Complete 10 questions; answers need to be complete and correct. They were lab partners. It was that simple, how they met. She was the Barbara
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Complete 10 questions; answers need to be complete and correct.

They were lab partners. It was that simple, how they met. She was the Barbara Anderson, president of half the school offices and queen of the rest. He was Keith Zetterstrom, a character, an oddball, a Z. His name was called last. The spring of their senior year at their equipment drawer she spoke to him for the first time in all their grades together: "Are you my lab partner?"

He spread the gear on the counter for the inventory and looked at her. "Yes, I am," he said. "I haven't lied to you this far, and I'm not going to start now."  

After school, Barbara Anderson met her boyfriend, Brian Woodworth, in the parking lot. They had twin red scooters because Brian had given her one at Christmas. "That guy," Barbara said, pointing to where Keith stood in the bus line, "is my lab partner."

"Who is he?" Brian said.   

Keith was the window, wallpaper, woodwork. He'd been there for years and they'd never seen him. This was complicated because for years he was short and then grew tall. And then he grew a long black slash of hair and now he had a crewcut. He was hard to see, hard to fix in one's vision.

The experiments in chemistry that spring concerned states of matter, and Barbara and Keith worked well together, quietly and methodically testing the elements.   

"You're Barbara Anderson, he said finally as they waited for the beaker to boil. We were on the same kickball team in fourth grade and I stood behind you in the sixth-grade Christmas play. I was a Russian soldier."

Barbara Anderson did not know what to say to these things. She couldn't remember the sixth-grade play ... and fourth grade? So she said, "What are you doing after graduation?"  

"The sky's the limit," he said. 

"And you are going off to Brown University."  

"How do you know that?"  

"The list has been posted for weeks."  

"Oh. Right. Well, I may go to Brown and I may stay here and go the university with my boyfriend."

Their mixture boiled and Keith poured some off into a cooling tray. "So what do you do?" he asked her.  

Barbara eyed him. She was used to classmates having curiosity about her, and she had developed a pleasant condescension, but Keith had her off guard.  "What do you mean?"  

"On a date with Brian, your boyfriend. What do you do?"  

"Lots of things. We play miniature golf."  

"You go on your scooters and play miniature golf?"  

"Yes."

"Is there a windmill?"  

"Yes, there's a windmill. Why do you ask? What are you getting at?"  

"Who wins?"  

"Brian," Barbara said. 

"He does." 

 

Barbara showed the note to Trish, her best friend.  

 

REASONS YOU SHOULD GO WITH ME 

A. You are my lab partner.  

B. Just to see. (You too, even Barbara Anderson, contain the same restless germ of curiosity that all humanity possesses, a trait that has led us out of the complacency of our dark caves into the right world where we invented bowling - among other things.) 

C.  It's not a "date."


"Great," Trish said. "We certainly believe this! But, girl, who wants to graduate without a night out with a bald whatever. And I don't think he's going to ravish you - against your will, that is. Go for it. We'll tell Brian that you're staying at my house."

Keith drove a Chevy pickup, forest-green, and when Barbara climbed in, she asked, "Why don't you drive this to school?"  

"There's a bus. I love the bus. Have you ever been on one?"  

"Not a school bus."  

"Oh, try it," he said. "Try it. It's so big and it doesn't drop you off right at your house."  

"You're weird."

"Why? Oh, does the bus go right to your house? Come on, does it?" But you've got to admit they're big, and that yellow paint job? Show me that somewhere else, I dare you. Fasten your seat belt, let's go."  The evening went like this: Keith turned onto Bloomfield, the broad business avenue that stretched from near the airport all the way back to the university, and he told her, "I want you to point out your least favorite building on this street."  

"So we're not going bowling?"

"No, we're saving that. I thought we'd just get a little something to eat. So, keep your eyes open. Any places you can't stand?" By the time they reached the airport, Barbara had pointed out four she thought were ugly. When they turned around, Keith added: "Now, your final choice, please. And not someplace you just don't like. We're looking for genuine aversion."  

"Barbara selected a five-story metal building near downtown, with a simple marquee above the main doors that read INSURANCE.

"Excellent," Keith said as he swung the pickup to the curb. He began unloading his truck. 

"This is truly garish. The architect here is now serving time."  

