Writing Prompt Wednesday – “33%”


Above all Limits by Lapis-Razuri

Maddie had been Davis’ tutor for the last two semesters, and while she loved helping others, this kid was starting to burn her out.

At first it had been a minor struggle with his math classes. He was brilliant in the sciences–the area he most needed for his potential future job–but math had him struggling. Davis had been perfectly fine in high school, but the program he’d chosen for college was very math-intensive. Maddie didn’t know if Davis just hadn’t been aware of this before starting or what the case was, but she knew he was a quick learner.

He’d come to the campus staff to find someone to help with his faltering math grades. While it was passing, he’d wanted to get better, and Maddie had found this very admirable. Most students didn’t mind skirting by, and it aggravated her when she knew they could do better. As she was looking into becoming a math teacher, not only would this be great experience for her, but she felt she would be a great companion to this student’s efforts to learn math. Her adviser had even recommended her.

The first semester she’d sat down with Davis and they’d hit the books hard. Maddie was a junior and Davis a sophomore, but because of their differing programs they were on a somewhat even playing field in terms of math knowledge. Davis had basic concepts down, but executing them and finding solutions seemed to give him trouble. Maddie had plenty of tricks for memorizing formulas to share with him, and with time Davis’ grades soared.

The school year had ended in early May, and Davis had passed his math course superbly. Maddie had treated him to dinner to celebrate, and they’d had a great time. They promised to communicate over the summer, and she had Davis swear to her that if he needed anything, whether it be help with math again next year or personal matters, he should give her a call.

He’d given her a goofy grin and said, “I’ll text you every day and call once a week, Chief.” She’d learned to pick out his exaggeration and sarcasm, as it could be thickly veiled at times, and Maddie socked him in the arm for his cheek. But she knew he at least meant he’d try to keep in touch.

Despite trying to text and call him a few times herself, Maddie didn’t hear a peep from Davis all summer.

When school started up again she didn’t have much time to think about it, but about halfway through the semester Maddie figured she’d stop by and ask her adviser if he knew anything about Davis’ whereabouts.

“As a matter of fact, he’s in one of my classes,” he’d said, with a disappointed wrinkle to his brow. “He’s barely scraping by, though. I told him to get in touch with you again if he needed any help, and he said that he would, but that was a couple weeks ago, now. I haven’t had a chance to ask you how things were going with him.”

“I haven’t heard from him at all,” Maddie said quietly, and felt bad that she hadn’t tried to hunt him down sooner.

She had her own things to worry about, but Davis’ sudden lack of motivation this semester kept bothering her, especially after his great improvement when they’d worked together last time. So she took it upon herself to hunt Davis down, for real this time.

She knew his usual hang out spots, and continued to try and get a hold of him, but he never answered and seemed to have vanished from the campus.

It was a week after speaking with her adviser that Maddie finally caught him on his back under a tree, the cool air of fall closing in on the school grounds. He had his backpack with him, and what looked like a math textbook on his lap, but since he was reclined back in the grass, he obviously wasn’t getting much done.

“So this is where the slacker has been hiding.”

Davis had seen her coming, and while he looked resigned to the coming conversation, he hadn’t tried to get up and run away.

He waved up at her lazily. “Ah, Chief, it’s been a while. Going around spreading the good word about equations today?”

“Cut the crap, Davis.” Davis frowned and lowered his hand, crossing his arms over his chest. Maddie continued, “What’s going on with you? I’ve been trying to talk to you for months, and haven’t been able to find you all week, and I hear from my adviser that you’re practically failing his class and won’t get any help, even though you were doing so well last semester.” She took a breath and spread her arms out. “What the hell?”

Davis didn’t say anything for a moment. He looked away, eyes narrowed, and heaved a breath of his own. Finally he looked back up to her. “I’ve had a lot of things happen. Summer was a bummer, y’know? So I just haven’t been applying myself.”

“Is it really so hard to give it your all? This is what will get you to your degree, your dream! Doesn’t that deserve a little more effort on your part?”

Davis shrugged. “Right now I’m giving it as much as I can–”

“But that’s still not one hundred percent, now is it?”

He shrugged again, a helpless expression on his face. He adopted a look that suggested he was thinking hard, then said, “If I’m doing my math right, I’d say I’m giving at least thirty-three percent effort.”

“You’re going to choke on your sarcasm one of these days,” Maddie said dryly, getting fed up with Davis’ attitude.

“It’s not your problem, Maddie,” he said sternly, and Maddie was surprised at the tone, not to mention Davis actually using her name. Usually he threw out stupid nicknames. “I appreciate the concern, sorry for not getting back to you. But it’s none of your business.”

They stared at each other for a long time, Maddie stunned and Davis stubborn. But Maddie was stubborn, too.

Maddie thought long and hard, and finally took a shaky breath before plastering a huge smile on her face. Now Davis was surprised.

“If you’re just going to sit here, anyway,” Maddie said, coming over and plopping on the ground next to Davis. He flinched. “We might as well work on getting that math grade up.”

Davis started to sit up. “Maddie, I told you–”

“I don’t give a damn,” she cut him off, and the look in her eyes was so intense Davis shut up, “that you don’t want to tell me what’s wrong. It is your business, and I won’t make you tell me. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to let all the hard work you did last semester go to waste. You’re too smart and far in your goal to let it just fall to the wayside and be for nothing.” She sighed and looked to him, imploring, “Let me help you this way, at least.”

Davis smirked. “Your tenacity is exhausting. I don’t have the energy to keep fighting you.”

“Good. But I don’t care how tired you are. I want more than thirty percent of work out of you.”

“Thirty-three,” he corrected.

“Still not enough.”


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