“Look who’s getting muscles,” laughed Chris as he poked Devin’s biceps. He and Devin were in PIGC swimming trunks and headed to one of PIGC’s pools.
“What are you talking about?” Devin asked in a bewildered tone.
“Haven’t you noticed?”
“Mr. Jones is whipping you into shape. Your muscles didn’t look like that when you first started.” Devin flexed the bicep on his right arm and felt it with the left hand. Chris was right. His muscles were growing rather fast. He did feel stronger too. “I still think they put something in the water. I bet once you’ve been here a year you will have grown three inches taller than most kids your age.”
Devin looked at Chris’ wide grin. He could tell he was serious. He knew his father was watching. He would discuss it with him later. It was another weird thing about the school.
“Why would they want us to be stronger and bigger than other kids?”
“Beats me. It’s just another benefit of going to wonderful PIGC.”
As they turned the corner they could hear footsteps approaching them from behind. Someone was running. Chris and Devin turned to find Carlo chasing them down.
“Hey, Chris! What’s up, Devin?” Carlo jumped in front of Devin to block his way.
“Hey Carlo,” both boys greeted.
“Devin I’ve just finished my newest computer game. I made it especially for you.”
“How do you have time to work on your games and do your studies Carlo?” inquired Chris.
“Well I had help with this one and Mr. Gaydos encouraged me to create it.” He turned back to Devin. “So do you want to try it?”
“Uh, not right now Carlo. Chris and I are going swimming. Want to come?”
“Oh come on! You can swim later. Come and see the game.”
“Later I promise. Okay?” Carlo put out his lower lip.
“Come to the pool with us. We’ll be in the red pool.”
“Ha! Why are you going to the red pool?”
“I don’t swim very well.”
“He can’t swim at all!” Chris laughed. “I’m giving him lessons before his PE class hits the pool. Mr. Jones is merciless.”
“A genius who can’t swim,” smirked Carlo. “That’s rich.”
Devin frowned. “I’m not a genius.”
“Are you kidding me? You’re the smartest kid in this school.”
“No really Devin,” Chris chipped in. “You are the smartest kid here.”
Chris whispered to Carlo, “He really doesn’t know.”
“So when will you try my game?” Carlo grasped his hands together and put them up to his chin.
“Meet me in the computer lab after dinner okay?”
Carlo shook his fists in the air and mouthed the words, “Yes!”
There were only three other kids at the red pool, two girls, and a boy. All were six years old. The red pool was for children who couldn’t swim well. The deepest end was four feet. There was always a lifeguard on duty when the pool was open.
The walls around the pool were striped red and white which is why it called the red pool. Large cages filled with flippers, floating boards, goggles and other swimming devices lined the walls. Devin wanted to get some of everything but Chris wouldn’t let him.
“If you really want to learn to swim you need to start without that stuff,” scolded Chris. “Swimming is natural for all mammals. Just don’t be afraid of the water.”
Chris turned out to be a very good teacher. By the time they got out Devin was able to float on his back and do a weak dog paddle. He had taught the other three children the dog paddle also.
“You did good,” Chris told Devin enthusiastically. “Don’t look so glum.”
“But those little kids swam better than me.”
“So swimming’s not your thing.”
“But I want to learn to swim. My mom never had time to take me. Now I’m on an island surrounded by water. I’d better learn to swim.”
Chris laughed. “I see your point but don’t worry. Mr. Jones will have you doing all sorts of strokes before you know it. For an old guy, he’s a really good athlete and no one can beat him at swimming.”
“I still have some weeks before we do swimming. I just don’t want to look silly in front of the class. Will you give me some more lessons?”
“Tell you what, if you beat Carlo’s game I’ll give you lessons every week. Deal?”
“Sounds good to me.”
“I don’t know why but I just love to see that guy irked.”
“It really did irate him when I beat his game before huh?”
“You have noooo clue!”
“Okay, Devin. This is a memory game like you’ve never seen before. There are fifty holes in the wall and a bird will fly out of each hole. Just like with the other game, first, it will show you the order the birds come out of the hole. Next, you have to catch the birds with the net as they come out. Got it?” Carlo explained to Devin.