"This is where my father used to work."  

Keith paused, his arms full of equipment. "When ..."  

"When he divorced my mom. His office was right up there." She pointed. "I hate driving by this place."  

 "Good," Keith said with renewed conviction. "Come over here and sit down. Have a Coke."

Barbara sat in a chaise lounge that Keith had set on the floodlit front lawn next to a folding table. He handed her a Coke. "We're eating here?"  

"Yes, Miss," he said, toting over the cooler and the little propane stove. "It's rustic but traditional: cheese omelets and hash brown potatoes. Sliced tomatoes for a salad with choice of dressing, and-for dessert-ice cream. On the way home, of course." Keith poured some oil into the frying pan. "There is nothing like a meal to alter the chemistry of a place."  

On the way home, they did indeed stop for ice cream, and Barbara asked him: "Wasn't your hair long last year, like in your face and down like this?" She swept her hand past his eye.

"It was."  

"Why is it so short now?"  

Keith ran his hand back over his head. "Seasonal cut. Summer's a-coming in. I want to lead the way.  

 

It was an odd week for Barbara. She actually did feel different about the insurance building as she drove her scooter by it on the way to school. When Trish found out about dinner, she said, "That was you! I saw your spread as we headed down to Barney's. You were like camped out, right?"  

Wonder spread on Barbara's face as she thought it over. "Yeah, it was cool. He cooked."  

"Right. But please, I've known a lot of guys who cook. They were some of the slickest. 

High School Confidential says 'There are three million seductions and only one goal.'"  

"You're a cynic."  

"Cynicism is a useful survival skill."

In Chemistry, it was sulfur. Liquid, solid, and gas. The hallways of the chemistry annex smelled like rotten eggs and jokes abounded. Barbara winced through the white wispy smoke as Keith stirred the melting sulfur nuggets.   "This is awful," Barbara said.   

"This is wonderful," Keith said. "This is the exact smell that greets sinners at the gates of hell. They think it's awful; here we get to enjoy it for free."  

Barbara looked at him. "My lab partner is certifiable ..."  

"Your lab partner will meet you tonight at seven o' clock."  

"Keith," she said. "I'm dating Brian. Remember?"

"Good for you," he said. "Now tell me something I don't know. Listen: I'll pick you up at seven. This isn't a date. This isn't dinner. This is errands. I'm serious. Necessary errands—for your friends.   

Barbara Anderson rolled her eyes. 

 "You'll be home by nine. Young Mr. Brian can scoot by then. I mean it." Keith leaned toward her, the streams of baking acrid sulfur rising past his face. "I'm not lying to you."

When she got to the truck that night, Keith asked her, "What did you tell Brian?"  

"I told him I had errands at my aunt's and to come by at ten for a little while."  

"That's awfully late on a school night."  

"Keith."

"I mean, why didn't you tell him you'd be with me for two hours?" He looked at her. "I have trouble lending credibility to a relationship that is almost one year old and on in which one of the members has given another an actually fullsize, roadworthy motor vehicle, and yet it remains a relationship in which one of the members lies to the other when she plans to spend two hours with her lab partner, a person with whom she has inhaled the very vapors of hell."   

"Stop the truck, Keith. I'm getting out."  

"And miss bowling? And miss the search for bowling balls?" 

Half an hour later they were in Veteran's Thrift, reading the bowling balls. They'd already bought five at Desert Industry Thrift Shops and the Salvation Army store. Keith's rule was it had to be less than two dollars. They already had PATTY for Trish, BETSY and KIM for two more of Barbara's friends, an initialed ball B.R. for Brian even though his last name was Woodworth ("Puzzle him," Keith said. "Make him guess"), and WALT for their chemistry teacher, Mr. Walter Miles. They found three more in the bins in Veteran's Thrift, one marked SKIP, one marked COSMO ("A must," Keith said), and a brilliant green ball, run deeply with hypnotic swirls, which had no name at all.  Barbara was touring the wide shelves of used appliances, toys, and kitchen utensils. 

"Where do they get all this stuff?"

"You've never been in a secondhand store before, have you?"  

 "No. Look at this stuff. This is a quarter?" She held up a large plastic tray with the Beatles' pictures on it.  

