By Kristen Bealer

Kevin wandered the hallways of Lawndale High School long after classes had ended, desperately seeking an answer to the question that had been plaguing him all day. He'd never encountered a mystery this deep, and the solution continued to elude him.

At last, he noticed one of his teachers ahead of him in the hall and decided it was time to reach out for help. Although he knew the danger of approaching this particular teacher, the need to find an answer to his question was more important than any hazards.

Walking up to Ms. Barch, he asked, "Why?"

"Why did that bastard leave me?" Barch snapped back. "I ask myself that every single damn day of my life! After twenty-two years of..."

Kevin walked away, angry words fading behind him as he looked for someone else to ask. After a moment he spotted Tiffany, standing next to the Fashion Club but staring vacantly at nothing in particular.

Approaching the girl, he gave her a hopeful smile and asked, "Why?"

"Whaaaaaat?" she replied slowly.

Shaking his head, Kevin continued on his way. Glancing into a classroom as he passed, he noticed his Language Arts teacher was still at his desk and decided to go in. If anyone knew the answer, surely it would be him.

Mr. O'Neill looked up as the boy entered. Kevin came straight to the point. "Why?"

The teacher's face lit up. "Oh, how wonderful! It's so very rewarding to see a student with a truly inquisitive mind. And to know that you feel comfortable approaching the faculty with your questions...well, it just makes me so proud to be an educator!"

Mr. O'Neill beamed at him, and although Kevin waited for him to actually answer the question, nothing more was forthcoming. With a shrug, Kevin turned away and left the room.

As he re-entered the hallway, he nearly collided with Jodie Landon, who was rushing along on her way somewhere. Glad to have the attention of someone he knew to be smart, Kevin quickly looked her in the eyes and asked, "Why?"

"I don't have time for questions!" Jodie cried. "I have a student council meeting in five minutes, Tennis Club is waiting for me to show up right now, and I'm supposed to be halfway across town for my charity work in less than half an hour!"

She pushed past him to hurry down the hallway, and Kevin marched on in search of information. After only a few steps he saw the school psychologist, Mrs. Manson, exiting her office. He picked up the pace a little and caught her eye as she was turning to leave. "Yes?"

"Why?" he asked.

"Hmm." She studied him thoughtfully. "That kind of question can often indicate a deeper mental conflict stemming from serious issues relating to trouble finding one's place in the world and a disconnect in trying to relate to society as a whole. I recommend intensive counseling and, if necessary, careful psychological monitoring to verify whether or not the case is serious or even dangerous."

Manson walked away, scribbling notes on her clipboard, while Kevin just scratched his head in confusion. After a moment, he continued on down the hallway, still looking for someone who could help him.

He soon saw Ted coming toward him from the other direction and changed course to intercept him. "Why?" he demanded of the young man.

"Oooh!" Ted said, brightening. "I've often wrestled with that question myself! Are we here for a specific purpose, or does life have no real meaning except for that which we ourselves assign to it? Can we even be certain that we exist at all? I mean, there's always Descartes's well-known statement, 'Cogito ergo sum,' but perhaps we should probe deeper into our own assumptions and..."

Kevin recoiled and began to run away. He knew about brains, of course, but this was really going too far. For all he knew, a case that bad could be contagious.

Skidding to a stop a safe distance away, Kevin saw one more teacher in the hallway, moving towards the doors. Kevin jogged ahead a little further to catch up, then stood in front of him to ask, "Why?"

Mr. DeMartino looked tired. "I don't even know that myself," he growled. "Why should I, a man of above-average intelligence, continue to waste my time beating my head against walls by trying to cram some kind of knowledge into the minds of students who have the academic aptitude of a brick? Why?" Suddenly, the man began to sob. "Why? Won't someone please tell me why?"

Leaving the man to his nervous breakdown, Kevin walked away but continued to scan the hallway for more people. At last he found someone: a tall, thin girl in a red shirt who leaned casually against a locker.

Coming over to Jane Lane, Kevin greeted her with his usual question. "Why?"

She shrugged in response. "Why not?"

With a sigh, Kevin turned away and trudged away. Giving up, he walked out of the school's exit and found Brittany waiting for him in the parking lot. "Hi, Kevvy!" she said with a cheerful wave.

Kevin looked at his girlfriend with utter despair, then decided to try just one more time to find enlightenment.


Brittany looked at him silently for a moment, then looked away with an expression of deep concentration. Long minutes passed as they stood there together, locked in a struggle to understand the deepest question either had ever faced before.

Finally, after a long stretch of intense contemplation, Brittany looked back at him in triumph.

"Z!" she cried.

Kevin's desolation faded as the grin returned to his face. After a long day of searching, he had finally found someone who could give him the answer he'd been craving.

"Aw, babe," he said as he put an arm around her shoulders. "I think you must be the smartest person at this whole school!"