The Release the Kraken Blues


sad krakenI am waiting outside of a room in which approximately seventy students sit, worry, and sweat. They are about to take an exam. My boss – the head of the department – gives instructions and hands out tests. I am in some meditation.

I hear the boss tell the students to start and now she comes towards the door. I get ready, take a breath.

Fact of life: students cheat. They always have, they always will.

When I first came to the university, students were blatant about their cheating, to the point that they reacted with annoyance if interrupted. Leave me alone, can’t you see I’m trying to cheat here?

Once, upon demanding a cheat sheet recently stuffed into a bra, I was truly caught off guard by the woman’s query as she fished around her C-cup: “But how else am I supposed to pass?”

And yet in my first year at the university, I found a talent I never knew I had: catching cheaters. Anywhere. I can spot a mobile stuffed between thighs from twenty yards away. I can look at a person and know which easily accessible particle of clothing his cheat sheet or phone is stuffed into. I can split up pairs before they even sit down, point one of them to the front of the room amid a flurry of curses in Kazakh. I have walked into a Spanish exam only to deliver a message to the teacher and on my way out broke up a twelve person cheating ring in the back.

I am good.

In fact, I am the chosen one.

Well, if they designated chosen ones for this sort of thing.

When it all started, the students had no reason to fear me. I’d walk into an examination room and the students would go about business as usual: cheat sheets, sharpie tattoos on forearms, mobile with built-in James Bond camera. But as I sniffed them out, stalked them, nabbed them, enforced the laws, took away tests, and failed students for second offenses, they began to loathe me.

Then they began to fear me.

By the end of my first year, students I had never had in class knew me well. There was muttering as I walked the hallways, pointed fingers, that’s the guy who took my test and failed me. There might have been an angry limerick in a bathroom stall, but Czech slang can be difficult. I have heard the students sing a folk song about the evil short exam monster, but I am choosing not to jump to the worst conclusion.

Still, since my second semester at the university, any examination room I have entered has greeted me with wide-eyed horror.

As unpopular as my gift made me with the students, it made me a hero to the teachers, professors, and department heads. How’d you break that code? I thought it was a phone number. Maybe you’d like to do a workshop? Sometimes I’m sent to bring an “urgent” message to a professor, who ignores the information and instead invites me to stretch my legs with a walk around the examination room. Naturally I’d turn up one or two cheat sheets and a necktie with a codex in it, and then I’d leave.

My boss loves it. She gives me a pregame pep talk, “If anyone’s cheating, I know you’ll catch them.” At first, I took it as a pride game. You’re not going to cheat in my exam, young libertines! But as it went on and as I’d take phones, cheat sheets, and clothing, thereby plucking hopes and dreams away from someone who can’t remember gerunds, it started to demoralize me.

And so now, standing outside the exam room, meditating on my task, I know just how the Kraken feels before he’s released to eat some unhappy seaman or Andromeda.

I mean, on the one hand, the Kraken is a sea-dwelling monster who must be thrilled that he is called on to do the bidding of his masters. He is trusted with responsibility, unwavering in his devotion, and one hell of a bad ass.

On the other hand, however,the Kraken is a henchman. He is the bringer of angst and is only utilized to do something unpleasant that others are too timid or too hesitant to deal with. He knows this.

Besides, your feelings can’t help but be hurt when seventy people audibly groan at your arrival. Then there’s the muttering, the frantic stampede of stuffed papers and phones into locales simply not meant to hold electronics or paper, and the horrified glare of people who wish you were dead.

But today, when the boss points me to the room and tells me to catch those cheaters, I take a breath, wipe my glasses, and step inside. The eyes go wide, the groans, the shuffling. Still, I have a job to do.

The Kraken has been released.

  1. #1 by Vojtech on January 23, 2015 - 4:06 pm

    I will probably never forget your pre-test warning. “Hey guys, the rules are the same – don’t be an idiot!”. Try to cheat with this kind of warning!
    Anyway, great piece of work 🙂

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