"That," Keith said, taking it from her and placing it in the cart with their bowling balls, "came from the home of a fan of the first magnitude. Oh, it's a sad story. It's enough to say that this is here tonight because of Yoko Ono." Keith's attention was taken by a large trophy, standing among the dozen other trophies on the top shelf. "Whoa," he said, pulling it down. It was huge, over three feet tall: six golden columns, ascending from a white marble base to a silver obelisk, framed by two embossed silver wreaths, and topped by a silver woman on a rearing motorcycle. The inscription on the base read: WIDOWMAKER HILL CLIMB - FIRST PLACE 1987. Keith held it out to show Barbara, like a man holding a huge bottle of aspirin in a television commercial. "But this is another story altogether." He placed it reverently in the basket. 

"And that would be?"  

"No time. You've got to get back and meet Brian, a person who doesn't know where you are." Keith led her to the checkout. He was quiet all the way to the truck. He placed the balls carefully in the cardboard boxes in the truck bed and then set the huge trophy between them on the seat.   

"You don't know where the trophy came from."

Keith put a finger his lips-"Shhhh"-and started the truck and headed to Barbara's house. After several blocks of silence, Barbara folded her arms. "It's a tragic, tragic story," he said in a low voice. "I mean, this girl was a golden girl, an angel, the light in everybody's life."  

"Do I want to hear the tragic story?""  

"She was a wonder. Straight A's, with an A plus in chemistry. The girl could do no wrong. And then," Keith looked at Barbara, "She got involved with motorcycles."  

"Is this her on top of the trophy?" 

"The very girl," Keith nodded grimly. "Oh, it started innocently enough with a little red motor scooter, a toy really, and she could be seen running errands for the Ladies' Society and other charities every Saturday and Sunday when she wasn't home studying." Keith turned to Barbara, moving the trophy forward so he could see her. "I should add here that her fine academic standings got her into Brown University, where she was going that fateful fall." Keith laid the trophy back. "When her thirst for speed grew and grew, breaking over her good common sense like a tidal wave, sending her into the arms of a twelve-hundred-cc Harley Davidson, one of the most powerful two-wheeled vehicles in the history of mankind." They turned onto Barbara's street, and suddenly Barbara ducked, her head against Keith's knee. 

"Drive by," she whispered, "Just keep going." 

"What?" Keith said. "If I do that Brian won't see you." Keith could see Brian leaning against his scooter in the driveway. "Is that guy always early?" 

Keith turned the next corner, and Barbara sat up and opened her door. "I'll go down the alley." 

"Cool," Keith said. "So you sneak down the alley to meet your boyfriend? Pretty sexy."

She gave him a look. "Okay, have fun. But there's one last thing, partner. I'll pick you up at four to deliver these bowling balls. 

"Four?" 

"Four a.m. Brian will be gone, won't he?" 

"Keith." 

"It's not a date. We've got to finish this program, right?" 

Barbara looked over at Brian and quickly back at Keith as she opened the truck door. 

"Okay, but meet me at the corner. There," she pointed, "by the postbox." 

 

She was there. The streets of the suburbs were dark and quiet, everything in its place, sleeping, but Barbara Anderson stood in the humming lamplight, rubbing her elbows. It was eerily quiet and she could hear Keith coming for two or three blocks before he turned onto her street. He had the heater on in the truck, and when she climbed in he handed her a blue cardigan, which she quickly buttoned up. 

"Four a.m.," she said, rubbing her hands over the air vent. "Now this is weird out here."

"Yeah," Keith said. "Four o'clock makes it a different planet. I recommend it. But bring a sweater." He looked at her. "You look real sleepy," he said. "You look good. This is the face you ought to bring to school."  

Barbara looked at Keith and smiled. "No makeup, okay? It's four a.m." His face looked tired, and in the pale dash lights, with his short, short hair he looked more like a child, a little boy. "What do we do?"  

"We give each of these babies," Keith nodded back at the bowling balls in the truck bed," a new home."

They delivered the balls, placing them carefully on the porches of their friends, including Trish and Brian, and then they spent half an hour finding Mr. Miles's house, which was across town, a tan split level. Keith handed Barbara the ball marked WALT and made her walk up to the front porch. When she returned to the truck, Keith said, "Years from now you'll be able to say 'When I was seventeen I put a bowling ball on my chemistry teacher's front porch.'"  

