“And Spock saved the day.”
“What are you talking about? It was totally Kirk!”
“In case you didn’t know, Spock is the hero in StarTrek.”
“Is not! It’s obviously Kirk!”
“Will you guys stop it! It’s neither Spock nor Kirk! It’s Pike. He was the Captain.”
“So was Spock.”
“So was Kirk! And anyway, Pike was the character that gets out of the way for the hero to shine!”
“And for the hero to save! Which Spock did.”
“Spock was ALSO the character that gets out of the way to be saved. And KIRK saved Pike.”
“Not without Spock who took the enemy’s main attention to the drill. And anyway, he got the girl.”
“Yeah but…. STAR TREK IS NOT A ROMANCE!”
“The hero gets the girl, by RULE.”
“You guys sure are wrong- it’s got to be Pike. He took the wriggly black thing in his mouth in Nero’s torture-”
“SHUT UP!” came a chorus reply.
“Toss you for it. Heads, Kirk is hero. Tales, we’ll pretend Spock is.”
A coin is tossed. It lands vertical.
“Maybe that means Pike…?” Two glares cut short the sentence.
“Kirk came up with the right plan.”
“Spock lost his mother! The hero always loses family.”
“Oh please! Kirk’s dad?”
“Spock met his future self.”
“What- so WHAT?! If Kirk had not met the future Spock on the planet they would have lost. So KIRK is the one who is more important.”
“The information came from the future SPOCK! And it was SPOCK who put Kirk on the planet in the first place.”
“Kirk had the cute nickname.”
Two people stared. “Uhh… Jim? It is cute…”
“Spock has the cute NAME. He doesn’t need a nickname.”
“Tell you what. Come to my place today and we’ll count the number of dialogues they had. The winner is the hero.”
“Not counting groans, sighs and other noises.”
“If you guys are doing it anyway, let’s just count Pike’s too…”
“Fine. You come too.”
And that was why I was trying to find the Star Trek video in Jacko’s room. John Carter was under the stupid impression that Spock was the hero of Star Trek. He must be blind or something. Alan Boyd, the traitor who is one-third the reason I didn’t perform in the Grade One ballet, was even more misinformed. How in the world could anyone believe Pike was hero? Dumb, dumb, dumb.
But it would all be corrected. I felt proud defending Captain Kirk. And I knew it would be better still when the movie finished, and I switched on the lights to smile into two stupid, ashamed boy faces.
Just as the bell rang, I pulled out the disc. Five o’clock. Trust John Carter to be on time. How boring!
Without much ado, we went in the drawing room, everyone took their chairs and I put the video in the TV. Then I moved Alan out of daddy’s chair and pressed start.
And then began The Movie.
I held my pen firmly, and put a tally mark every time either contender spoke. To my surprise, there were times when Spock greatly outdid Kirk, but it all kept balancing sooner or later.
When Kirk woke up with his scary puffy hands on-board Enterprise, Jacko came in the room.
“What are you guys doing?” he asked from the doorway.
Three angry hisses silenced him.
“Did you count that last dialogue by Spock Jenny Jackson?”
“Shut up Carter. It’s not even Spock’s scene.”
Jacko didn’t say anything but came and sat beside daddy’s chair. He looked at my tally marks, read the headings, looked up at me and stared.
I sighed. “Got to tell these guys how much Kirk is hero.”
“What are you talking about? It’s Spock!”
Unfortunately, John heard this. “Hi Five brother!”
Jacko stretched all across me and caught John’s five and left me and Alan outnumbered.
When Spock grabbed Kirk’s neck and made him unconscious, they laughed. When Kirk was thrown out of the ship, they rolled on the floor. When the big red thing chased Kirk they were spilling out with mute laughter, clutching their sides and streaming tears so much that I lost my patience and pulled the plug from the TV.
“Oh no! What happened!” I acted, because no one had seen me. Even Alan was looking at the other two rolling and laughing.
I tapped the TV. I checked the remote. I Paused and Played the video. No good.
“It’s an old thing. Must have broken out or something. Hey John, you want to play baseball outside?” asked Jacko.
“What about the deal?” I cried.
“Oh yeah.. umm, what’s the current score?”
“Kirk leading… by two.”
“Oh. Umm.. fine, you win.”
And off went Jacko and John and Alan ran out after them. That’s it? I won?
I didn’t know what to do. Kirk won?
I replugged the TV, took out the video, kept it back and went to my room.
I took out Buzz and started playing with him.
“Welcome aboard The Enterprise, Commander Buzz! This is Captain-”
Buzz looked at me expectantly.
