COUSINS BY THE DOZENS
Hey – my name is Priest! I know ... make all the jokes now?
Are you done? Maybe you’ll think of more as my rather incredible story goes along.
My last name is Thornberry, another item in my life I couldn’t do anything about. I had the idea of changing my name when I was old enough, but by then, everyone was calling me Priest.
Now, I’m 44, part of a huge family, but I’ve got a secret!
Back when I was thirteen, in 1989, working on my old Mac Plus, there was a storm, but it didn’t bother me. I was working last minute, adding to a document for 6th grade and just when I went to save the document, electricity burst from the back of my computer and I was knocked out.
I woke up in the hospital, with my sister Betty yelling, “HE’S AWAKE!”
“I think God heard you, Betty, calm down,” I said. A nurse, doctor plus my folks and all my brothers & sisters came in the room.
Everybody but my mother and father was told to leave the room. I was given a complete bill of health, being told to come back if I have any severe headaches.
“Are you sure he’s OK,” Betty said coming back in, “He looks funny to me!”
After getting a lot of grief from my little brothers, I was taken home where I found my computer looking like it was hit by lightning.
After disconnecting the mouse and keyboard, I began to take it completely apart, using my entire school workplace to separate it into its parts.
When I picked up the processor chip, with non-ferrous picker-uppers, my brain seemed to assimilate quickly everything I was looking at. I left my room with all the allowance money I could find; I usually hid it pretty well. I told mom that I was going to the hardware store on my bike and did just that. I really went to the electronics store, asking, “Where can I find another one of these?” showing them the chip.
“This is really old, kid. Let me get you something from the back,” the eighteen-year-old said. He came back saying, “Here, it’s yours for twenty bucks.”
It was in an ESD bag. And he told me not to open it until I got home. He also handed me a free software upgrade.
I paid him and left, heading straight home.
With a headache starting, I worked very precisely taking the chip he handed me, and it fit as I put it all back together, using a soldering iron, wondering how I was able to do this since I never could before. I added the keyboard and mouse to the unit that had a very fine line that looked like a crack in the glass, but it powered up just fine.
I put the disc in and it self-started, installing system 6.0.3 – that was way cool! I had been using System 3.0, which only let you open one application at a time. I saw a symbol on the bottom right corner of the screen and was about to click on it when...
Betty came into my room asking, “Did it survive the attack,” adding a snort at the end of it.
“It’s working fine, sis. First thing in the morning, would you like to try it?”
“O-kay, why are you going to let me use it ... is it going to explode while I’m using it?”
“No, not at all. If you genuinely like it, I’ll let you use it as much as you want. If you’ll help me talk mom and dad into letting me get a much newer model, then I would give this to you. You deserve one of your own, for girl stuff.”
“OK, but if you are setting me up for some kind of joke, I will be pissed,” she said walking out of my room.
In our family, we had Jennifer (Mom) and Robert (Dad) Thornberry, along with... (In order by age)
Elizabeth aka Betty (12)
And the littlest, which was Sam (5)
On the same street as us, but a few blocks down, were my mother’s parents, Ruth and Richard. Somewhere else nearby were mom and dad’s brothers and sisters along with spouses and lots and lots of first and second cousins. To give you all their names would be very redundant, with many Michael’s, Charles, Richards, but I was the only Priest of the bunch.
I had first cousins, second cousins, great aunts, and a few great-great-great grandmas still alive. You could say I had ‘Cousins by the Dozens.’
I was pretty good in school before my computer was killed by electrocution, but suddenly, the next day, I found myself comprehending the teachers a lot better, reading faster than ever before, and I didn’t need a calculator anymore. My head seemed to just know the answer to a math problem just by glancing at it.
It was like my head became a computer, able to multitask like never before, read a book in about five minutes, and I mean big thick books.
I told nobody, not even Betty. They might all freak out and send me to an asylum, to try to download my brain or something.
At my next set of tests and quizzes in school, it was freaking unbelievable how easy everything became. I didn’t do anything stupid, except answer the questions. In our school, the teachers still graded your tests before you left class and you got your grade to take home to your parents.
In the classroom, I had my test about Oliver Twist, I saw Miss Myers grading my test, looking me, shaking her head and finishing up. Everybody got his or her test back, but me. She called me up and asked, “How did you cheat on this, Priest -- tell me now?”
“I didn’t cheat, I answered every question, and I didn’t cheat.”
“How do you explain you got a perfect 100% on the test?”
“I had a good teacher?”
“Don’t be flip with me, young man. Go on to your next class.”
Math class, English, Geography, History -- I got 100% on all my tests, and they all assumed I cheated, somehow.
At the end of the day, I was stopped by Principal Harris’ office and was given a sealed envelope to take home to my parents. He told me he would be calling them to expect it.
I rode my bike home, took the letter and gave it to my dad, telling him it was from my principal.
He took it, telling me to stay put so he could look it over. After he had read it, point blank, he asked, “Did you cheat on all of those tests. I never taught you how to cheat. Do you know what happens to cheaters?”
“They never prosper,” I answered. I had had this conversation before when I did cheat, over a year ago.
“I am going to ask you this only one more time, did you cheat?”
“No sir, I did not. And I can prove it?”
“How can you do that, explain that to me – right now?”
I got out my school math book, handed it to him and asked him to find some questions in the back of the book, where there were questions and the answers, of stuff I hadn’t yet been taught how to do?
He put it up close so he could read it aloud, “This looks more difficult than the math I remember, here goes, ‘H to the 8th times H to the 7th – what’s the answer, Jeff?” That’s my middle name. He sometimes used it.
Like a light bulb, I said “H to the 15th, sir.”
“How do I know you didn’t just memorize this whole back of the book?”
“Dad, I never have done more than a teacher has ever asked. I don’t know why, but now I understand. I can’t explain it; my brain has finally clicked on. I’ve been one of those people who rises to their own level of incompetence.”
“You really got every question right on eight tests in eight classrooms, on eight different subjects – without cheating?”
“Dad, last year, I wasn’t good enough at cheating to keep from getting caught. Now, I’m suddenly smart ... and everybody thinks I’m a cheater. That sure doesn’t seem fair to me, but you’ve always been a believer of the adage, ‘Life isn’t Fair.’ I’m ready for whatever punishment you think is fair.”
I lowered my head, closed my eyes and waited for his judgment.
“I’m not going to yell at you, or hit you, or anything like that. Maybe, just maybe, we should move you to seventh grade at a different school. That way, your past won’t be known by as many people.”
“You’d let me do that, really? I don’t want to cause any trouble.”
“Come here,” he said. I did, and he gave me a hug. My dad doesn’t do hugs. “Maybe, I’ve been too tough on you, being the oldest and all. You’ve got the weekend to yourself, so think about it. If you want, we can transfer you to Ulysses S Grant Middle School. You’ll have to pass their requirements, but I believe that won’t be any trouble at all for my oldest boy.”
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