We’ve all met that one kid who was smarter than everyone else. They were better at math, science, spelling bees….you name it.
My first encounter with this type of kid was from a boy named Jeff. We were in the 8th grade and Jeff wanted to be a physicist. Not only could I not spell it I hadn’t a clue what the thing was.
But in college there was a different kind of beast and he went by the name of Rich.
Allow me to introduce The King
Rich was a chemistry major. He lived quietly in my dorm directly across from my room. He was polite, he was private and you’d never see him out much unless a rerun of MASH or Star Trek was playing in the TV lounge.
Rich was a legend in the chemistry world. Not only did chemistry majors come to him with questions but teachers as well. I once heard a rumor he presented a new discovery to the science board.
Yes, Rich was the King.
But one day things changed and for a little while it was me who became the King….well, kind of.
Allow me to explain.
A Frightful Beginning
One day I saw Rich sitting on the front steps outside our dorm. It was an unusual site given how private he was.
His face was white, his eyes staring off into space. It was clear he was sweating. Did I mention it was January?
Fearing the worst I joined him and asked if he was okay.
“No,” he answered.
He held a sheet of paper in his hand. His eyes watery. It was clear he was in full panic mode.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said.
To meet his academic requirements Rich had to take an English class. What he thought was something minor turned into his own personal hell.
The King is ill
Rich had accidently signed up for a creative writing class. The assignment: 20 page minimum fictional shorty story. To add to the horror he waited too long to change it.
The man who many called a genius had no idea what to do. How do you make things up? How do you create people who aren’t real?
To add to his nightmare his perfect A from grade school to college was in serious danger. Something unheard of in his world.
I had an idea
I could have wished him luck and walked away but instead I asked if I could help. I explained to him one of my hobbies was writing stories. Not the real kind, I explained, but the made up kind like the one your teacher wants you to do.
For a brief second, or maybe an entire minute, I was pretty sure he thought I was crazy but once he understood I was his knight in shining armor Rich happily accepted my offer.
Rich was no dummy.
Hawkeye and Captain Kirk
Every week for the entire semester Rich and I went to work. Not surprisingly he chose a Star Trek theme with just a sprinkle of MASH.
He wrote a page. Soon two and on the day he completed ten pages you would have thought he cured the world’s ugliest disease.
His strength was plot. His weakness was people but with just the right amount of push he slowly improved.
With the final draft complete we celebrated with his first trip to the campus bar. I saw him unwind a little. His collar not so tight, an actual beer buzz taking hold.
He knew his story was not A material but I convinced him all the teacher wanted was effort and it was clear his story had it.
Back then we got our grades in the mail. I left him my number and told him to call. While enjoying spring break I received a call from a soft happy voice. He passed with an A just like I promised.
When school began Rich went back to his quiet studious self but every now and then I’d catch him with a smile and a sense of ease.
Rich was the smartest person I ever met but for a little while I was able to help the genius on campus.