The challenge next door.

Steve sat alone in the middle of a small room with some sliding glass doors leading to the balcony. Outside were some plants in flowerpots with the leaves withered and drooping. Steve eyed the plants with concern but his thoughts returned to the final challenge that would decide whether or not he would graduate from spy school.

Steve continued waiting for someone to come into the room with the details of the final challenge, but no one ever came. Finally, he decided to see if he could go find someone himself. He got up and left the room only to enter a dark hallway with some stairs descending to the floor below. He could also see something bright illuminating the hallway from downstairs.

Cautiously Steve approached the stairs and saw them lead to a sliding glass door to a patio outside the building. Slowly he walked down the stairs and out onto the patio. Looking up he could see the balcony with the withered plants he had seen earlier.

Then Steve saw a tennis ball hanging on a string from a hook under the nearby awning. He noticed the string running from the ball and under a wooden gate. When he followed the string, he found the other end tied to a garden hose behind the gate.

Steve paused to digest what he had seen. Then he smiled. So that’s my final challenge, he thought.

He took the tennis ball down from the hook and then ran the garden hose across the patio just below the balcony. Then he flung the tennis ball at the railing above and went upstairs to pull the hose up to the balcony to water the plants. He felt very good about himself and admired his ingenuity.

“Very, very impressive,” said an older man as he entered the room. “I was just about ready to make you my next graduate except you overlooked one minor detail.”

“What did I miss?” asked Steve, confused.

“Those plants are fake. I’m sorry, but you’re out.”

Steve’s heart sank as his dreams of being a spy dissipated.

“If it’s of any consolation, your friend Ian didn’t fare so well either.”

“Hey, Steve,” Ian greeted as the older man left the room.

“Hey.”

“I guess we weren’t cut out for this spy business.”

“No, I guess not.”

“Hey, wanna go to The Watering Hole to play some pool, drink iced tea and watch sports on TV?”

Steve’s face lit up with a smile. “Sounds good.”

And that is what they did.

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