“Captain SpocKirk Jackson. And we have a ship to blast.”
“Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit…” I would have kept up with my chant had Jacko not thrown a pillow right into my face.
“Oh shut up will you! It’s just a dress!” He cried as he pulled the laces on his shoes.
“It’s not just any dress, Jacko Jackson, it’s my- ballet- show-dress.” I said in a very low whisper, because I was so scared and feared that if I said it even an iota louder, Mistress would hear me back in the dressing rooms and come charging into Jacko’s room and smack me so hard that I wouldn’t have a face to perform with after all. Then I wouldn’t have to perform but it wasn’t much consolation. Already I had missed evening practice yesterday.
“It’s just a tear for crying out loud! Stitch it up or something!” He went on, stamping his foot and admiring the shoes.
“I can’t! Would-” I pushed the sunflower dress towards him.
“No. Don’t even think about it. I am going out with the boys.”
“But won’t you even come to the ballet?”
“Can’t say anything. And mom’s gonna be there anyway.”
“But she doesn’t want to go!” I cried.
“She IS going, right? Want to or not. Have fun.” And Jacko went out, leaving me with my torn dress.
I wore the dress. I hid the tear with the only scarf I own- blue. I know sunflowers aren’t supposed to be blue but it was either that or a smack.
Mommy only said, “Geez, I didn’t know it was so cold!” and laughed at her joke and we drove off, as the horrid sun outside made me itchy in the scarf.
I thought about my position on the way. Just how deep in shit was I. I had a tear in my dress and I was in the front row. I had missed the most important practice last evening thanks to Amelia who made me want to know/play cricket and I was not prepared for any changes that had been made. I had not called up anyone to ask because mommy had been on the phone and I couldn’t explain to her why I needed to talk to a friend so urgently because I couldn’t have her realise I had missed practice, even though it was her job to drop me off.
I could only hope that Mistress had not noticed, though how she would overlook the fact that a front row dancer was missing a DAY before the ballet with no news, no message and no explanation- I didn’t understand. I guess she HAS noticed. Then I’d better hide that tear at least.
Mommy stopped at the school gate, told me to ‘run along’ and she’d be in the hall. But she wasn’t turning off the engine so I asked where she was going and she said, “Oh some urgent matter. But I’ll be there.” and roared off towards the market.
So in I went, without my family to see me, without any clue of procedures, but I was saved for just as I entered backstage, I ran into Alan Boyd.
“OUCH! Look where you are going Jenny Jackson!”
“Alan, I need your help.”
“No, no, no, I am not helping you. You’re just bad news. And anyway, Mistress has put a mark on your name- she says anyone who sees you is to report you to her room IMMEDIATELY. I guess I should just-”
“Oh nooo. She knows. Oh no, Alan please. You have got to help me! Because if you take me to Mistress she will smack me and it will all be because of you!”
“Me? I didn’t not attend practice yesterday!”
“Yes, but I’ll get a smack only if you tell Mistress I am here!”
“Okay, so I might not have seen you after all. But aren’t you going to dance then?”
“Umm… can you cover me, huh?” Since Alan was placed right next to me, it was a pretty good idea. Only Alan didn’t think so.
“No. NO! Bad idea, Jackson. I am NOT in this shit.” He shook his head and tried to get away but I used yesterday’s cricket practice and covered the entire corridor like it was a wicket.
“Alan Boyd, will you really leave me in this all-”
But I couldn’t complete because Alan jumped through between my arm and leg, crashed on the ground, and skippered off fast backstage. I guess he would leave me in the rut.
I followed him backstage. Okay, so I’m on my own. At least I can find out if there are any changes to the setting. On the stage, behind the curtain, cardboard trees and clouds were set, a cardboard train was being moved in and everything was where I expected it. The costumes seemed alright. The lines were familiar-
And that was all I noticed. Because I was whirled around and pulled by the scarf and I had to hold on else it would fall and show the dreadful tear. I looked up and it was Mistress. I looked further up and saw the frown. And so I prayed.
“Jenny Jackson, Where. were. you. yesterday.” Mistress fumed as she shut the door of a classroom behind her. I hadn’t even realised we had entered one.
“I had a cold.”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I am not.”
“I didn’t get a message.”
“Mommy probably forgot.”
“I’ll ask her.”
It wasn’t okay but I couldn’t say anything else. Then Mistress looked at the scarf around my neck and I wrapped it tighter. See, I have a cold.
“Sunflowers aren’t blue.”
“I didn’t have it in yellow.”
“Sunflowers aren’t blue.”
She looked at me, I tried not to look at her.
