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Unit K13: Life and unrelated studies

ASSESSMENT ITEM C: Exam (25% of Final Grade)

Multiple Choice & Short Response

 

Preamble

The following is the final exam paper for Unit K13. You will be asked a series of questions that engage with the key topics and ideas we’ve discussed this semester. Read each section carefully and answer the questions in the order they are given. Do not discuss any exam content with other students, as this will result in an automatic fail.

You have forty-five minutes. Your supervisor will indicate to you when only ten minutes remain.

 

QUESTION 1

Dad lets you sit in the passenger seat. He says no feet on the dash. He says you’re going to McDonalds, but the faraway one, not the close one. You get to pick the music and you choose Mr Blue and the Cloud Charade, which he only has on his phone for you. It’s nearly ten at night and you’ve already had dinner, but you don’t tell him that.

When I live in Philly, we’ll go to the Rocky stairs, he tells you. Won’t that be fun, huh?

Cool, you say.

The traffic slows down as you pass by an accident, and Dad lets go of the wheel with one hand to turn your head away, so you figure it must be pretty bad. After half a mile, he goes back to the ten-and-two, and you look in the rear-view, trying to catch a glimpse of the wreck, long after it’s too far behind for you to possibly see it anymore.

He asks if you’re good with drive-through, but you like the too-bright lights, so the two of you go inside. There’s a queue. Dad squeezes your shoulder. You stare down at the floor. It’s so buffed you’d think you’d see your reflection in it, but you don’t.

Think about what you want to order, Dad says.

Do you:

  1. a) tell him that Philly is too far away
  2. b) turn around and walk right out of McDonalds, and keep walking when someone runs into you, and keep walking when Dad calls out your name and keep walking when he hesitates over running after you
  3. c) remind him that you’ve actually never seen the Rocky movies, that he probably watched them with Chris and not you
  4. d) say, a quarter-pounder and a vanilla shake, please
  5. e) say, whatever you’re getting, Dad.

 

QUESTION 2

You’ve got a vodka bottle with the bottom tenth still in it, and Cassie’s got his brother’s bike. He’s going to wait at the end of your street so that the rev doesn’t wake your parents, and once you’re absolutely sure everybody’s properly asleep, you climb out your window.

Dirt from the garden gets between the inside of your shoe and the outside of your sock, and it rubs there, but you can’t tell which of them it’s wearing away at. The moon sits fat like some great rotten fruit in the sky, leaking pale everywhere, and you hold the air in your throat until it goes from something cold to something you can’t feel anymore.

Cassie’s standing astride the Ducati, waiting under the street lamp that only works sometimes. It’s working right now. He takes off his helmet, kisses you once, then pushes the helmet down onto your head.

Get on, he says.

What? you ask. I can’t hear you.

He laughs. Come on. I’m taking you away.

You slide on behind him, wrapping your arms around his waist, and he gives you a second before chucking the throttle. You peel off down the road, and the night seems like such a shaking, skinny thing, with Cassie breaking it before it hits you.

The ride up the mountain stretches and then snaps back, so you’re on the curve forever, and then at the top all at once. He parks at the lookout even though it’s too dark to see much of anything, and the two of you go sit close to the bluff.

Someday, he says, someone is going to burn that whole place to the ground.

It could be us, you reply, bravery a wobbling yolk in your chest. We could do it.

Not worth going to prison for, he tells you.

You’re shivering, but you don’t ask for his jacket and he doesn’t offer it. Everything about the moment feels thick, like it’s coated in something, and you don’t know if that will make all this harder or easier to remember.

True or false:

Fifteen years from now, when you see each other again after everything, and he’s an accountant with two kids and you teach at the local, you’ll still have things to talk about.

 

QUESTION 3

The third drink is the best. Before then, you want it too bad, and the wanting swelters fierce and frantic in your guts. After, you’re just chasing what you’ve already had: that second of absolute stillness that can only really follow desperation.

There’s a game on the TV over the bar. The 76ers are playing. You think of your father, just for a flash, a fin breaking the water in a wide, flat sea.

You drink four, five, six, and you’re right: third is best. Usually, you’d keep going, just to be sure, but Tim’s giving you that look, pity bitten to the quick, so you settle the tab and head out.

You slide in behind the wheel and it takes just two tries to start the car. The necklace hanging from the rear-view swings as you reverse out, and you watch it go back and forth.

You step on the gas. Clutch-second, clutch-third, clutch-fourth, clutch-fifth. It’s not raining, although you thought it would be.

For so long, it looks like you’re driving towards a street lamp. A lighthouse. A small star taped to the ground. By the time it all catches up with you, splits into two headlights, headlights in motion, you can’t turn away anymore.

You slam on the brakes and you think the other driver does too. You don’t know much about physics or what velocity and impact does to human bodies, but maybe sixty miles an hour is better than seventy-five.

