Think green, Leena thought. Think shamrocks, and grass, and mint ice cream.
It was well known that Professor Rands color-coded his grades. Green meant good, red meant bad. Not that he would describe it that way, but that was the basic idea. If he used a green pen to mark a paper, that meant it was above average, red meant below. Red meant you failed. Red meant you were screwed.
Leena was daydreaming as usual. She sat with her chin rested in her left palm, while she twirled a blonde lock of hair in the fingers of her right hand. Gazing out of the window at the sunny campus, her mind was far from the classroom. She wasn’t a bad student, she was just too creative for her own good. Her mind was always wandering. “That’s what makes me such a great writer,” she would tell herself and others. Still, she daydreamed a lot.
“Alright,” Professor Rands spoke loudly, to rouse the dozing students. “Class is just about over. I have your assignments from last week. Very good job, some of you! Others, you may need to work harder for the next one. Remember: this grade is not a large percentage of your final grade for the class. You still have time to catch up. Have a great weekend, everyone. If you have any questions, I‘ll be in my office later today.”
Yeah right, Leena thought. It may not be important to my grade, but it still means a lot. Leena had worked on this particular assignment with extreme zeal. She even neglected her other classes, just to perfect this one.
Think green! Think evergreen, lime, anything green!
Leena walked up to the Professor’s desk, and rifled through the papers to find hers, along with the other students. She spotted her name, Leena Richards, and picked it up. She stuffed it into her notebook and walked out of class. She didn’t want anyone else to see her reaction. This one meant a lot. She wasn’t entirely sure why this one assignment was so important, it just was. It was a short story she had written, and she was particularly proud of it. Leena went through a multitude of emotions as she made her way through the halls toward the student parking lot. I’m sure I did fine. I worked really hard, and I know it was good…but what if the Prof didn’t think so. What if he hated it? But, no, I’m sure it was fine!
Finally, Leena arrived at her car. She opened the lock, and got inside. Taking a deep breath, she got out the paper, and turned to the last page. Her eyes turned down, to see………red. She quickly searched the comments, seeing phrases such as “lack of description” and “unclear thoughts” and “no sense of motivation.”
Leena’s eyes clouded over in anger and confusion. She could sense a hard lump forming in her throat as her vision clouded over. Her eyes were slowly forming tears, and all she could see was red. Red, like blood. A crimson wave blurred her vision. She was too angry for words.
Later that afternoon, Leena's mood had calmed only slightly. She made herself a cup of hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows, and sat on the bed in her dorm room. Posters offering wisdom and encouragement adorned her walls. Leena liked to be surrounded by positive thinking, and found posters like the cat hanging from a branch with the phrase “Hang in There” to be cute and uplifting. At the moment, however, the posters and the tea were of little comfort. Deciding that some measure had to be taken, Leena phoned Professor Rands at his office. She tried to be as calm as she possibly could, asking him about his comments on her failed assignment.
“I’m sorry, Leena. I can’t change your grade. Your writing on this piece just isn’t up to par. You move from one topic to the next with no clear transitions, it’s like you were daydreaming when you wrote it. It’s okay, though. It’s not that influential on the final grade. Just try harder on the next one.”
Pacing around the room, Leena tried explaining her position to him, but she just couldn't make him understand. Finally, in defeat, she told him she was fine, she understood, and she hung up the phone.
Leena threw herself onto her bed, tears beginning to well in her blue eyes. She turned to her right side, curled up, and pulled her blankets around her. After a few long minutes of attempting to clear her mind of anger and frustration, Leena drifted off to sleep.
Dreamland offered no respite, however, and she spent the night tormented by dreams of red. Red, like thorny roses and monsters’ eyes. In her dreams, she kept falling, tumbling through whilrling senses, out of a red sky.
The next day, Leena actually felt a little better. She had even spent some time in the morning going over her assignment, trying to comprehend the comments made by Professor Rands. She did a small bit of editing, but overall, she felt that she really did a good job with the story. Maybe he just doesn’t understand what the story is about. He probably doesn’t get the symbolism of the colors, or something.
Suddenly, Leena had a thought. If she perhaps went to talk to the Professor, she could make him realize the meaning of the story. It was a Saturday; there were no classes today, but she happened to know where Professor Rands lived. It was only a few blocks from campus, and she had seen him walking to and from class often. He was actually a really nice guy, but she was seriously starting to doubt his teaching abilities.
As she neared his house, though, Leena started to have qualms about her decision. She hesitated at his doorstep, until she forced herself to knock. She heard a bit of rustling inside the house, and then he peeked out of the window. He opened the door.
“Leena? I’m surprised to see you here." He eyed her curiouisly. "Is this about your paper.”
“Um, yes,” she replied.
"Okay, come on in. Maybe we should discuss this, if you’re that upset about it.” Professor Rands let Leena in, and closed the door behind her. “I was just making some tea, would you like some?”
“Sure, that would be nice. Thank you.” Leena walked with the Professor into his tidy kitchen. A quick look around told her that he was a very neat person, with an apparent affinity for barnyard animals. There were chickens and cows everywhere, decorating the spacious room.
“I wanted to talk to you about my paper, because I just think that I worked so hard on it. And I was really proud of it. I think that maybe you just didn’t understand some of it, and maybe if I could explain some of it to you, you might change your mind.”
Professor Rands set down two cups of steaming tea on the kitchen table. He sat down at one of the chairs, while Leena sat at the opposite side of the table. He sighed deeply, with compassion in his eyes.
“I'm sorry, Leena. My grades are final. I rarely change them after they’re given out. I just don’t think that you were focused enough on this one.”
“But you’re wrong!” Leena said, her voice getting loud. “You just didn’t understand everything that I was trying to say!”
Professor Rands stood up, walked to the cupboard and took another deep breath. Leena got up, too, and stood near him, next to the stove.
“Leena, you’re making far too big of a deal out of this. Maybe you’re just not quite as good of a writer as you thought you were. You just need to work a little harder on conveying your thoughts and expressions into a story.”
His words sliced into Leena. Her chest felt tight, and her jaw clenched in frustrated confusion. She looked away from him, and noticed the teapot. The green teapot. Green like leaves and emeralds. Green meant good things. Green meant you had done well, that you were on the right track.
“Besides, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s only a small portion of your final grade,” Professor Rands pleaded.
Leena started to see red. Her vision began clouding over again, just like when she was in her car, when she saw the red writing. She became flushed; her senses were dulled, yet heightened at the same time. She thought of roses, red roses. Once when she was little, she was playing near a rose bush near her grandmother’s house. The roses were so beautiful that she wanted to pick them. But she found out that roses have thorns. She pricked her thumb, and cried at the sight of the blood, thrashing her arm out, so that it was difficult for her grandmother to take care of the small cut.
Red, like blood. Leena had blacked out for a few moments, daydreaming of roses and blood. Her hand hurt. Leena’s vision suddenly cleared, from a piercing scream, and a feeling of searing pain. She looked down and saw that she was clutching the green teapot. Her hand had touched the metal that was still hot from the boiling water. She dropped the teapot onto the floor, and then she saw the red. And the blood. She noticed a large dent on the bottom of the heavy, metal teapot.
Leena looked onto the floor, next to the green teapot, and next to the growing pool of red blood. She saw Professor Rands, lying motionless on the floor.