Back in Annie's basement, Annie waited by her computer. Beckett reappeared, dripping wet.
"Oh my God! What happened to you?" Annie asked. "Your heart-rate was all over the place!"
Beckett was dripping water on the platform. He slowly hobbled off the platform.
"What happened to your leg?" She asked. Then she saw his hands that were cut up and scabbed over. "And your hands?"
"It's quite a story." Beckett replied.
"Did you find Caesar? Did you meet Cleopatra? What happened?"
"Yeah, I saw all that. I think I also met Augustus Caesar. Then we got into another fight with some of Ptolemy's soldiers."
"Tell me what happened, exactly."
"Can I clean myself up first?" Beckett replied.
"Sure." Annie said. She shut down her computer, turned off the lights, and they left Annie's lab through the crawlspace.
After cleaning up, Beckett sat with Annie on her basement floor playing Block Wars. He found the patterns of the game quite soothing, as he recounted what happened to Annie. Annie listened to the story amazed.
"I think I should come with you next time." She eventually said.
Beckett didn't reply; he just sat and continued pressing buttons.
"I shouldn't be relaxed. That assignment is due in two weeks, and I still have no idea how to finish the paper."
"The part about why Caesar is important today?"
"Yeah. I mean, I know what he did, but why is he important?"
"It's a weird assignment."
Beckett put the controller down. "I should get going." He said.
"Ok. Do you think you'll go back again?" Annie asked.
"Maybe one more time. No more fighting though."
"Sure. Next Friday?"
"Well, I'll see you tomorrow then!"
"See you then."
Beckett and Annie got up and walked upstairs.
Beckett sat reading in his room. He was focusing all he could on Plutarch’s story of Caesar. Beckett now read with joy the parts of Caesar’s life that he had seen first hand, but as soon as he got to the later parts, it became less exciting.
For Beckett, Caesar’s war was almost over. After bringing Egypt under his control, there were only a few battles left in Greece and Spain before Caesar would return to Rome.
Beckett came across an interesting quote from Caesar. As Caesar defeated one of the last of the forces loyal to Pompey, Caesar described the battle with the words: “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
In everything that Beckett had read about Caesar, these words were always mentioned. Beckett knew the Latin translation, *Veni, vidi, vici* Beckett wanted to witness this moment and see the emotion in Caesar’s eyes when he said it. Then Beckett would focus on his paper and finish it. The location of the battle was in the city Zela in the province of Pontus, which is today part of Syria.
--- It was finally Friday. Beckett was sitting in Ms Johnstone's class. Ms Johnstone was describing early European settlements in Canada, but Beckett's mind was elsewhere. Beckett had spent his time after school each day reading and rereading the stories of Julius Caesar. Shortly after the battle in Zela, the Civil War ended. Caesar returned to Rome and was named “dictator for life” by the Roman Senate. Later, 23 of Rome’s Senators, led by Marcus Brutus, murdered Caesar on the floor of the Senate. Each senator stabbed him once. Beckett had already decided he did not want to see that. Beckett was going to go to Zela, and that would be his final trip. Watching a bloody battle was difficult for Beckett. There was no way he could stomach a murder.
It was almost three o’clock. Beckett opened his binder and looked his report.
Gaius Julius Caesar was born in 100BC in Rome and lived until 44BC. He lived during the time known as The Late Republic and associated with important historical figures such as General Mark Antoni, General Gnaeus Pompei, Queen Cleopatra and the future Emperor of Rome, Gaius Octavius Augustus Caesar.
After being appointed governor of Gaul (modern day France, Switzerland, and Belgium), Caesar waged a long war to bring Gaul under the control of Rome . The war lasted six years and while it made Caesar popular among the people, Rome’s senators became worried that he was gaining too much popularity and power.
The Gallic War ended in 52 after the Seige of Alesia where Vercingetorix surrendered.After conquering all of Gaul, Caesar had the choice to either surrender his power and army to Rome, or to defy Rome and cross the Rubicon River with his army. Caesar crossed the Rubicon and declared war on Rome. As he crossed, he spoke the famous words, “the die must be cast”. This was the beginning of the Roman Civil War.
Underneath was a picture of Italy. Arminium and the Rubicon were highlighted.
Beckett turned to the next page. The Roman Civil War spread across the Roman territories. Caesar fought his friend Pompey and those loyal to him. The fighting took him to Spain, Greece, and Africa.
Underneath was a picture of the Roman territories, with arrows on it to show some of the movements of Caesar’s army.
Pompey suffered his greatest defeat at Pharsalus. From there, Pompey fled to Egypt where he was caught and executed. Caesar followed his trail and cried when he was presented with Pompey’s signet ring.
