Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Short Story 3: Second Chance

Short Story 3: Second Chance
The insignificant classroom of 6H was scorching hot. It was like a melting pot and I could wait no longer to flee from it. The noise was intolerable. It was the last period of the day yet time seemed to creep so slowly. From faraway, I could see a lady figure walking towards my class. She looked unfamiliar and the idea immediately struck me. She must be the new English teacher for my class. “Stand up!” the class monitor called out weakly. All of the students stood up. “Good afternoon, teacher!” the students wished the new teacher unwillingly. “Good afternoon, class. Sit down.” “Thank you, teacher,” replied all the students lazily. “I am not going to give in to her,” I told myself consistently. “Nor am I going to cooperate with her.” She was the fourth English teacher since I was in Primary One. None of the English teachers impressed me so far and I doubt this one would.
English was a total turn off for me. I detested English. I loathed English. Since Primary One up to Primary Six, I perceived that English had become tougher and tougher for me. I still remembered that how a brilliant student I was when in Primary One. Names of fruits were on my fingertips. I could name at least five types of transport at a time when required. When teacher asked me about the numbers I could give all to her, from one to ten without blinking my eyes. “Am I not a genius?” I was always so proud of myself then for being such a gifted person. Yet things did not remain the same all the time.
I started to lose focus when I went to Primary Two. “Come on, Din. Let us go to GP-Gamers Paradise. Suresh is waiting for us there.” Insomia, Glow, GT and Galaxy were the cyber cafes that we went frequently yet GP was our favourite spot. “I discover a new online game, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it,” Siang Yee kept on persuading me. The invitation was irresistible. The temptation was so overwhelming for me. I could hardly resist to it. The entire evening was spent in cyber café indulging in the online game my friend had recommended to me.
The addiction had lasted for four years and I was still sticking to it. The longest time in cyber café was about 13 hours a day. It was full during weekends especially on Sundays; the 72 computers were packed with people mostly teenagers between 14 and 18. I was the one who matured faster as I joined in the community much earlier compared to my schoolmates who were still kicking football in the field. The most popular online game among us was DotA. I was obviously obsessed to it and the best part was when I was combining forces with my other four teammates opposing the other five in a competition. It was simply superb! We always went for 10 hour 15, meant paying RM15 for 10 hours time in GP.
I worked part time during Saturdays helping in the grocery shop so that I had enough money to pay for the numerous hours spent in cyber café. Sometimes I gave a treat to Siang Yee and Suresh and occasionally they paid for my indulgence. We shared joys and woes in cyber café most of our evenings. Thrills were when we managed to triumph over certain territories and destroy the opponents. All of these really turned me on. Woes were when our gold was scarcely enough and we were incapable to buy equipment during the mission. It was indeed provoking as gold was needed to buy items to strengthen our hero and gain abilities.

The long time indulgence landed me in hot soup. My studies went down the hill tremendously. There was no turning back for me. I was helpless about my schooling and I was prepared to let go at any time. Well, scholar, I was just not cut to be one; this was what I always prompted to myself. Well, study was not that significant for me after all. Many people did not know how to read and write yet they still could become big boss. I was one of them, of course!
I kept on hanging around in GP with my best friends until one day when GP was raided by the RELA people and also the teachers from school. One of them was actually the Senior Assistant of Students’ Affairs, Mr Balakrishnan. Suresh and Siang Yee were passionately flipping through the Playboy magazines. I was busy occupying myself with DotA at that time when they barged into the cyber café. I was sent to the Batu Pahat Police Station as I did not bring my identity card with me and after a few hours my elder sister came to take me home. My friends and I had to face the music and we were punished severely for playing truant and frequenting cyber cafes. We were giving a warning too. It was a disgrace and humiliation to me being landed in such a sorry state. I was sure it was Miss Lee who tipped off the Senior Assistant. We kept on having disturbances on and off. “I’m not going to let her off lightly! She is sure to get it from me!” I was overcome by my discontentment towards Miss Lee. I pledged to seek revenge to redress the injustice.
“Amirrudin, would you like to try and read the passage?” Miss Lee asked persistently.
“What?” I asked her nonchalantly.