There was a crowd in the computer lab. Carlo had hooked the computer up to a widescreen TV so that everyone could see. Word had gotten out about Devin trying Carlo’s game and many students didn’t want to miss it. Carlo had let other students try the game and no one had been able to get past the first level. Even Carlo couldn’t do it.
“The challenge is not catching the birds. They fly out every three seconds. You have to have the net at the hole before they come out or you won’t catch the bird. The challenge is in remembering the order the birds come out. Think you can do it?”
“This is crazy!” complained Chris. “How is he supposed to remember fifty? Why didn’t you start with twenty or something so he could get the hang of it?”
“This game was made for Devin. I’m sure fifty is just fine for him right Devin?”
“Let’s go,” said Devin.
Devin watched as the birds popped out of the different hole randomly one at a time. There was no pattern to the game. He would have to rely only on his memory.
“Do you need help? The first one is coming out of the second hole in the first row,” said his father in his head.
“I know, I know,” Devin yelled. He remembered the kids around him. “I know I can do this.”
Devin moved the net to the correct hole just in time to catch the bird. He caught all fifty birds without hesitation. The kids cheered.
“He beat your game again Carlo!” Chris cheered.
“Not yet,” Carlo replied with a smirk. “He only beat the first level. The second level has 100 holes.”
“How many levels are there?”
“How many holes are on the last level?”
“That’s ridiculous,” a girl in the back yelled.
“Come on Carlo,” reasoned Chris. “No one can remember 500. This is stupid Devin. Let’s just go.” Devin sat at the computer smiling. He loved having his memory taxed. He wondered if he could remember 500 and catch every bird.
“I’m ready for the next level Carlo,” Devin said calmly. He clicked on the arrow that took him to the next level and watched as the birds flew out of the holes. He knew he would have no problem with that level. The next level had 200 holes. He caught every bird again with no difficulty. The fourth level had 325. To Devin’s surprise, he completed all five levels with no effort. It was easy for him to remember the order. He knew that if Carlo had included a bonus level where he would have to remember the order of all the birds on all the levels without showing the order again, he would still be able to catch all the birds.
“How did you do that?” Carlo exclaimed. “Ha…how could you possibly remember all of that?”
It was quiet in the computer lab. Devin got up out of the chair and turned around to face the kids behind him. Instead of looking happy they looked at him with awe. Even Chris’ mouth hung open.
After a moment of silence, Chris shouted, “That…was…AMAZING!!!” Then the kids crowded around Devin to congratulate him. Even Mr. Sanford who was in charge of the lab on Saturdays patted Devin on the back and smiled at him. As Devin made his way through the throng of children he saw Matthew smiling at him. When he smiled back Matthew gave him two thumbs up.
When Devin laid relaxing in his comfortable bed he spoke to his father as he usually did that time of night. His father was strangely quiet.
“Is something wrong Dad?” Devin said in his head.
“I think there may be,” said his father in a troubled voice. “Carlo said that game was created just for you and he had help with it. I suspect PIGC used that game to test you.”
“But I get tested all the time. Why would that bother you?”
“I don’t know son. Something about it just doesn’t feel right.”
“It was just a memory game wasn’t it?”
“I really hope so. I hope it was just a game.” There was silence for a few moments. “You know I can see the things going on around you right?”
“Yeah. That is so cool.”
“Did you know Trent was in a nearby classroom watching you? You were being recorded.”
“I thought he was out of town.”
“He’s keeping out of sight but he has been trying to make sure you and Dad are not talking about anything besides PE. In fact, my father has some letters that he has not been able to give you.”
“Why is he doing this? Why can’t I talk to grandpa?”
Kevin was silent again.
“Devin… Devin…” The voice in Devin’s head sounded like it was in anguish.
“What is it, Dad?”
“My son…Trent made a remark after you beat the game.” Devin waited for his father to continue but there was only silence.
“Dad?” Silence. “What did he say? Tell me!”
“He said you were almost ready.”
“What? I’m almost ready for what? Wa…what’s he talking about Dad?”
“I think it’s time we got you out of PIGC.”