My downfall came in tenth grade the day I walked into geometry class. Now, up to that point, I thought I had studied all the math there was. I got it. I could add, subtract, divide, multiply and do fractions.

Although I didn’t know what geometry was, I soon found out it was a form of math. I figured I had it covered. I sat down and in walked an older gentleman---twice my age (I was sixteen, so he was probably thirty-two!). His name was Aubrey Conley.

Aubrey Conley loved geometry. You could tell it in his spirit---the way he turned to the chalkboard and how excited he was to point to a triangle and talk for hours about the degree of the angles of that triangle. And the sides. He loved the sides of the triangle. He loved the base. And he passed out a book on this triangle. And the rectangle. And we had to memorize those things. I kept saying to myself: “Why?” I kept waiting for Mr. Conley to tell me why. But he was just so enthralled with the angle and the degree of it and the radius and the diameter. Oh, he used to get so passionate and he did everything but dance. And then he gave out homework.

“Use your book, and do the following problems at home,” Mr. Conley said as he handed everyone an assignment sheet. I never read the book and never did the homework.

One day, Mr. Conley called me up after the bell rang. “You’re not turning in your homework,” he pointed out.

“Well, sir,” I responded, “I told you why.”

“Yes, I know. But I don’t understand how many more relatives you have left who are going to die.”

See, whenever I didn’t turn in my homework, I told him that Uncle So and So or Aunt So and So Forth had passed away.

“It seems all these people are dying when you’re supposed to turn in your homework,” he noted.

“Well, I don’t know, Mr. Conley.”

To be perfectly frank, yes, a couple of them died three times. Because I forgot who died. And Mr. Conley didn’t accept the story that the family thought the person was dead---and told me so---but he got well and they forgot to tell me. So Mr. Conley insisted I owed him all this homework.

Mr. Conley gave an exam one day. Four problems in fifty-five minutes. I finished one---used up twelve pieces of paper. I just read the question and I started to work. Twelve pieces of paper and I handed the twelve pieces in. About four days later, Mr. Conley handed the exam results back and I had an F. But the word CORRECT was written on the front page and a note underneath it said: “See me after class.” The bell rang and I went up to him.

“I want to talk to you about your paper here,” Mr. Conley said. “Papers. Your THESIS!” He held up my twelve pages. “I failed you on the exam but you got the answer correct. And I followed your philosophy. You’re a genius!”

“Thank you.”

“…for the year four hundred A.D.”