It had to be the fourth time that period I'd told him to take his iPod earbuds out of his ears. Why couldn't he just listen to me? My expectations aren't that unreasonable, are they? I was just trying to enforce the school's NO ELECTRONIC DEVICES in class policy.

I was already worried about his progress in the class, though, and thought maybe he would have a better chance of succeeding if his ears weren't blocked by the pounding noise of Slipknot or Fitty Cent or the Jonas Brothers or whatever else the kids are listening to these days.

I caught his eye and nodded in his direction.

“Take out the earbuds, please,” I said. “This is the last time I'm going to tell you.”

He raised his eyebrows and his eyes widened in genuine surprise.

“I can't listen to my iPod?”

“No,” I said. “You can't.”

A look of innocent bewilderment flashed across his face.

“Why not?” he asked.

I walked over to the bulletin board and raised my finger toward the NO ELECTRONIC DEVICES poster that I'd pointed to at least seventy-two times since the school year began.

“It's against the school rules to—”

Removing the earbuds, he began to ball them into a heap of little white wires and stuffed them in his pocket.

“Oh, I know THAT.”

Exasperated, I sighed loudly.

“Then why did you ask me why not?”

“I don't know," he said, shrugging.  "Guess I wasn't thinking.”

My patience was now stretching as thin as a piece of salt water taffy on the Atlantic City boardwalk. 

"Well, then," I said, pausing for dramatic emphasis.  “THINK.”

He cracked a smile.

“I do not think about things that I do not think about.”

And that's when he knew he had me. I screwed up my face and thought briefly about what to say next.

He had just quoted Matthew Harrison Brady, a character from Inherit the Wind, a play that we had just finished in class as our most recent piece of English core literature.

The entire four weeks of the play a part of him had been listening; he's actually been paying attention to the goings-on in that sultry courtroom in Hillsboro, Tennessee in the summer of 1925.

I thought about asking him if he knew what an allusion was, but then decided against it.

“Nicely done,” I said, and turned back to the class.

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