The math teacher scribbles some numbers on the chalkboard. Each tap of the white chalk against the board and each drop of white ashes was like a count down to an execution.
She's almost finished.
Our eyes shake as we watch her scribble some scary numbers on the blackboard.
“No,” she said. And she erases the blackboard again. “Let’s try something else we never did these past days,” and she adds more numbers than the previous one.
What have we done, to deserve this degree of punishment?
Please, let me not be picked today, I thought.
Then she goes back to her desk, sits down, turns to us with her ruler pointing left to right and right to left. Is she going to shoot us? This misery has to end.
“Jennifer!” she said.
And Jennifer chair makes a swivel sound followed by a short drag against the wooden floor. She strolls through the hallway that gaps from desk to desk. Sweat from his forehead begins to plop in numbers, the color of his face alone is getting red, his dead eyes do not blink once as he walks, and his stomach goes in and out as he picks up the white chalk. Such a big guy too, he can manhandle that teacher like a frog if I was him. Jennifer is the name of the town, man. But what is going on here? The teacher remains her eyes on us. Several seconds had passed and Jennifer’s hand still holding the chalk with the tip of it against the board. I could see small cracks of white pebbles is the only thing moving. And he begins to weep.
It was fractions. And two plus two isn’t four anymore.
“Come here,” the teacher said. And Jennifer runs slowly to her, “Your hands. Please?” Jennifer lifts both his hands and spread his palms open, and he begins to sob with his shoulders. With no mercy, the teacher whips his hands with the ruler once. “Do your homework!” she said to the relief boy. “Now go back to your seat,” she strictly suggests. “All of you, I can see it in your eyes. Now let me show you again. Next time, if you don’t study this simple math, I will double the punishment.”
It’s not always this scary. There are times when the class is magical for all of us. Two classes as one choir. The next room behind our chalkboard begins to sing, and the teacher in front us tell us when to start our chorus. And then she signs us to begin. The experience is like a wave that goes back and forth. It doesn’t matter if you forget the lyrics, the girls tend to remember, and you follow the sound waves. It was memorable. Perhaps it was just a dream.
Then it is break time. The Kung-Fu Night show from the previous week was the topic. I didn’t want to lose, and I knew everything about the plot and particular way how the master is defeat by the kind of punches the student uses.
“It went more like this! And then he did this!” with the exact angle I can demonstrate.
“Fight!” one student yells. A real fight?
I turned around, and there goes two older kids facing off each other. With no swearing, they both collided. Pulling on each other’s hair from behind and begins to strikes repeatedly to their sides. Threatening each-other to let go of their hairs, one strike, and the other one strike back. As they hit each other back and forth harder and harder, kids surround them and watches. Then both get out of balanced and down tumbling down and around the grass until a teacher splits them apart. That wasn’t so cool I thought. It was nothing like the Kung Fu I saw. It was like arguing with my girl cousin or when my little brother grew his teeth. The emotions I got from it, I hate to repeat it. It was a complete mess.
That didn’t look like what made me go home that night. The shining armor against the monster sitting on the branch of the tree smoking a cigar. Some plans need canceling.
“I have to get back inside,” I think break-time is over.
“Cool story Vincent… see you guys later,” this one kid said, and he goes back to his class.
To be continued…