I despised Miss Lee for asking me to read. She knew very well my proficiency of English yet she was still making things difficult for me. I kept silent for a long time. In the deep core of my heart I told myself that she could not do anything to me if I maintained silent. The war went on between Miss Lee and me.
“I will go opposite of what she wants me to do, let her have a taste of her own doing!” I told to myself.
Indeed, she gave in as she had asked another student to replace me in reading out the passage.
“See, you can do nothing to me, right!”
I laughed heartily deep inside my heart as I had won the match. I was so glad that she was embarrassed and disturbed. It happened many times in class through numerous “deeds” of mine. I was out to make sure she suffered and got her own dessert. However, Miss Lee seemed to be exceptionally patient with my bad behaviour.
“Today I’m going to start a competition. Those who do the exercises correctly every time will get an “apple”. Then I’m going to total up the “apples” in the end of the year. Those who are in Top 10 will get prizes from me!” said Miss Lee enthusiastically.
I saw Miss Lee putting up an Apple Chart at the back of the classroom in the English Corner.
“What the heck is she doing? So childish and silly of her! She thinks that all of us will fall for her cunning trap? Ask her to wait and see, for sure she will be disappointed,” I told to my two best friends sarcastically.
“Well, no one would be interested in the so called Apple Chart. It was meaningless!”
The outcome was not as what I predicted. After three months’ time, the class turned out to be very cooperative. As Miss Lee explained the teaching points to the students many of them lent their ears to her. I was so surprised at the drastic change of my friends. Last year, the English teacher was not able to take us into her hand at all. The classroom was upside down then. I would always idle away with my fantasy; some students were sleeping while some were talking to each other. Only a few would listen to the teacher babbling and it was the common sight all year long. To my surprise, the sight in front of me was indeed a cultural tsunami for me.
“Is this 6H?” I asked myself astonishingly.
The lessons went on without upheaval or difficulties. The best part of the lessons was during the written activity when all students were so engrossed by their work. Even Suresh and Siang Yee had started to go against me. They were so eager to see their red or green “apples” getting more and more in their own columns of the Apple Chart. Suddenly I noticed that I also had many “apples” too yet they were all black in colour! I was very furious and I went up to Miss Lee to question her with a harsh voice.
“Why do you give me all the black rotten “apples”? Remove them at once! You’re making me losing face in front of my friends!” I shouted at her angrily.
Miss Lee’s face looked stern.
“Amirrudin, once they’re up there you can’t simply remove them. You need to replace them by doing the exercises that I assign to you. Once you’ve done with the exercises, I will paste the green or red “apples” over the rotten ones. Do you understand?” explained Miss Lee patiently to me.
Miss Lee challenged me to have all the black rotten “apples” removed within one month time. I always emerged as winner in DotA and why should I afraid of taking up this little challenge?
“All right, I’ll let you see what I’m capable of. But please bear in mind that I’m not giving in to you. I’m only trying to prove to you that I’m not an empty vessel, okay!”
Gradually, day by day I could see that the green or red “apples” were being pasted over the black rotten “apples”. The Apple Chart was not an eyesore to me anymore. My green and red “apples” were getting more and more. I noticed that Miss Lee actually assigned to me the easier tasks at the beginning of the challenge. She was trying to make it easier for me to get rid of all the black rotten apples. Bit by bit I could understand her good intentions. I began to feel that she was not a bad person after all.
“Now, it’s language game time. Today we’ll have an activity called Word Grab!
Miss Lee related the game to the class as she explained the rules and regulations to take into consideration. I was quite reluctant to take part but Miss Lee kept on calling my name until I was not able to decline her request. It was the first time I engaged in the language game in class and I was immediately addicted to it. One boy and one girl were called up to the front of the class and as Miss Lee called out the word written inside the circle on board, both the students would try to find the word and give it a tick. It was the best game I had ever played. Although I managed to “grab” only two words out of the ten words called out by her, I was contented with my performance.
The English classes seemed to be condensed as two periods of lesson always passed so swiftly. Miss Lee taught us numerous lessons; Grammar, Writing, Reading Comprehension, Listening and Speaking and Vocabulary too.
“You must know many words so that you’re able to write a compact essay. You must be able to spell the words correctly,”
Miss Lee always advised us on the importance of knowing all the English words. I was beginning to establish a better teacher –student relationship with her in school. I was particularly into her lessons because she was able to gain all the students’ attention at all time. Her kindness, generosity and cheerfulness had softened me. I was still a child after all. I was not that unreasonable after all. I was not that bad after all.