There’s probably one exact moment where your bumper touches theirs, then one where the metal sheers, then one where the glass powders and pours from your windshield over you, but you experience it all as one single event, not a series of them. Smooth and fluid, the world shucked away in one graceful move.

Do you:

  1. a) close your eyes
  2. b) keep them open.

 

QUESTION 4

You pick up just before the call can ring out.

Hello, she says, and you think how funny it is that the worst thing a telephone can do is exactly what it was invented for: take someone very far away and hold them next to you.

Hello, you reply. Then – How’s Christopher?

Evie – she starts, only it’s not the start of something; it’s just a name that is drawn and quartered between you, pulled into only its parts.

You wait, she waits. The silence builds like plaque.

You get a bottle of orange juice out of the fridge and unscrew the lid. You should ask why she rang; there’s always a why, and you can usually figure it out. You should tell her that today you thought about the time your truck broke down while you two were driving around outside Kansas City. Say that you remember lying on the backseat, listening to her stories about a mother who used to let her draw on every wall in the house and how she didn’t realise that was strange until she started school. You should tell her you almost called first.

I’m moving, you say, at last.

Oh.

Yeah. Upstate. My cousin Sam’s got a sublet. You finish your drink and toss it in the trash. The kitchen is clean and empty, ready for the super to do his inspection; you’re hoping to get the security deposit back in full.

I’ll come visit sometime, she says, and there’s a beat where the past lies hot and bloated like a corpse in the sun.

I’d like that, you say.

In under 200 words, discuss the concept of an ending as an extended and living thing.

 

QUESTION 5

The baby is crying, is always crying, cries so much that you’ve had to crack your own ribs outwards just to make space for the sound of it. Every way you try and hold him is too hot and close and nothing works against this savage loudness that ransacks your brain. When it occurs to you that there are a dozen ways you could make him be quiet, it’s like a sewing needle threaded gently through the skin of your palm: something that hurts less than you would’ve thought.

A buzzing mouthful of static pouches in your cheeks. You –

The rat-trap snap of temptation has you setting him down on the floor, taking a step away. He wriggles, eyes wrinkled against saltwater, choking up brand-new sobs.

There’s a pillow within reach, actually. It’s soft. You smooth your hand over it.

The thought slinks once more around the room and then moves closer, presses itself to your back, hands on your hips, and places a barbed-wire kiss to the side on your neck.

You turn and you walk out the door, then out the next door – past the neighbours, past Evelyn catching fireflies in the yard. She hollers at you but you keep going, don’t stop and at some point the crying is a little smaller, and you can cram your sighs back inside yourself.

You’re three blocks from home when you see the cars hit each other, and for the longest second, there is the odd surety that you could’ve stopped it; that if you’d raised your hands, you could’ve lifted the cars apart and set them back in their own lanes.

But it’s so fast. Your brain is stuck scraping together fragments of replay, just to bulk out the raw immediacy of it.

Someone is screaming, and for a beat, before you blink, you think it’s him: he has followed you with his tiny face and flailing arms. And then the words fashion themselves and become call 911, call 911. You slip your phone out of your pocket and dial. Holding it up to your ear, you can smell breastmilk on your thumb and maybe also fabric softener, the familiar lavender of your linen.

You answer the operator’s questions, and he tells you, soothing, that help is on its way.

Identify two lies within the text. For extra credit, write them out a hundred times.

1)

2)

 

QUESTION 6

You get home just after five. The sun has stuck like a glob of peanut butter to the roof of the sky, and it sets in one big swallow. You stay sitting in your car for twelve-and-a-half minutes after you park it, and your right hand is holding the key in the ignition like you’re going to pull it out, or maybe roll the engine back over and drive away.

You count to three nearly a hundred times, telling yourself, okay, on three. On three. On three. After those twelve-and-a-half minutes, you manage it. You get out of the car and walk to the edge of your driveway. You stand at your own front door and try to extricate from yourself the sudden strange urge to knock. But you unlock the door and you go inside.

You head into the kitchen first and then the study and then the living room. There’s nowhere to stand where the feeling goes away and you’re not sure when you began thinking there would be.

You slide your shoes off so you can feel the carpet through your socks. You take a breath. Your lungs stretch all the way out, like wings spreading, like they’re meant to split and grow into something bigger, but at the last second the pain is too much so you give up and exhale and they never become anything other than what they are.

Do you:

  1. a) lie on the couch and close your eyes, and think about how there’s no way you’ll fall asleep except after a while you just do
  2. b) do nothing
  3. c) do nothing
  4. d) make a coffee and drink half of it while it’s too hot and half of it after it’s gone cold
  5. e) google books that explain death to children so that you have something to tell Sam when he wakes up. Have a conversation neither of you will recall except for the taste of it, then go up to your room and google books that explain death to adults.

 

END OF TEST

Before proceeding, please recheck your responses, as once you have submitted your paper, answers cannot be changed.

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