“Oh alright.” and before I could even see what she was doing, she pulled the scarf off and shrieked and jumped back.
“JENNY JACKSON WHAT IN THE WORLD HAVE YOU DONE TO YOUR DRESSSSSS!!!!!!!!”
I should probably tell you about the tear now. It’s not just a tear. It’s a canyon. It starts at the neck band, wedges off half the band, then comes down and rips the dress halfway down the back and the stitching comes out in a line in the front. It might not be just a tear. I honestly don’t know how I managed so much destruction.
“What- is this- Jenny?” Mistress breathed heavily.
“I sort of tore my dress a little…”
“A little?! How, did this happen!”
“I was running out and it must have caught in my leg and I must have pulled without looking because I was running out and it was near the edge of the bed so I think that’s when it got tore but I didn’t do it inten-”
Mistress held up a hand.
“You were running out?”
“Why weren’t you in bed?”
“I was trying to make it to the practice when I felt a little better.
“Why would you run to the practice without your dress?”
“Jenny Jackson, don’t lie to me.”
And so I told her everything.
“WHAT?! YOU SKIPPED PRACTICE FOR A RUDDY GAME OF -CRICKET?! AND YOU-YOU HAD THE CHEEK TO LIE TO ME AND YOU TOREEE YOUR DRESS AND YOU DID IT BECAUSE OF CRICKET?!!!”
And that was the end of my dancing days. Because Mistress kicked me out of the ballet, and I had to sit next to Mr. Matthew and watch the entire performance and I didn’t speak because Mr. Matthew wasn’t happy when Mistress told him why I was going to sit next to him and not perform. Mommy didn’t come to see my dance but I guess it was alright because it wasn’t my dance anymore. But the dance was great because Mistress went in, in place of me, and I heard someone say ‘she was a swan’. Weird compliment because she was being a sunflower really.
Why didn’t she just give me another dress, I wondered, because she did manage something for herself after all. Mr. Matthew said it was to teach me a lesson. But I didn’t care about ballet that much so the lesson must be-
If you tear one dress you don’t get another.
Well, that makes sense.
It was Tuesday. We loved Tuesday.
For me, it meant Games Period at school. For Jacko, it was a break from homework. Mommy though, liked it because no pubs would open. I didn’t know why that mattered to her.
We were back from school. Jacko was taking a bath, I was playing with the snow-globe. Mr. Matthew was taking awfully long to earn it, I had realised. It was the middle of day. I didn’t expect daddy to come home then.
But in he came, at 2:46, five hours before his scheduled release at the company. I was delighted. But for some weird reason, nobody else seemed to be.
“Honey, I’m hooome.” He sang out from the door. There was no response. I ran out and jumped into his arms, “Daddy! You’re home early!”
“Yeah… The company gave me an early release today. They have been doing it for some time now. Funny people. Always complaining of a short staff and then giving these breaks and off-days so often.”
“Must be a reward, daddy.” I said.
“I don’t know… nothing big been happening lately… can’t say…” He mumbled to himself.
“Hey! You guys are home now. What do you say- wanna see daddy at work?” He cried out, suddenly.
I was thrilled. I had always wanted to visit daddy at the company.
“I got this break. I might just show you guys around. Probably sell some in front of you- let you see daddy at the job, eh?”
I wasted no time. “Three minuted daddyyy!” I screamed, running up the stairs to tell Jacko.
“Jackooo!” I came in singing. “Jacko, daddy’s taking us to the company in three, come out quick!”
I didn’t wait for his response and ran down to my own room, and checked myself in the mirror. I got to look neat. Must not set off daddy’s boss. I pulled up my socks, stuffed my shirt in proper in the dungarees, ran my hands through my hair. My hair never really needed tending, they always just fell down to my chin and rarely ever were even tousled. I was ready.
I ran back to Jacko’s room, and cried, “Jacko! Don’t get us late! Daddy’s only just got a limited break!”
“Oh calm down, will ya?” He was buttoning up his shirt. “What are you shouting about, anyway?”
“Daddy’s come home. And he ‘s taking us to the company, to see him at work.” I said in one breath.
“Oh..um.. we going now?” He fell quiet suddenly.
“Yeah. One minute. You do want to go right?”
“Yeah.. Okay, I’ll come.” He shrugged.
“Okay great. Come down when you’re done.” As I passed his door, I heard him draw breath in quickly. Jacko acted strange sometimes. But I liked it.
Daddy walked ahead of us.
Jacko and I followed. I was skipping beside him, and he was walking very quietly.
