Andrew Jackson set his coffee cup down on the table and looked up from the sheet of paper he had been studying for the past few minutes. Rose sat across the table from him, silent. A bitterly cold north wind howled by the dining room window outside but it wasn’t the wind or the cold that was lowering the mood in the room.
Andrew pursed his lips. “That may be the worst report card we’ve ever seen,” he said. He picked up the paper again. “Although I personally may have seen a few worse ones when I was in school myself,” he added.
“It’s not good,” said Rose. She got up from her chair and went over to the counter to pick up the coffee pot. “I thought when Brady graduated we were through the worst of it, but, apparently not.” She poured herself a cup, then set the pot on the trivet in front of her and slid it across the table to Andrew who picked it up and refilled his own mug.
“Never say never,” said Andrew. “But it is a surprise, coming from Jennifer. What do you suppose is up?
“Lord,” said Rose. “I don’t know. She seems happy enough. Nothing really out of the ordinary. No weird moods or anything like that. So I don’t think it’s drugs.”
“Parents never think it’s drugs,” said Andrew. He put the report card down again. “Has she said anything about this to you? I mean, she must have known it wasn’t going to be a great report.”
“That’s exactly what she said to me,” said Rose. “She said, ‘It’s not going to be a great report card.’ But I figured, ‘How bad can it be?’”
“Pretty bad, obviously,” said Andrew.
“Obviously,” said Rose, and lapsed into silence, staring into her coffee cup.
“Well, let’s figure it out then,” said Andrew. “I have to agree with you, I don’t think it’s drugs. So, first question: has she been doing her homework?”
“Jenn’s never done homework,” said Rose. “She does all her work at school during her spare periods. She refuses to bring stuff home. And that’s always worked reasonably well for her till now.”
“Right,” said Andrew. “She’s not Einstein, but then she’s not Brady either.” He pondered that for a moment and glanced at the report card. “Are these all subjects she’s done before?”
Rose nodded. “She’s never really had problems in any of them,” she said.
“Well, I can see where this is going,” Andrew said, and leaned back in his chair.
“Oh, really?” said Rose. “Well, you’re ahead of me then.”
“Am I ever not?” said Andrew, giving his wife a little grin. “But seriously,” he continued, “if it’s not drugs and there’s nothing different here at home, then it must be something at school. It means the work she’s used to doing during her spares is not getting done.” He took a sip of coffee. “And you know what that means,” he said.
Rose looked at Andrew as the realization dawned on her. “You think?” she said, disbelief in her voice.
“We got trouble,” he said. “Right here in River City. And it starts with b and it ends with oy and it rhymes with boy.”
Rose allowed herself a little smile. “Do you really think so?” she said. “If it’s true, she’s done an awfully good job of hiding it.” The worried look returned to her face. “Which raises the obvious question,” she concluded.
“Why is she hiding it?” said Andrew. “Exactly,” said Rose.
Andrew looked at his watch, then turned to look out the window. “I guess we can ask her,” he said. “There she comes.”
Rose turned and followed his gaze to the girl walking up the driveway toward the house, her brown hair blowing in the wind. “Why won’t she put up her hood?” said Rose. “It’s freezing out there.”
Andrew shrugged. “Teenagers,” he said. The two of them sat in silence until the door opened and they heard Jennifer step inside and close the door.
“Hi, sweetie,” said Rose.
“Hi Mom,” came Jennifer’s voice from the hallway. They heard the closet door close and a moment later Jennifer popped into the room. “Oh hi Dad,” she said. “What’s new?” she asked, and then she spied the sheet of paper on the table next to Andrew’s coffee cup. “Uh-oh,” she said.
“Well put,” said Andrew. “Uh-oh.” Jennifer looked at her parents for a second. “I’ll talk to you about that tomorrow,” she said and before either of them could respond she darted out of the room and up the stairs.
Andrew stared at Rose, who was staring back at him.
“Tomorrow works for me,” he said. Rose sighed. “Me too, I guess,” she said.