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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Malpass

Plan B

"I don't know if I can learn this stuff, buddy." Aaron Mackenzie cradles his head in his hands. "And this is just stinking freshman chemistry! If I can't make at least a B in this class, they're not gonna let me sign up for any petroleum engineering classes next semester. And then I am seriously wrecked, because Philip the Third will have a major meltdown. What is wrong with me, Andrew?"

I know he's in some anguish right now, but I can't help but snicker a little at the loaded question. "Um, Aaron. We don't really have time for a comprehensive answer to your 'what is wrong with me?' question." He shoots me a sideways grimace from behind his forearm. "Instead, let's focus on the positive, shall we? Let's ask, 'what is right with Aaron Mackenzie?' This answer is significantly more manageable for us to complete in a minute or two, before we return to our studies."

"You're not helping, jerk." Aaron smiles wryly as he lifts his head. "All this science stuff comes so easily to you, Andrew. You can't really relate to someone like me who isn't good at science."

"All this science stuff comes so easily to you, Andrew."

Aaron voices his frustration with freshman chemistry to his friend Andrew. "All this science stuff comes so easily to you. You can't really relate to someone like me."

"Yes I can, you moron!" I answer with a smile. "I'm not any good at this stuff either. But I work out every last problem in the workbook. No exceptions. And if I can't solve a problem, I talk to the teaching assistant about it until I understand how to do it. How many problems have you worked out, Aaron?"

"Well..., um, a few I would say for sure. Maybe (or really probably) crossing well into the several range, and perhaps even extending all the way to the low end of many."

I snort derisively. "That's why you're struggling, weirdo. You have to do all the problems, Aaron. It's the only way."

Aaron Mackenzie lets out a dejected sigh. "Whatever," he grumbles. We both fall silent for a moment.

"Hey, Aaron, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?" I pause. "Why is your dad forcing you to major in petroleum engineering if your brother already has his Pet-E degree? Isn't he going to take over the family business someday?"

"Yes, that's right. There will come a day when Philip the Fourth will benevolently rule over the vast Mackenzie Oil and Gas empire. His multinational monarchy will no doubt bring a variety of wonderful, affordable energy solutions to millions of smiling, grateful consumers. He will be heralded by hoards of humans as a hero, like his father and grandfather before him!" Aaron trails off.

"And where does that leave you, buddy?"

"Me, Andrew? Me? Why, I'm stinking Plan B. In case my brother croaks before he can produce an heir to run the company after him." Aaron laughs gently. "But I don't mind really. Such are the problems one has to work out in the 'billionaire energy tycoon family' workbook."


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