"His name was Walt," Barbara added.   

At five-thirty, as the first gray light rose, Barbara Anderson and Keith walked into Jewel's Café carrying the last two balls: the green beauty and COSMO. Jewel's was the oldest café in the city, an all-night diner full of mailmen. "So," Barbara said, as they slid into one of the huge maroon booths, "who gets these last two?" She was radiant now, fully awake, and energized by the new day.

Part 1: Comprehension Questions

Directions: Determine what score you would like to receive, then answer the required amount of questions. Answer the questions on this handout.

  1. Who is Barbara's boyfriend and what gift does he give to her?
  2. Who is Keith and how does Barbara know him?
  3. What does the author mean when he states that Keith was "the window, wallpaper, woodwork" (p. 1)?
  4. (p. 1) When the author says that "Barbara and Keith worked well together (in Chemistry class), quietly and methodically testing the elements," this has two meanings. What are the two meanings?
  5. What are two reasons why Trish tells Barbara she should go out with Keith?
  6. When Keith and Barbara went out the first time, what did he take her to go do? Why was this awkward for her?
  7. The following line by Keith has two meanings: "There is nothing like a meal to alter the chemistry of a place." What are the two meanings?
  8. The second time Barbara and Keith go out, what does he suggest she tell Brian? Does she tell him?
  9. What did Barbara and Keith buy at the thrift store? What did they do with these things?
  10. What story does Keith tell about the motorcycle trophy? Why is he talking about?
  11. When Keith and Barbara turned on Barbara's street, how did Barbara respond when she saw Brian waiting at her house? Why did she respond this way?
  12. When Barbara gets in Keith's truck at 4am, what does she notice about Keith?





Part 2


The waitress appeared and they ordered Round-the-World omelets, hash browns, juice, milk, coffee, and wheat muffins, and Barbara ate with gusto, looking up halfway through. "So, where next?" She saw his plate. "Hey, you're not eating."  

Keith looked odd, his face milky, his eyes gray. "This food is full of the exact amino acids to have a certifiably chemical day," he said. "I'll get around to it."  

But he never did. He pushed his plate to the side and turned the place mat over and began to write on it.   

"Are you feeling all right?" Barbara asked. 

"I'm okay."   

She tilted her head at him skeptically

 "Hey. I'm okay. I haven't lied to you this far. Why would I start now? You know I'm okay, don't you? Well? Don't you think I'm okay?"  

She looked at him and said quietly: "You're okay."  He showed her the note he had written:


Dear Waitress: My girlfriend and I are from rival families—different sides of the track, races, creeds, colors, and zip codes, and if they found out we had been out bowling all night, they would banish us to prison schools on separate planets. Please, please find a good home for our only bowling balls. Our enormous sadness is only mitigated by the fact that we know you'll take care of them.    


With sweet sorrow---Cosmo.


In the truck, Barbara said, "Mitigated?" 

 "Always leave them something to look up."  

"You're sick, aren't you?" she said.  

"You look good in that sweater," he said. 

When she started to remove it, he added, "Don't. I'll get it after class, in just," he looked at his watch, "two hours and twenty minutes." 

But he wasn't there. He wasn't there all week. The class did experiments with oxidation and Mr. Miles spent two days explaining and diagramming rust. On Friday, Mr. Miles worked with Barbara on the experiments and she asked him what was wrong with Keith. "I'm not sure," her teacher told her. "But I think he's on medication." 

 Barbara had a tennis match on Tuesday afternoon at school, and Brian picked her up and drove her home. Usually he came in for an hour or so on these school days and they made out a little and raided the fridge, but for the first time she begged off, claiming homework, kissing him on the cheek and running into her house. But on Friday, during her away match at Viewmont, she felt odd again. She knew Brian was in the stands. When she walked off the court after the match it was nearly dark and Brian was waiting. She gave Trish her rackets and Barbara climbed on Brian's scooter without a word. "You weren't that bad," he said. "Viewmont always has a good team."  

"Brian, let's go home."  

"You want to swing by Swenson's, get something to eat?"  

"No."  

