OUT OF THE FRYING PAN
I was walking towards school. Because it was my birthday, I expected the day to be fabulous. But as fate would have it, things just started going downhill
It all started with my school ID it was missing, I had forgotten it at home. At the gate, the check-in prefects glared at me and gestured me to one side. The punishment for this was to run around the football pitch two times. Two times! I was in Grade Four; aged nine, but not once had I ever managed to run around the football pitch once, leave alone twice.
Fearing further punishment, I put my school bag in my locker and embarked on the punishment. After one lap, I was panting. Then I noticed that the prefects had gone to their classes and were no longer supervising the punishment. I sneaked away into my classroom.
I was still out of breath and half the lesson was gone.
Even worse, what I had missed was Mathematics, my favourite subject. But I was relieved when the teacher, instead of interrogating me for lateness, calmly told me to enter the classroom and sit down. I settled down, hoping to enjoy the remaining bit of the Math lesson, but I was wrong. Minutes later, the teacher received a call from the principal. He excused himself to go but did not return till the end of the lesson
The Math lesson gone, next came Spanish. Another horrible one hour, I thought. This was because our Spanish teacher, who was also our French teacher, was a cruel lady who got a kick out of punishing kids for every petty offence. Soon the lady, Ms. Guinevere, strolled in; carrying a whole stack of writing books. Then I suddenly remembered that I had not submitted my Spanish writing book. Oh my god, I thought! What was that saying again? Out of the frying pan ?
Roy, step forward and tell the class why you didnt submit your book. Please. Ms. Guinevere sneered.
Everyone turned to look at me. Flustered, I stood up and went to the front of the class. Ms. Guinevere told me to tell the whole class the reason why I hadnt handed in my book for marking. This was turning out to be the worst birthday ever. I tried to speak, but instead of words coming out, I stuttered and squeaked. I could hear stifled giggles from the other kids.
Finally, I managed to mumble out. I forgot. The giggles turned into loud cackles.
Ms. Guinevere, the sarcastic smile never leaving her lips, said that she would punish me for not submitting my book. The whole class was guffawing now. She slowly stepped closer to me. She stretched out her neatly manicured right hand. I then saw her thumb and index finger stretching towards me like pliers. She then deliberately pinched me, on my upper hand, with her talons. It was like an electric shock! Pain shot up my arm but I dared not scream. She pinched me repeatedly for a whole minute. It was unbearable. I yelled out in agony. My arm started to feel numb. After a minute of tormenting me, she stepped back, leering with satisfaction.
I inspected my arm. A whole patch was red! It was so close to bleeding.
It was torture for me to endure the rest of the lesson. By break time, I felt like throwing up. I went to the secretary so I could call my dad to come and pick me up and take me home. I only told her that I was dizzy and nauseated. Little did I know that I was initiating the biggest drama of my school life to date.
My dad, a captain in the national army, turned up in a few minutes. Now, I knew my father to be the politest and most pleasant person ever. Not once had I ever seen him lose his temper. In fact, I knew he would come and pick me up without much ado and that would be it. I was in for a big shock!
He found me waiting for him on the benches outside the reception. When he saw me, his expression changed. He looked at my arm and his face turned red.
How did that happen to you? My father asked, apparently trying to keep his rage under control. I was too frightened to answer because I had never seen him like this before.
Who did this? He thundered.
Ms. Guinevere, I blurted out. She pinched me. With her nails.
My father grabbed my hand and made straight for the Vice Principals office. This was a side of him I had never witnessed before, let alone imagined. The Vice Principal, Mr. Hector was happy to see my father because they were good friends, but he little knew what was going to happen.
Where is this Ms. Guinevere? He asked, his face red and furious.
Calm down Mark! Mr. Hector said. Whats the matter? Then, alarmed by the look on my fathers face, he said, Okay, Ill call her, but please calm down.
How do I calm down and my son has been tortured? Just look at his hand!
Mr. Hector examined my injured hand and regarded me in shock. He asked me who had done that and I told him.
Then my dad shouted again, this time louder. Get Ms. Guinevere!
Okay, captain, please take it easy. Mr. Hector said. Alex, come here. He beckoned a uniformed attendant and ordered him to call the teacher.
Yes sir. Alex briskly left the office. In a couple of minutes, he came back with Ms. Guinevere. My dad looked calm, but I suspected he was seething inside.
Look what you did to my son! He exploded.
The lady was puzzled at first. She then looked at my hand. It was purple. She was speechless.
You call yourself a teacher? Youre worse than a slave driver! He scowled at her. Then he turned to Mr. Hector. How can she do this to a nine year old? I want her fired immediately before I sue the school for child abuse.
Ms. Guinevere looked down. She didnt speak. Her face started turning pink with embarrassment. She made fists, trying to calm herself down. Then she started trembling. She discovered it was now a lose-lose situation for her. If she said anything back, she would be fired; if she remained silent, she would be sued and could be jailed for child abuse. I saw her biting her lips in anguish.
My father was even more furious because she didnt answer his question. He raised his hand. He was going to hit her! It was my turn to be scared. In all my life, I had never seen my father raise his hand to anyone, let alone a woman. Before he hit her, he saw me and pulled back his hand. One thing he had taught me was never to hit a woman.
Mr. Hector saw the threat and quickly took action. He told Ms. Guinevere to meet him in the Principals office. Ms. Guinevere left the Vice Principals office and headed towards the Principals Office. Mr. Hector told my dad one last time to calm down, but my dad could not be placated. Mr. Hector gave up and also left to the Principals office. After a few minutes, Ms. Guinevere and Mr. Hector came out from the Principals office.
Mark, Mr. Hector said, Try to understand, we cant fire her. If this makes you comfortable, we have transferred her to another school.
What? My dad was astounded. To go and continue her vicious misdeeds there? Be serious, Hector!
Mr. Hector turned to me. Anyways, Roy dont forget you have to go with your group to the inter-school quiz this afternoon. He made some strange gestures to my dad, who told me to go and wait in the car.
I nodded dubiously, looking at my hand which was now purplish black.
After finishing with Mr. Hector, my dad took me to hospital and my hand was treated. I returned to school so I could go with the group to the inter-school quiz. The quiz was to be held at A.C.D.C. Academy. When we arrived at the academy we were told to go to the cafeteria and wait for further instructions.
One of the teachers of the school came and told us that the judge for the quiz had arrived. We were told to go to the hall. We were all settled. Finally, the judge walked in, in the company of other officials. Since I was on the other end of the hall, I couldnt make out the judges face clearly, at first. She walked to the centre of the hall. I finally saw who it was, and behold! It was Ms. Guinevere! into the fire!