It was hot. But daddy was shielding us from the sun. With all the direct sunlight he was blocking, they also formed a thin golden outline around his frame. A dark mass with a golden lining… like an angel. That’s what daddy was for me, right then.
Jacko missed all of that. He looked sideways or down constantly, and wouldn’t listen when I told him to look at daddy. I gave up soon. He must be nervous.
We walked around some houses, some corners turned, and I didn’t even realize we had covered the distance when daddy stopped in front of a white, two-storey building and motioned. “Watch and learn.”
I zipped up. As still as Jacko. Like robots, we followed daddy inside the wide, white building. The man at the gate knew daddy. “Hey Tom! Ain’t you got a break just now?”
“Ya, come back to show my kids around. Wanted to see their daddy at the job, these little ones.”
He waved, and we entered. The cool air and the white lights… the people at their desks… the hussle with the papers… the cardboard cut outs of company logos and schemes… the white board filled with deadlines and projects…
It was a marvel. Daddy’s office was a better, bigger, and white-r version of our school’s Teachers’ Room. I loved it.
Daddy worked at the insurance company. He went to the office every morning to collect his office material and then out in the city, to sell some insurance. He told me that a month ago, when I had to write a page on ‘My dad’ as homework.
“This is where the desk-guys sit. See, not more than five will be up from their chairs at the same time, but it seems like the whole HALL is buzzing with movement. That’s because of the files and papers and phones. Hell, this floor itself employs six peons!” Daddy whispered to us.
As we passed through the mesh of cubicles, hardly anyone looked up to see the two kids walking past. In the center of the room however, a tall, pot-bellied man stood idly, and watched everyone with squinted eyes. And when daddy reached close, he turned those squinted eyes to us. To me.
“Hey Tom. What you doing over here?” he said, in a heavy, dull voice.
“Hey Terry. Just got the kids to see the place.”
Terry nodded. “Make sure they don’t touch anything.”
And he turned away. He was scary. The hair in his ears stuck out and I wanted to run away from him.
When we were some distance away, Daddy explained. “Terry Fisherman. He’s head of them desk-guys. Doesn’t do much. Just stands and signs papers and things.” I wondered if one of those ‘things’ was to scare his department to work.
“And now, you’ll see where we guys sit. The real players.”
At the end of the hall, was a glass division. On the other side of the glass wall hung long orange strips of plastic curtain, which was probably the only colour in the white hall. Somewhere in the glass must have been a door, and it’s handle which daddy pulled and we went inside. And then we stopped.
In a tiny one-room, on three sofas, sat about nine men, while seven stood and talked. Besides the glass wall, all three were coloured pale yellow. Some lockers lined one wall, not unlike our school lockers and that was about all the furnishing in the room. A better contrast with the White Hall could not have been possible.
“This, kids, is where I work. That’s my stuff right there in the first locker. Cosy, huh?” Daddy smiled.
“Small.” I whispered.
“What’s that?” Daddy asked, frowning.
“It’s too small.”
“Yeah- but none of us sit along much. We just drink coffee and report for meetings… we’re out all the time.” Daddy said.
Jacko, I knew, was thinking the same thing. This wasn’t much fun. We wished daddy was a desk-guy. He would have had his own desk.
“Come on, there’s more…” he grumbled.
We willingly walked out of the room and didn’t say anything. We didn’t want to see daddy’s office anymore.
Mommy tells me every day that I am a hurricane. Jacko has long declared me stupid. Daddy has not yet given me a name, but I’m sure he will have one for me just as soon as he has the time to call me that.
So, it was only a matter of time till I justified their feelings COMPLETELY.
I tapped a kitchen knife between my fingers in a challenge. I cut the base of my thumb. I justified their feelings COMPLETELY.
Bloody and fainting, I lay comfortably in Mandy Carter’s room. Next to Alison. And on top of us, stood a very frightened, and very pale Mandy. To call our parents, specially mine, would simply be The End. But NOT calling… would be confessing to guilt. Mandy was in a fix. Her brother got her out of it.
“Yo Mand I’m like-” He came around to tell us he was going out for a while, ‘like a stroll or something’ as he always said, but never did really get to it, that day. What with two unconscious girls in his younger sister’s bedroom, a bloody hand and a knife nearby, a ‘stroll’ would only be slightly inappropriate.
“Holy shit.” were his next words.
He did what any scared teen would do in such unlikely circumstances. Call HIS parents. And they came running. (Or driving.)
Mandy told me all this. And quite a lot of this is her words really, so give her credit for it, by the way.
So they came, and they got scared too and then THEY did what any scared parents would do in such unlikely circumstances, and called OUR parents. “Please just come over sir/ma’am” they said.
