I thought that middle school was pretty easy. Most of my teachers didn’t have particularly high expectations of us. I had a history teacher in 8th grade who assigned a weekly question sheet, and the grading was very straightforward. If you did fine, you got a check mark. If you did poorly, you got a check minus. If you did especially well, then you got a check plus.
One day Cami got a check plus plus. Things changed after that.
“Now hold on,” Peter says to the teacher. “How did she get a check plus plus? I didn’t think that such a thing was possible!”
“Well, she did a really good job,” the teacher replied.
Peter wasn’t happy. He wanted to go further. He wanted to push the limits. He wanted a check plus plus plus.
We all thought that he was joking. Actually, we didn’t know what to think. Would the teacher really give out a triple? The weekly homework was only ten or so questions that had answers plainly written somewhere in the textbook. Check plus plus plus didn’t make any sense. I barely understood how a double plus had happened.
Peter had a full paragraph written to answer every question the next week. The following Monday, he got his homework back, and it was only a check plus plus. Well, it’s no triple, but the fact that two doubles had been given out was still phenomenal. I mean, nobody had even thought that it was possible before.
The teacher found out that Peter was going for a triple. He thought it was pretty funny.
Some of the more studious people in the class were getting interested in this idea. It was a sort of competition, really. Who would be the first to get a check plus plus plus? I personally didn’t care that much. I was fine with my checks and occasional check pluses.
It was near the end of the year, probably early May, when Mina pulled it off. Check plus plus plus. Apparently she had turned in graphs and shit, entire pages printed out for simple questions that could each be answered in half a sentence or less. When the first check plus plus had surfaced, I didn’t care. But a triple? I was honestly blown away.
I worked pretty hard on the next homework. It was nothing extreme. And I got a check plus plus on it! Wow, you would not believe how little I cared when I got that handed back to me at the start of class. It was fairly easy to get a check plus plus, really, but I didn’t care enough to strive for it every week, like some people did.
But wait! Things got even crazier! The same week that I’d gotten my check plus plus, Peter had gotten a check plus plus plus plus! He got a what!? A quadruple!? He had reached the impossible and then gone past it. The entire class was in complete disbelief. A check plus plus plus plus! This is some fucked up shit right here.
And then it happened in mid-June. The final homework assignment. Things got weird.
It was something that was only discussed in whispers. It was almost as if it hadn’t been discussed at all. For the final homework, the entire class had mutually decided to push our history teacher to his limits. If each and every student tried to go for a check plus plus plus plus plus (that’s five plusses), one of them would have to succeed.
Quintuple plus. Let the games begin.
And when I say games, I mean that the class had devolved into madness. On the day that the final assignment was due, Peter and Cami came in, having been up all night competing their page counts, and I think they each had over a page of writing for every question on the homework. But it got stranger. It got much stranger.
One girl had made a t-shirt. A what? A t-shirt? She had bought a white shirt, printed out her homework on special paper, and ironed the image of her answers onto it. It was a shirt covered in fucking history trivia. She had even made sure that it was the teacher’s size.
Another girl made origami. I actually couldn’t comprehend what I was looking at. She had made a giant cootie catcher and covered the inside with her answers. As big as the cootie catcher was, the font on the inside was really, really small. You pick a number, the number of the desired question, then you flip flap fold it around, and there’s your three-paragraph answer.
And I had typed up, like, a page and a half or so. It was okay.
Oh man. The plusses were flying. The shirt had earned a check plus plus plus plus plus plus. Yeah. Six. I think the origami was only a check plus plus plus plus plus. I got my first and only triple. That was kinda neat.
Cami and Peter had somehow both worked equally hard, and the teacher had noticed how closely they were competing, so just to troll them he gave them the same number of plusses. They were both pretty annoyed that it had been a tie.
How many plusses had they gotten? They had both received a check plus plus plus plus plus plus plus plus. And I have nothing to say about that.