Max places the tip of his number two Fort Ticonderoga pencil in the center of the bubble corresponding to the answer "B: concave." In a swift, meticulous manner, he conjures a series of tightly overlapping circles, a flurry of interweaving graphite that forges a cyclone around the answer bubble until the white space is entirely obscured. He stares at the newborn void and traces its circumference once, then twice, then knits a final crosshatched layer of pencil over the entire bubble making it breathtakingly opaque, arrogantly finite. It is a monolith. And it's perfect.
After placing his pencil, still warm from his soft hands, into its shallow cradle at the top of his desk, Max ceremoniously closes his test booklet, presses his palms against the cover in order to smooth the crease that now scars the binding, and glances at his classmates, all folded over their desks looking like overworked accountants. What utter dummies, thinks Max, as he simultaneously pushes his desk forward while using the backs of his thighs to eject his chair in the opposite direction. An industrial screech sounds. The gnashing maw of some mechanical bird. The other students flinch and fire lethal stares in Max's direction, but his smug smirk disarms them, deflects the volley, fries the circuits until they all return to their labor defeated. I'm done, thinks Max. A familiar urge swells inside his head, a ritual desire to fling his finished test toward the dozing proctor and scream that IT WAS EASY. IT WAS SO FUCKING EASY. If any of you NEANDERTHALS need me, I'll be in the lunchroom figuring out how to budget my inevitable six-figure salary. Good luck with those comprehension questions, Joey. The mood of the first reading sample was most certainly not "fuzzy," you backwards hick idiot. I hope you sit awkwardly on your dad's rifle that you insist on bringing to school in that piece of shit Datsun and blow your asscheeks off. CLEAN OFF. Then you'd have a concave ass.
Max chuckles to himself at his little joke and realizes that he has been enjoying this delicious daydream with full attention from his classmates. The proctor has awakened and her crazed, bulbous eyes are shifting focus to center from the sides, like some hideous, ancient toad.
"Mr. Reyes," she rasps, her gnarled hands groping for the desk in front of her as she leans forward. "You done?"
"I...am," replies Max in an unintentional, interrogatory tone that makes it sound as if he were soul-searching. Or coming out of a coma.
"Hey, hot shit," says a particularly handsome, athletic, and infuriating boy from the back of the classroom. "What a shock, Fag Max is done."
The other students titter like the callous sycophants they are as the clever Adonis, Clint Bilko, lets out a hardy chortle and extends his middle finger at Max. Freshman year, Clint hosted a viewing of the legendary sci-fi film Mad Max, and, with a certain amount of pride, announced what would become Max's default moniker for the rest of his high school stint: Fag Max. Despite Max's insistence that the pun wasn't very good, it stuck. The fact that the name "Clint Bilko" seemed to have the potential for countless filthy variations went largely unnoticed by Max's class. Lint Bilbo. Stunt Dildo. Clit Butthole. All neglected retaliations, wasted fodder at Max's feet.
Though he can feel Clint's attractive yet vacant eyes boring into his temples, Max quietly ignores the humiliation, collects his test book, along with any arrant shards of dignity he can find, and walks toward the proctor's desk at the head of the class. The attention is overwhelming, and he feels as if he were a celestial mass being bombarded as it trundles through space. Unsteady. Near collapse. He places his test on the proctor's desk, the state emblem blandly adorning its cover, and turns toward the door.
This is the first moment in Max's life in which he feels the urge to kill.