In a math classroom, the teacher writes “1 + 2 = ?” on the chalkboard. She then asks the class of 25 kids what the answer is. She goes down the row, and one by one, each of the students says “three!” Until she gets to Student X, right in the middle of everybody.
“The answer is four,” he says loudly. Everyone in class turns to look at him. The teacher, trying to make sure everybody is treated fairly, says, “Student X, are you sure? Look at the problem: one plus two equals…”
“Four,” the student repeats, only this time it’s louder. Even kids who were barely paying attention in the back row look up from their doodles. But the teacher is still trying to be nice and take him seriously, so she explains, “Okay, we start with one, then we add two more. That should make three, don’t you think?”
He stands up, enraged. “I don’t have to take your word for this shit!” he yells. “Who are YOU to tell me how many ‘two’ is?”
“I’m the teacher,” she says, “and in mathematics, ‘two’ has always meant-”
“Shut your fucking pie hole, you elite cow! Don’t talk down to me!”
“I’m not talking down to you, Student X,” she says, trying to keep her cool, “I’m simply saying that the entire known world has adopted a number system that-”
“There you go again!” Student X screams, swiveling around to face the students behind him, “Can you believe this shit?”
Suddenly the boy behind him, Student Y, leaps to his feet. “I sure as hell can’t!” he bellows, “Fuck the teacher and her so-called experts!” Student X gives him a high-five. “Amen, brother! One plus two equals WHATEVER THE FUCK WE SAY IT IS!”
The class starts to murmur to each other, little arguments start up, some of the people who answered “three” look worried. The teacher, perplexed, tries to move on.
“Okay,” she says, “let’s just keep going down the row, people.” She points to the student behind Student Y. “How about you? What is one plus two?”
The student looks perplexed. “I mean, I don’t know,” he mumbles, “I’m just not sure who to believe anymore.”
“Yeah,” says the girl next to him, “There are so many conflicting sources! How are we supposed to make an educated guess?”
“There’s no guessing!” the teacher exclaims, clearly frustrated, “There are two numbers. Known quantities. Add them together, and the result is not a guess, it’s a fact!”
“Maybe in YOUR WORLD!” Student X quips. “In MINE, one plus two equals four!”
“We live in the same world!” the teacher yells. “Your arbitrary decision to be purposely obtuse only makes things miserable for everybody, and keeps your fellow students from learning anything!”
The bell rings, and all the students jump out of their seats. They all filter past the teacher, who is sitting on her desk, angrily staring into middle distance. The last student to leave, Student X, stops right in front of her.
“You’re a sad fuck, you know that?” he says with a smirk, then leaves the room. The teacher simmers in silence for a few minutes, then wanders over to the window for some fresh air. She catches sight of Student X and Student Y, walking together across the playground to the street.
A black limousine pulls up, and a man gets out of the back seat. He hands a wad of cash to both students, who gleefully accept the money, and run off. The man watches them go, then looks up to the school windows, where he spots the teacher. He chuckles derisively, shakes his head, and gets back into the limousine. With sudden horror, she sees the number stitched into the back of his suit: 4.