Eight-year-old Aidan Marshall dreaded the thought of going home after school that Friday afternoon. The class had received the results of Wednesday’s math test and not only had Aidan failed, he got the lowest mark in the class: thirty-seven.
What would his punishment be, he wondered. Would he be grounded, made to do extra chores or even worse, lose his video game privileges? He’d find out soon enough. His father had the day off work, so he was home and sitting in the living room when Aidan walked in through the front door.
“Hey son,” Barney Marshall said to his only son. “How was school today?”
“Not so great,” Aidan replied. “Dad, I have something to tell you.”
“Oh?” his father said.
“I-I-I…I failed another math test.”
“By how much?” Barney asked.
“A lot,” Aidan said as tears welled up in his eyes. “I don’t know why. I studied really hard.”
“Now now, don’t cry. So you failed a math test. You know what they say…’If at first you don’t succeed…’”
“Try, try again.”
“That’s total bullshit, of course,” Barney said in response.
Aidan wasn’t quite sure what to make of what his father had just said. He was positive that ‘Try, try again’ was the right answer. Did he fail that, too?
“What they should say,” his father then continued, “is ‘If at first you don’t succeed, just admit you’re not cut out for whatever it was you’re trying to do and move on.’ You’re a Marshall, son and Marshalls are stupid at math. Always have been, always will be.”
That wasn’t quite the pep talk Aidan had been expecting from his dad and it only got weirder from there.
“Do you know who you remind me of? Ted Bundy. He was a bit before your time so maybe you’ve never heard of him. He was a serial killer. He tried to be normal; acted super charming and even studied medicine, but in the end the truth always comes out. Do me a favour and don’t be another Ted Bundy, okay?”
Aidan couldn’t make the connection between how being poor at math made him comparable to a serial killer. He took his father at his word, though and went upstairs to his room to work on his book report. At least he was good at reading and writing. Maybe those things would be his saving grace.