My mom came. Alison’s dad did.
They sat in the Carter drawing room, wondering the cause for this weird gathering. Upstairs, Mandy and her brother bit their nails and Mandy cried. I feel the need to mention here that Mandy’s brother, Kevin, is older than Jacko, but not once have I seen him treat Mandy out the way Jacko does me. Just mentioning.
So they broke the news. Two hysterical parents came running. Alison’s daddy and Mandy’s.
Mommy, Mandy said, was such a lady, she didn’t let worry once cross her eyes. Such a lady.
Next I know, I am in my own bed, tucked well in, and it’s night.
My hand is in a thick bandage, which is slipping off at quite some places, out of its right position, but I guess it’s just me tossing and turning in bed. I am feeling all right. Just a little sting at the base of my thumb, at the trough between the forefinger and thumb, like some wet thing burning the gash.
Anyways, I fall back in a sleep again. And the next time I wake up, mommy is changing the dressing, and it’s the middle of the day.
Now I am frightened. Such an abrupt confrontation I am NOT prepared for. But then, I am not awake, right! I shut my eyes again…
…but too late.
“How ya feeling?” Mommy says.
“Alright I guess.” I whimper.
And then I burst out. “I’m sorry mommy, I am. I shouldn’t have played the game, I know. But I just didn’t want to say no to a dare and there was Alison and she was going to tell the whole school about it and Mandy is such a show-off and I couldn’t let her say I backed out. They would call me chicken and-”
“Aright. Go to sleep.” And mommy waked out of the room. I was stunned.
I had let her down. Oh shitty shit.
I banged my head into my pillow, and cursed myself. Why did I have to be such a nut?
Jacko. No, man. Not him too. I peeked. He seemed okay.
“What you doing banging your head?”
“Jacko, I’m junk.” I confided in him.
Jacko didn’t say anything.
“Hey! You think I’m junk!”
“I didn’t say it.” He shrugged. I went back to burying my head in the pillow.
“Okay. Why do think you are junk, Jen?”
“Because I let mommy down.”
“WHY did you let mommy down?”
“She challenged me Jacko! Alison would tell the whole school!”
Jacko nodded. That’s why I told him things. He didn’t attack me with shoulds and shouldn’ts.
“Did you think about violence Jen? He said suddenly.
“Then you ain’t junk. End of story.”
Jacko said goodbye, and he left.
I liked that too.
I swore never to let Jacko down, whatever happens. Because then, no doubt, I would be REAL junk.
Mommy tells me every day that I am a hurricane. Jacko has long declared me stupid. Daddy has not yet given me a name, but I’m sure he will have one for me just as soon as he has the time to call me that.
So, it was only a matter of time till I justified their feelings COMPLETELY.
I jumped on beds, leaped down stairs, juggled heavy stuff and what not on a regular basis. But when Mandy Carter dared me to a game of “Roolet” (Roulette) after school, I did something out of my own league of mischief. It was the new trend. And Mandy was the proud boaster of winning every single game she had played. I had to play her!
So that Monday, after school, I walked with Mandy, and Alison who came along as witness and the rat to spread the results, to Mandy’s house. She said she had just the things we needed. Which only just seemed exciting until we saw what it actually was. Not impressive.
What’s so dangerous about snakes and ladders?!
Mandy got a chance to explain herself. I glanced at Alison. Tell everyone what a dud Mandy is!
“Ok-ok- this isn’t what it looks like. My daddy has got an actual Roulette set. The table and the dice and everything. But we don’t need all that. It’s a simple game, and we can play it on a Snakes And Ladders board anyway.” It sounded well rehearsed.
I sighed. Whatever, I said.
Mandy told us what we had to do. Not impressive, again.
“Say a number and roll the dice. You get that number on the dice you win.”
I looked at Mandy. Alison looked at Mandy. I knew Mandy too would have looked at Mandy had she been on our side.
“That’s all.” Mandy smiled. She rubbed the dice in her hands.
“Mandy, I have to go home.” I said. Alison giggled. Mandy froze. She turned red.
“No- no- it’s good. It’s a very special game. Big people play it. It’s a game for RICH PEOPLE!”
I turned and walked away, hands in my pockets. I could see Alison being impressed. I could HEAR Mandy being embarrassed. I was happy. 🙂
Four steps down the road, I heard Mandy’s voice.
“Fine then Jenny Jackson. I challenge you to a game of RUSSIAN Roulette. Let’s see you laugh at that.” Mandy screamed.
I turned. What now? “I accept.” I said in the same cool air, and walked back in.
“Let’s go inside.”
