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By Jacqueline Alnes

In order to move on from sophomore year of high school, you have to pass the state-wide Texas Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (TAKS) test.

On the day of the test, you should:

     1. Bring a loaded No. 2 (0.7 mm) mechanical pencil with you in your backpack.

     2. Find your classroom and desk assigned by last name too quickly. Sit down on the plastic chair and talk to the people around you about anything except what happened yesterday. Safe topics include: the package of knockoff goldfish shaped like dolphins on each desk; the difficulty of algebra; or reasons you might fail the test (“I’m tired,” or “I don’t care about this,” even though all you really want to say is, “I’m scared and sad”).

     3. When the loudspeakers crackle with the first announcement, try not to flinch. Feel your legs get sweaty and begin to stick to the seat. Breathe. Don’t look around. When you hear James Brown scream I feel good (duh-nuh-nuhnuh-nuh-nuh-nuh), I knew that I would now, I feel good, try not to cry.

     4. All of the above.

     The answer—if there is one—is D. When “I Feel Good” stops playing over the loudspeakers, you’ll hear the principal’s voice; you’ll expect her to say something about yesterday, but she doesn’t. Instead, she says it’s important to pass the TAKS test. She says to keep hydrated and to eat the snacks that the school has so generously provided. She says, “Good luck,” and cuts out.


About the Author

Jacqueline Alnes has published essays in Iron Horse Literary Review and Tin House, and she recently won runner-up in the Black Warrior Review nonfiction contest. When she’s not teaching, writing, or reading, she’s usually out running long distances. You can find more of her work at