So Brian started his scooter and drove them home. Barbara could tell by the way he was driving that he was mad, and it confused her: she felt strangely glad about it. She didn't want to invite him, let him grope her on the couch. She held on as he took the corners too fast and slipped through the stop signs, but all the way home she didn't put her chin on his shoulder.   At her house, she got the scene she'd been expecting. "Just what is the matter with you?" Brian said. For some reason when he'd gone to kiss her, she'd averted her face. Her heart burned with pleasure and shame. She was going to make up a lie about tennis, but then just said, "Oh Brian. Just leave me alone for a while, will you? Just go home."  

Inside, she couldn't settle down. She didn't shower or change clothes. She sat in the dark of her room for a while and then, using only the tiny spot of her desk lamp, she copied her chemistry notes for the week and called Trish.   It was midnight when Trish picked her up quietly by the mailbox on the corner. Trish was smoking one of her Marlboros and blowing smoke into the windshield. She said, "High School Confidential, Part Five: Young Barbara Anderson, still in her foxy tennis clothes, and her old friend Trish meet again at midnight, cruise the Strip, pick up two young men with tattoos, and are never seen alive again. Is that it? Count me in."

"Not quite. It goes like this: two sultry babes, one of whom has been a royal bitch to her boyfriend for no reason, drive to 1147 Fairmont to drop off the week's chemistry notes.   

"That would be Keith Zetterstrom's address, I'd guess." Trish said.   

"He's my lab partner."  

"Of course he is," Trish said.   

"He missed all last week. Mr. Miles told me that Keith's on medication."  

"Oh my god!" Trish clamped the steering wheel. "He's got cancer. That's the scary hairdo. He's sick."  

"No he doesn't. I checked the college lists. He's going to Dickinson." 

 "Not for long, honey. I should have known this." Trish inhaled and blew smoke thoughtfully out of the side of her mouth. "Bald kids in high school without earrings have got cancer."


Keith was in class the following Monday for the chemistry exam: sulfur and rust. After class, Barbara Anderson took him by the arm and led him to her locker. "Thanks for the notes, partner," he said. "They were absolutely chemical. I aced the quiz."  

"You were sick last week."  

"Last week." He pondered. "Oh, you mean because I wasn't here. What do you, come every day? I just couldn't; it would take away the something special I feel for this place. I like to come from time to time to keep the dew on the rose, so to speak."  

"I know what's the matter with you."  

"Good for you, Barbara Anderson. And I know what's the matter with you too; sounds like a promising relationship."  

Barbara pulled his folded sweater from the locker and handed it to him. As she did, Brian came up and said to them both: "Oh, I see." 

He started to walk away.  "Brian," Keith said. "Listen. You don't see. I'm not a threat to you. How could I be a threat to you? Think about it." 

Brian stood, his eyes narrowed. Keith went on: "Barbara's not stupid. What am I going to do, trick her? I'm her lab partner in chemistry. Relax." 

Keith went to Brian and took his hand, shook it. "I'm serious, Woodworth."  

Brian stood for a moment longer until Barbara said, "I'll see you at lunch," and then backed and disappeared down the hall. When he was gone, Barbara said, "Are you tricking me?"  

"I don't know. Something's going on. I'm a little confused."  

"You're confused. Who are you? Where you have been, Keith Zetterstrom? I've been going to school with you all these years and I've never even seen you and then we're delivering bowling balls together and now you're sick. Where were you last year? What are you doing? What are you going to do next year?"  

"Last year I got a C in Spanish with Mrs. Whitehead. It was gruesome. This year is somewhat worse, with a few exceptions, and all in all, I'd say the sky is the limit." Keith took her wrist. "Quote me on that."  

Barbara took a sharp breath through her nose and quietly began to cry.   "Oh, let's not," Keith said, pushing a handkerchief into her hand. 

"Here. Think of this." He moved her back against the wall, out of the way of the students passing by. "If I was having a good year, I might never have spoken to you. Extreme times require extreme solutions. I went all those years sitting in the back and then I had to get sick to start talking. Now that's something, isn't it? Besides, I've got a plan. I'll pick you up at nine. Listen: bring your pajamas and a robe."  

Barbara looked at him over the handkerchief. 

"Hey. Trust me. You were the one who was crying. I'll see you at nine o'clock. This will cheer you up." 