Mandy’s house was quiet. Her mother was out. Her father was at work. Only her brother was in. And he opened the door and went back to his room. We didn’t see him again.
Mandy took us to her room. (For once, impressive. She had her own bathroom.)
“So here’s how you play it. We put one bullet in a pistol of six rounds, and take turns putting it to our head and pulling the trigger. The one who pulls the trigger when the bullet is in place-”
“Dies!” I gasped.
“Loses.” Mandy says.
I looked at her.
I looked at her. Mandy stares back.
“You- you scared?” She said.
“Bring it on.” I whispered.
I didn’t tell you what happened that day when Jacko had dropped his stuff and woken daddy, and mommy had told us to stay in my room while she talked to daddy. When it had ended, mommy lay on the floor, and Jacko shut me in as he went out. He had promised he’d be back in fifteen minutes. And he was.
Jacko had told me to sit still. He had told me to listen.
And then Jacko had told me why violence was bad. He said it hurt everyone. The person you hit hurt on the surface. And the person who hits hurt underneath. I didn’t understand that. And Jacko said,” Jenny, every time I hit you I feel like I am more powerful than you. No, listen Jenny. But after some time- ten minutes, an hour, a day- I feel ashamed. I feel bad about myself for hurting some one else, for taking advantage of a stronger fist. Now Jenny, I want you to promise me that every time you think about violence, OF ANY KIND, you’ll first think about this. Do you really want to hurt the person you are hurting?”
Of any kind?
“Hitting someone is not the only violence we do everyday, Jen. We say hard words, we wish someone bad, we hurt ourselves. It’s all violence.”
I gave my word.
But I forgot about it that day, with Mandy. With Russian Roulette. It was dangerous I knew. But was it violence?
“Bring it on” I said.
“Please! Don’t use bullets.” shrieked Alison. She was pale. “Uhh- Paint?”
We readily agreed.
Mandy ran downstairs. She came back. “No gun.”
Alison sighed VERY LOUDLY. We looked at her.
“Get a knife.”
Mandy ran back down. This time she came back with a shiny silver vegetable knife.
This was it. Out with Roulette, and Russian roulette. The matter had to be settled with the Knife Game. It was too late to delay things, to let it pass. A challenge had to happen.
Mandy went first. She opened her fingers wide. She put the knife next to her thumb. She breathed…
Slowly, she tapped the spaces between the fingers…
She increased her pace… “39-40-”
I held my breath… I focused…
The knife was quivering. Her hand was shaking. “48-49-50-”
I was sweating. “51-”
And Mandy threw the knife away, clutching her hand hard. 51. That was her record. I had to break it.
I got into position. I wiped the knife clean of sweat. I stretched my own fingers apart…
My eyes focused on the blade, moving steadily, taking in nothing but the shiny tip. Keeping the flesh away..45…
My pace increased. Get it over with! Come on, number 52!
I scraped close to my little finger. i drew my breath in. Focus… focus… 48…
My little finger… it hurt… I looked at it… It was okay. No blood. 50…
But I lost sight of the blade.
Lots of blood.
I dropped the knife. Pain writhing in my hand…
I looked at my thumb.
The warm stickiness spread on it… it poured down my arm.
A loud gash at the base of the thumb looked eerily at me. The deep red blood flowed silently.
I looked at Mandy, who was staring at my hand open-mouthed, frightened.
I said sorry, to Jacko.
And I fainted.
It was a Saturday. The one day in the week when I actually liked the idea of no school! (By Sunday, Jacko became such a bore that I wanted to go to school…)
So there I was, in mid-air, with a five-inch smile, my hair out of their place, (or in their place given that they were sooo often ‘out of place), and frozen. I’m not yet Superman so the screen-roll moment ended and I dropped back on my bed. With a THUD. Thank God for the fat mattress. Or Thank Jacko, who had recently decided he didn’t want it.
“Yay Jacko! Yay Jacko! Jay Yackoooo!” I laughed. This crazy chant had been going on for the last half hour, alongside me jumping on my fat-mattress-bed, and Jacko sitting near it- far enough to be out of danger. Jacko was doing his homework. As always. And trying to ignore the fun I was having, despite the sniggers he had let out in between. “Come on Jacko. Don’t be a DUDDD! Come on, it’s fun!”
But however much I tried to entice him to the free jumping session, Jacko still managed to control. He said he had to finish the work. I knew it wasn’t the work that was concerning him. Since morning, Jacko had been glancing up, down, sideways, and trying to pass his own room. Behind the door, daddy was sleeping. Yesterday, daddy had come home very late in the night, and mommy had sent Jacko to my room to sleep. Daddy had slept in Jacko’s room, mummy in her’s and Jacko and I in mine. Which meant I got to hold his arm all night long. I wished daddy would be late every day.