While in Egypt, Caesar settled the power struggle between Cleopatra and Ptolemy. Cleopatra became the Queen of Egypt and had a son, Ceasarion, with Caesar. Ptolemy was killed.
“OK kids. You have a good weekend, and don’t forget, you now have less than two weeks before your projects are due”. Beckett could feel Ms Johnstone's eyes focusing in on Beckett as he spoke. Beckett tried his best to avoid making eye contact with her. “Beckett. Please stay a little while after class.”
Nuts, Beckett thought. He rubbed his left knee, which still smarted from his trip to Egypt.
At three o’clock, the bell rang and the other students began filing out, leaving Beckett alone, sitting in his desk. Ms Johnstone stood at the whiteboard, erasing the day’s lessons.
Suddenly Beckett felt someone's hand on the back of his head. His head jerked forward hard. Beckett had to stiffen his back to stop from hitting his head on the desk.
"I'll see you later, loser." Ben Michaels said as he walk past Beckett. With a sudden quick movement, he then knocked all of Beckett's books from his desk and onto the floor. Beckett looked up at Ms Johnstone; her back was still turned.
Ben left the room. “Beckett,” she began. “Where were you just now? You weren't paying attention. That's for sure."
"Sorry." Beckett replied. "I was actually thinking about my assignment."
"Well, I suppose that's a good thing, but you really ought to be focused on what's happening in class. What we do in class will help you when you're doing your assignment."
"It's just that," Beckett began. He was preparing to make up an excuse, but he stopped suddenly. He relaxed, looked his teacher in the eye, and finished. "I'm really sorry, Ms Johnstone. I'll try to stay more focused from now on."
Ms Johnstone was a bit stunned. She definitely wasn't accustomed to Beckett speaking with any hint of confidence. "How is your essay coming along?” She asked.
Beckett stayed quiet. He had written a lot, but he did not know what to say to his teacher about it. He had been working on the paper for so long and he had actually been enjoying what he had been learning about, but he was terrified that when he handed it in, it would get another C grade. Whenever Beckett felt like he had worked really hard, the result always indicated he had not.
"It's fine." Beckett replied. "I'm almost finished."
"Really?" Ms Johnstone replied. Beckett could not tell if the tone of her voice implied disbelief or distrust.
"Yes." Beckett replied.
A few uncomfortable seconds passed.
"That's fine, Beckett." Ms Johnstone said suddenly as she turned to head back to her desk at the front of the room. "Have a good weekend."
Beckett sat for a moment, then got up and left.
Beckett made his way slowly towards the exit. As he did, he saw Ms Lee, one of the 4th grade teachers headed towards him. Beckett remembered that she had been in the room when Mr Hashmi had been talking about him. Beckett kept his head down as he walked past.
"Beckett," Ms Lee said. Beckett stopped and turned around to look at her.
"Yes?" Beckett replied.
"How's grade 6 going?"
"Ok, I guess."
"You're working on those biographies, right?" Ms Lee asked.
"Yeah." Beckett replied. "They're pretty hard."
"Look, I know that Mr Hashmi is being pretty hard on you. He means well. Do you remember what happened two years ago with those seventh graders?"
"A group of students were caught in a major cheating ring. Mr Hashmi had to expel some of them. The parents got involved. It was a big mess. And it took the better part of a year for Mr Hashmi to deal with it, all while he was trying to manage the school. It was a lot of pressure, but he doesn't like being pushed around."
Beckett stayed quiet for a moment. He was still angry about what he had overheard. "I guess I never thought about what the teachers are going through."
"No." Ms Lee replied. "Most students don't."
There was a brief pause in the conversation. "You know, I remember you once wrote a story for creative writing about a cat that stopped a bank robbery. Do you remember that?"
Beckett smiled. "Yeah, I remember."
"It was good. It was a clever idea. You're really creative."
"Thanks." Beckett said. "This assignment is kind of hard though."
"Yeah, it's a lot to wrap your head around. But just do your best. Try to enjoy it, and I'm sure you'll do fine." Ms Lee smiled.
"I am enjoying it. I guess I'm just worried that I'll get another bad grade."
"Look, just try to learn something. I'm sure that if you just enjoy the process, and don't worry about the grade, you'll do fine. Don't worry about trying to be perfect, just try to do a little bit better than you usually do."
"But all this work for just a little improvement?"
"You've got a year, Beckett. A year of small improvements will add up. But don't worry about that now. Just get this one done. You'll be fine."
Beckett looked at Ms Lee and smiled. "Thanks." He said. "I'll do my best."