 

The hospital was on the hill, and Keith parked in the farthest corner of the vast parking lot, one hundred yards from the nearest car. Beneath them in the dark night, the city teemed and shimmered, a million lights.   "It looks like a city on another planet," Barbara Anderson said as she stepped out of the truck.  

"It does, indeed," Keith said, grabbing his bag. "Now if we only knew if the residents are friendly." He took her arm. "And now I'm going to cheer you up. I'm going to take you in that building," Keith pointed at the huge hospital, lit like an ocean liner in the night, "and buy you a package of gum."

"They changed clothes in the fifth-floor restrooms and met in the hallway, in pajamas and robes, and stuffed their street clothes into Barbara's tennis bag.   

"Oh, I feel better already," Barbara said.  

"Now take my arm like this," Keith moved next to her and placed her hand above his elbow, "and look down like this." He put his chin on his chest. Barbara tried to do it. "No, not such a sad face, more serious, be strong. Good. Now walk just like this, little stab steps, real slow." 

They started down the hallway, creeping along one side. "How far is it?" Barbara said. People passed them walking quietly in groups of two or three. It was the end of visiting hours. 

"A hundred yards to the elevators and down three floors, then out a hundred more. Keep your face down."  

"Are people looking at us?"  

"Well, yes. They've never seen a braver couple. And they've never seen such chemical pajamas. What are those little deals, lambs?"  

 They continued along the windows, through the lobby and down the elevator, in which they stood side by side, their hands clasped together, while they were looking at their tennis shoes. The other people in the hall gave them room out of respect. The main hall was worse, thick with people, everyone going five miles an hour faster than Barbara and Keith, who shuffled along whispering.   

In the gift shop, finally, they parted the waters. The small room was crowded, but the people stepped aside and Keith and Barbara stood at the counter. "A package of chewing gum, please," Keith said.   

"Which kind?" 

 "Sugarless. My sister and I want our teeth to last forever."

They ran to the truck, leaping and swinging their arms. Keith threw the bag containing their clothes into the truck bed and climbed into the cab. Barbara climbed in, laughing, and Keith said, "Come on, face the facts: you feel better! You're cured!" And she slid across the seat meaning to hug him but it changed for both of them and they kissed. She pulled him to her side and they kissed again, one of arms around his neck and one of her hands on his face. They fell into a spin there in the truck, eyes closed, holding on to each other in their pajamas, her robe open, their heads against the backseat, kissing. Barbara shifted and Keith sat up; the look they exchanged held. Below them the city's lights' flickered. Barbara cupped her hand carefully on the top of Keith's bald scalp. She pulled him forward and they kissed. When she looked in his eyes again she knew what was going to happen, and it was a powerful feeling that gave her a strange new certainty as she went for his mouth again.   

There were other moments that surfaced in the truck in the night above the ancient city. Something Keith did, his hand reminded her of Brian, and then that thought vanished as they were beyond Brian in a moment. Later, well beyond even her notions of what to do and what not to do, lathered and breathing as if in toil, she heard herself say, "Yes." She said that several times.


She looked for Keith everywhere, catching glimpses of his head, his shoulder, in the hallways. In chemistry they didn't talk; there were final reports, no need to work together. Finally, three days before graduation, they stood side by side cleaning out their chemistry equipment locker, waiting for Mr. Miles to check them off. Keith's manner was what? Easy, too confident, too neutral. He seemed to take up too much space in the room. She hated the way he kept his face blank and open, as if fishing for the first remark. She held off, feeling the restraint as a physical pang. Mr. Miles inventoried their cupboard and asked for their keys. He had a large ring of thirty or forty of the tin brass keys. Keith handed his to Mr. Miles and then Barbara Anderson found her key in the side of her purse and handed it to the teacher. She hated relinquishing the key; it was the only thing she had that meant she would see Keith, and now with it gone something opened in her and it hurt in a way she'd never hurt before. Keith turned to her and seeing something in her face, shrugged and said, "The end of chemistry as we know it. Which isn't really very well."  

"Who are you?" Barbara sad, her voice a kind of surprise to her. "You're so glib. Such a little actor." Mr. Miles looked up from his check sheet and several students turned toward them. Barbara was speaking loudly; she couldn't help it. "What are you doing to me? If you ask me this is a pretty chickenshit goodbye." Everyone was looking at her. Then her face would not work at all, the tears coming from some hot place, and Barbara Anderson walked from the room.   Keith hadn't moved. Mr. Miles looked at Keith alarmed. Keith whispered: "Don't worry, Mr. Miles. She was addressing her remarks to me." 