Jacko was peeking again. I don’t know what he expected to see.
“Hey Jacko, what do ya think of Mr.Matthew?”
“Jenny, I am doing my work.”
“No, you aren’t. You’re looking at your bedroom.”
“He isn’t bad… but he won’t stay long.”
“He said he hoped to.”
“He told you guys he hoped to stay?” Jacko made a face. I felt I had to defend Mr. Matthew.
“He didn’t exactly tell… us. I kind of heard him say that to Miss Abigail…”
“Jenny don’t listen at doors. And that Winston woman is on him, huh? Conformation he won’t last long. ”
Sometimes Jacko said some very confusing things. I think it’s because he’s older. He says it’s because he is more ed-u-cat-ed.
“Jacko, what do you mean?”
“Later Jen. Got to do something right now.” Jacko got up and left. He had been ‘doing something’ since morning.
I went back to free jumping. “Wooooooooooooo!” It WAS fun.
Then I heard the crash. My first impulse was to look around my own room, what did I break? Alarm clock intact, toys not in reach, pillows- can’t break. That was pretty much it. I was clear. Then who?
Half slipping, half getting off my bed, I ran out on the landing, just missing stepping on Jacko’s open assignment. There he was. the culprit. Jacko.
Under a rubble of photo-frames, Happy Meal toys, Jacko’s football, and baseball bat, was Jacko himself. Shit.
He looked at me. I stared back. We were right outside his bedroom door. Mummy was running up the stairs. Jacko was in serious trouble.
A grunt came from inside. If daddy had woken, Jacko wasn’t in trouble anymore. He was dead.
Mommy seemed to realise the same. She moved forward quickly and collected as many toys as she could, and ran to my room. I took the hint. Both Jacko and I picked the remaining, and leaped down to my room, flung the things on my bed, Jacko just managing it in time.
Daddy had come out. He grunted at the bedroom door.
“Jackooo! Come out here!” screamed daddy. It was a wonder how he could have seen through the door, when he was asleep. Mommy told me to keep quiet, nodded at Jacko and went out closing the door behind her.
Sometimes, everyone in my house does very confusing things. I still think it’s because they are older. And anyway, mommy isn’t very educated.
“Jacko what are we going to DO?” I pleaded him to hide. He just kept silent and covered my mouth with his hands tightly.
We could her mommy and daddy talking… or some kind of conversation, it was difficult to make out just what through the closed door. I made a mental note to hate closed doors when I was older. I made another to not forget the first.
Jacko gasped. He ran to the door and put his ear to it. I followed.
“Jacko! Don’t listen at doors!” He gave me a very angry frown and I shut up. Lord, what was I supposed to understand in this house?
I pressed my ear too. But I couldn’t hear anything. Then I realised no one was speaking.
“Old bitch.” said daddy. Then a door slammed.
Jacko pulled the door open a crack. I slipped in under him. Daddy had gone back in Jacko’s room. Mommy was lying near the staircase. Jacko opened the door full.
He pushed me back, in my room. “Oh come on Jacko!”
“Jenny. Not this time.”
“But Jacko, I can help!”
“Jenny Jackson, I am pleading you to stay inside for the next fifteen minutes. I want to know I can trust you.”
I stopped pushing. It was necessary to keep Jacko’s trust. “Fifteen.”
Jacko closed the door hurriedly and left me. I turned to stare at the clock.
Jacko Jackson had some explaining to do.
A milkshake was sitting ready on the table. It’s owner was missing. I was perched on the corner of the table, looking at it. I thought if I stared long enough, people would start noticing and the owner would finally come to take it away. Poor milkshake, it must be feeling so lonely!
I stared. Sooner than I had imagined, I got a response. Some one tapped my shoulder. “Yes?” I said. “Miss Jenny Jackson?” a polite voice asked.
“Miss don’t you think you’ll be late for class if you don’t finish your milkshake now?”
I turned. It was a young man I didn’t recognise. That was strange. I recognised every teacher in school, even Jacko’s. I let the matter out of my mind for then.
“Oh no sir! That milkshake isn’t mine. I don’t take cafeteria lunch. Jacko and I bring our own sandwiches everyday. I was simply giving the milkshake company- you see, it’s owner has left it.” I explained.
“Who’s Jacko, Miss Jackson?”
I liked the way he called me ‘Miss’. None of my teachers did that. They usually just hollered my name like an out of tune loudspeaker… JENNNNYYY JACK-SONNN!!!
