stopped. No combination made sense. Those four choices had nothing in common. No, she was focusing on the wrong point. Panama: canal, isthmus, hat. Alligator: reptile, shoes, purse. It must be c. She felt relieved but that had taken too long. Move to Question 13: As Charlemagne is to New Zealand, burrito is to:

a. Switzerland
b. Queen Elizabeth I
c. sushi
d. cement

Janet felt like a fool. What did an old French ruler have to do with a Pacific island nation? Maybe it was a trick question. There was no relationship, so pick the item with the least in common with burrito. That eliminated c. and probably d. OK, b. was a person, a. was a country. She glanced up. Everyone else was beavering on in fierce concentration. Take a deep breath. Guess. Janet picked b.

Question 14: As football is to quinine, emigration is to:

a. teaspoon
b. quarter
c. penny
d. sandals

Was she becoming unhinged? She was trying to be logical; there was no logic here. Or was there a flicker? Could it be a mistake? Surely test makers made errors. B. and c. were coins, unless quarter referred to a measurement. If they were both coins, that suggested one was correct. Was it a matter of counting? The distance from f to q was the same as the distance from e to p! It was an absurd question. Even if c. was correct, it was ridiculous.

An hour remained in the language section. Janet’s shoulders were hunched to her ears. She straightened up, blinked several times, and continued. Question 15 was easy, so obvious that it bothered her.

In the end, she managed a decent score on the verbal section and a high score on the math. Janet was accepted at her second-choice college, majored in economics, and worked in banking. But occasionally, she awoke sweating, wondering what Charlemagne had to do with New Zealand.

—Third Honorable Mention in the KYSO Flash Triple-F Writing Challenge

Pat Tompkins
Issue 5, Spring 2016

is an editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her shortest fiction has appeared in Mslexia, Nanoism, and flashquake.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Confessions of a Tour Guide, 471-word flash fiction in Mash Stories (30 July 2014)

Five “Twisters,” or twitter fiction (25–27 words each) in Nanoism:

#423: 20 January 2012;
#311: 4 May 2011;
#298: 1 April 2011;
#185: 5 July 2010; and
#139: 19 March 2010

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