There was one more scene. The night before graduation while her classmates met in the bright, noisy gym for the yearbook signing party, Barbara drove out to the airport and met Keith where he said he'd be: at the last gate, H-17. There on an empty stretch of maroon carpet in front of three large banks of seats full of travelers, he was waiting. He handed her a pretty green canvas valise and an empty paper ticket sleeve.

"You can't even talk as yourself," she said. "You always need a setting. Now we're pretending I'm going somewhere?"   

He looked serious tonight, weary. There were gray shadows under his eyes. "You wanted a goodbye scene," he said. "I tried not to do this."  

"It's all a joke," she said. "You joke all the time."

"You know what my counselor said?" He smiled thinly as if glad to give her this point. "He said that this is a phase, that I'll stop joking soon." Their eyes met and the look held again. "Come here," he said. She stepped close to him. He put his hand on her elbow. "You want a farewell speech. Okay, here you go. You better call Brian and get your scooter back. Tell him I tricked you. Wake up, lady. Get real. I just wanted to see if I could give Barbara Anderson a whirl. And I did. It was selfish, okay? I just screwed you around a little. You said it yourself: it was a joke. That's my speech. How was it?"

"You didn't screw me around, Keith. You didn't give me a whirl." Barbara moved his hand then put her arms around his neck so she could speak in his ear. She could see some of the people watching them. "You made love to me, Keith. It wasn't a joke. You made love to me and I met you tonight to say—good for you. Extreme times require extreme solutions." She was whispering as they stood alone on that carpet in their embrace. "I wondered how it was going to happen, but you were a surprise. Way to go. What did you think? I wanted to go off to college an eighteen-year-old virgin? That pajama bit was great; I'll remember it." Now people were deplaning, entering the gate area and streaming around the young couple. Barbara felt Keith begin to tremble, and she closed her eyes. "It wasn't a joke. There's this: I made love to you too. You were there, remember? I'm glad for it." She pulled back slightly and found his lips. For a moment she was keenly aware of the public scene they were making, but that disappeared and they twisted tighter and were just there, kissing. She had dropped the valise and when the mock ticket slipped from her fingers behind his neck, a young woman in a business suit knelt and retrieved it and tapped Barbara on the hand. Barbara clutched the ticket and dropped her head to Keith's chest.   

"I remember," he said. "My memory is aces."  

"Tell me, Keith," she said. "What are these people thinking? Make something up?"  

"No need. They've got it right. That's why we came out here. They think we're saying goodbye."

Simply put, that was the last time Barbara Anderson saw Keith Zetterstrom. That fall when she arrived in Providence for her freshman year at Brown, there was one package waiting for her, a large trophy topped by a girl on a motorcycle. She had seen it before. She kept it in her dorm window, where it was visible four stories from the ground, and she told her roommates that it meant a lot to her, that it represented a lot of fun and hard work but her goal had been to win the Windowmaker Hill Climb, and once she had done that, she sold her bikes and gave up her motorcycles forever.   



Part 2: Comprehension Questions

  1. How is Keith acting strangely during breakfast?
  2. How does Keith act when Barbara asks him if he's sick? Why do you think he's acting this way?
  3. When Barbara asked the teacher why Keith wasn't in class, what was his response?
  4. How did Barbara specifically act when Keith didn't show up to school? Why do you think she acted this way?
  5. What does Barbara decide to do so she can see Keith?
  6. What does Trish think is wrong with Keith? Why does she think this?
  7. What does Keith say when Brian confronts him and Barbara in the hallway?
  8. On page 7, what does Keith say about some of the good things that have come from him getting sick?
  9. Where did Barbara and Keith go on their final night out? What did they do there? Why was this night different than the rest?
  10. How did Keith act on the last day of Chemistry class? Why?
  11. In Chemistry class, Barbara didn't want to give up her class keys, why?
  12. Where did Barbara see Keith for the last time? In your own words, explain what she said to him?
  13. When Barbara arrived at college, there was a package waiting for her. What was in it?

Answered by Expert Tutors

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