YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, BUT KNOW NOT WHO YOU COULD BE.
The young man was the last one to come into the room. He came carrying a small chalkboard, which he laid on the table to the right of the large screens. “Fellow conspirators,” he said, “wagers please.”
The chalkboard’s two handwritten lines divided it into three equal sections. One section was titled Yes. The next, No. The third , Maybe Later.
The young man and three others each took a dollar out of his wallet and placed it in the Yes section. The one woman, an older woman who had a moral objection to gambling, took a poker chip out of her purse and placed it carefully in the same pile.
The final participant, a heavyset fellow, took his dollar and placed it diffidently in the Maybe Later pile.
“Come now,” the young man said. “You have the most to gain if we gain him!”
“It is because I have the most to gain that I am the most pessimistic,” the heavyset man said. He glanced at the large computer screen. “The test begins in five minutes. Our… candidate is perhaps even now being told about it. Let us watch.”
KNOWLEDGE IS OF NO VALUE UNLESS YOU PUT IT INTO PRACTICE.
“Who was that guy?” John asked, walking in the door. “The one in that black sedan going down our driveway. What did he want?”
“He wanted, oh, dear, I need to tell Lydia she can come out of her room,” Mark’s mother said, going off down the hallway.
Mark stared at his brother, who had gone off to the kitchen. Did John wish for him, Mark, to give him the required information? If so, why had he left?
“John, come back in here, I have something to tell you all,” Mother said, when she had come back with a slightly wide-eyed Lydia.
“What’s up, Mom?” John asked, coming back in with his arms loaded with bread, peanut butter, and honey.
“Not in the living room, John!” his mother said.
“You told me to come in!” he protested.
“Oh, very well, now sit down.”
Mark sat in his chair, John pulled over a TV tray to set his snack on, and Lydia cuddled up with Mother on the couch.
“Well John and Lydia, I need to tell you about this very interesting interview that Mark and I just had.”
“With that guy in the sedan?” John asked, pausing from lathering peanut butter on his bread. "Who is he?"
“Yes, that man that was here. He is a… I suppose he is called a ‘recruiter’… for a special school in Virginia.”
“A special school?!” John asked, his eyes flickering toward Mark.
“Not that kind of ‘special school’,” his mother said. “Not… not that kind. It is a school where Mark would go on scholarship…”
“Not a scholarship, Mother,” Mark said. “Mr. Donaldson explained that the school was self-financing…”
“Yes, Mark. You and I will get into that later with John. I was making things simple.”
Mark wondered how it could be that giving a false statement was ‘making things simple’. He understood the concept that Lydia could not understand, at her age and mental development, all of the various aspects of an issue. But it was simply not true to say that he was going to this school on a ‘scholarship’. A scholarship was money given to an individual student, or the school they were going to attend, because of some feature of that student: such as their success at athletics or in a given field. What Mr. Donaldson was offering him was very different: involving an actual financial investment by the school that they hoped would pay off in productive work from him.
Mark found the idea fascinating. Previous societies had gotten a good deal of work out of their younger members. In colonial America…
“Mark?” Mother said, and Mark looked at her.
“Do you like the idea of going to the school, Mark?”
“I have not yet been able to fully analyze the situation, Mother, as we have not yet completed our visit, but based upon what I have heard so far the benefits seem to outweigh the drawbacks.”
“I wouldn’t have to share a room with you anymore,” John said.
“John!” Mother said, even as Mark said,
“That is indeed a benefit. For Lydia as well. Our current situation has much less square footage of housing space than is the norm among our peers.”
“How long would Mark be gone, Mommy?” Lydia asked.
“Most schools have semesters about three months long,” Mother answered. “We will find out more on Monday.”
“Is that guy coming back on Monday?” John asked. “I’d like to talk to him and make sure this is OK for Mark. No offense, Mother, but you are kind of easy, sometimes. And Mark… like taking candy from a baby.”
Mark recognized the expression: one indicating someone who was easily convinced by ‘confidence men’ and other people wishing to deceive and steal. He did not think it appropriate in this case, but he was unable to make his case, as his mother had gone on to answer John’s question.
“We will all be going on a trip with him, on Monday,” she said. “For three days. All expenses paid. And we’ll be staying in a hotel.”
“With a pool, Mommy?” Lydia asked, excited.
“Maybe. I hope so, darling,” Mother answered.
“With that guy?” John said. “Have you checked him out?”
“I was hoping you could do that, John,” she said. “Here is the pamphlet for the school. I agreed that we would go but, of course, if you discover some sort of problem I will call and cancel. He left me all of his information.”
“You bet I will, Mother. I’ll Google the school first and make sure it really exists. I’ve heard of scams where they print up their own pamphlets, with fake numbers and everything. I'll get the number for the school off the internet and call them up and make sure this Donaldson guy really works for them. Then scope out the reviews and everything.”
John got up to go back to their room, where the only computer was, and then he stopped. “Wait a minute. Monday?! What about school?”
“He said he was going to talk to the administrators and get you three days off school.”
“Three whole days off school?” John said. “I hope this turns out to be legit!” and then, whistling, he went back to their room.