“Why, Jacko’s my brother sir.” He nodded.
“A good brother?” I was puzzled.
“I don’t understand what you mean by that, sir.” He smiled.
“That’s alright Miss Jackson. I’m afraid now I have to go.” As he left the cafeteria hall, I looked at the back of his head all the way. Who was this character?
I liked him.
The bell rang. I walked back to my class, thinking up stories of the young man’s identity. I had had to believe he wasn’t a gentleman really- he hadn’t introduced himself while at the privilege position of knowing my full name. I missed Amelia very much. She had picked some king of skin rash from her trip to India and had been absent for a few days now. She would have liked him. I walked back to my desk in the classroom. I opened the desk and took out the present for Miss Cathy.
“Jenny! Stop playing with the snow-globe!” It was Crazy Mandy.
“Why Mandy, what is the problem now?”
“You might drop it, butterfingers! Then all the fluid and all the glass will be near MY seat! Haven’t you mopped enough puddles already.” She mocked.
My teachers’ favourite punishment was to make me bring the janitor’s mop and clear the puddles I created sometimes in class.
I made a face and played on. Miss Cathy was late. That was very strange.
And then, as we waited for Miss Cathy, the young man from the cafeteria entered the class. “Sorry, I’m late. But since it’s my first day at the school, I hope you’ll not report me.” He smiled. Some of the students in the first row laughed. I nearly dropped my snow-globe and Crazy Mandy shrieked.
“Hello Grade One. Miss Cathy is on leave for the time being. So I’m going to be her replacement. As I said, it’s my first day at this school, so we’ll start at the very beginning.” Twenty blank faces looked at him.
“Uhh… let’s just say I am here until Miss Cathy comes back. My name, by the way, is Matthew and-”
Before he could even complete, a hand rose up in the first row. Alan Boyd. I realised he was just waiting to catch the young man’s name- Mr. Matthew’s name- so he could put his question.
“Will Miss Cathy be gone a long while, Mr. Matthew?”
“She might be. But I promise I’ll try to fill her place the best way I can.”
Mr. Matthew waited for something. Whatever it was, it didn’t come, so he made his next announcement. “Let’s start with the names, right? You know mine, so let’s hear yours. Come on, from the right.”
As students gave their names one after the other, I wondered if this was really happening. I must tell Jacko everything about Mr. Matthew. I had to know what Jacko thought about him.
“Mister John Carter, sir.” Some people giggled.
“Mandy Carter. No relation.” More people laughed.
It was my turn. “Je-”
“Ah! But I know Miss Jackson. My colleagues give me a lot of information about you. Nice to meet you again, Jenny Jackson.”
I sat down to a classroom full of stares and envy. I liked it.
Soon the nineteen names and the one un-needed introduction was complete. Mr. Matthew was speaking again.
“I know that Miss Cathy started a picture story with you, but I will take…” He talked about his plans for the term. Everyone listened quietly. He asked, “Does anyone want to ask anything?” I raised my hand.
“Yes, Jenny?” He smiled. The class looked at me.
I got up rather slow and asked the question that had been troubling me for some time now. “Do you give punishments, Mr. Matthew?”
The class looked ahead, eager.
“All my teachers tell me to mop the puddles I make sometimes when I drop something… Do you too give punishments?”
The class was silent.
“Well, I can’t see any reason to mop a puddle actually… If there IS a pool in the class, I would rather have a nice pool party than spoil all the fun and have it cleared!” He said.
The class cheered.
The bell rang.
Almost everyone had left the class. I put the snow-globe back inside my desk. It might not go to Miss Cathy after all. But the new winner would first have to prove himself. As I picked my bag and slipped it on my arms, Miss Abigail from Grade Two came in.
I knew I had to go now. I didn’t like Miss Abigail much, even though she was beautiful. As I closed the door behind me, I heard Miss Abigail ask Mr. Matthew, “And? Did you learn anything new today, Matthew?”
“I sure did Miss Winston-”
“Please. It’s Abigail.”
“Ok. Abigail.” I could hear him smile.
“What I did learn today is that these little ones don’t waste much time on whys and why nots. They adapt. And they try to be happy. They don’t care why someone left a milkshake unattended! They just start at the solution. They don’t care why their teacher isn’t coming! They are simply hooked to what’s happening now. They carry no baggage.”
“You seem to have had a good day, Matthew.”
“Yes. Yes.. I think I’m going to have a good time here, Abigail.”
“I’m sure you will.” Miss Abigail replied.
“I’m sure you will.” I said under my breath.