As time passed by, I started to let her prying into my life.
“I heard your mother is admitted to hospital because of heart attack yesterday. How is her condition now?”
Miss Lee broke the silence that evening when I was busy helping in the grocery shop. She dropped by to buy some colour paper for her cut-out apples. My teardrops rolled down my cheeks uncontrollably. The warm tears dampened both my faces. I dared not look at Miss Lee. She was the very first person who showed concern for me so sincerely. I was the black sheep in my family and most people in my village had labeled me as an ungrateful son to my parents. I dared not deny the fact that I had not done my duty as a son to my parents.
“She is in critical condition now, semi-conscious, Miss. Her lungs are infected by bacteria and her heart is weak. She’s not able to breathe on her own. Now she depends totally on the life support system to keep her life going on,” I said faintly to Miss Lee.
“Yesterday I was with my mother in hospital all night. She was struggling and in discomfort condition constantly. I could get the hint that she would rather leave the world than being tortured endlessly,” I related to Miss Lee as my tears rolled down.
“Come on, I send you to the hospital after you have done with your work,” said Miss Lee.
The moment I finished my work I followed Miss Lee to the Batu Pahat General Hospital.
“Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any help. Please bear in mind that I’m always there to help if you need me. Do you get what I mean?”
I cried silently inside my heart as this was the first time I stumbled upon a Good Samaritan in my life. I stayed overnight to accompany my mother for the last moment. She passed away early in the morning.
“Din, I’m so sorry to hear that your mother has passed away. I’m sure you’re in grief now but you must be strong. Your family depends on you now. We pray that your mother will rest in peace,” Miss Lee tried to comfort me with her soft and tender voice.
My father could not afford to have a grand departure for her. He suffered the lost of his dear wife, I could see from the numb look on his face. He sat quietly in his own-designed wheelchair. My father had both his legs amputated as he was a diabetic. Three years ago he stepped on a rusty nail and the doctor removed his left leg. Five months later his toe was wounded when he was doing gardening and his right leg too was amputated up to his thigh. Out of the sudden I realised that I had wasted my life all the while. I must do something to amend for my past wrongdoings. I had lost my mother and I could not afford to lose my father too!
“Miss Lee, is it too late for me to turn over a new leaf?”
Miss Lee held both my hands tightly and she whispered softly to me,
“Din, I’m glad that you’ve finally realised what your mistakes are. Pick yourself up from the place where you fall. Do promise me; make your father proud of having you as his son,” said Miss Lee as she looked deep into my pathetic eyes.
She did not say a single word after that but hugged me tightly in her arms. That day I cried with all my heart. And I thanked her so much for her kindness in giving me a second chance.
I had only four months more to prepare for my UPSR examination. How I wished I had more time! I was still sticking with Suresh and Siang Yee yet we did not go to cyber café anymore to play games. We formed a study group and asked Miss Lee to be our mentor. I never knew that studying was full of fun until I really experienced it myself.
The UPSR result was finally out. Although I was not the best student I managed to secure 1A 4B. The distinction I had was undoubtedly for my English! My heart was beating faster and faster. I was very nervous as the time for me to move from my seat drew nearer. I told to myself that it would only last for a few minutes so I did not really have to make a fuss of it. I did not really have to worry about it.
“I can make it, I’m sure I can make it,” I told to myself times and again.
Not far from my seat, I could see my dear father. I knew it deep in my heart that he was really proud of me this time around. How I wished for my mother to be around to witness and share this moment of glory! Soon, my name would be announced. My eyes met with my father’s eyes. I could see the tears sparkling in his eyes. The tears signified the joys within him. “Go up to the stage, my son. Go up there confidently. I’m really proud of you!” Somehow I could sense these words through my father’s eyes.
As I stood up from my seat, at the right back corner of the hall, I saw my teacher sitting there with her broad smile. Miss Lee was clapping her hands to cheer me up to the stage. I knew that without her encouragement, I would not be here to receive the honour. Without her persistence, there was no existence of me sitting in the grand hall waiting to be called up to the stage. Without her determination, I would long be drowned in the crowd. I smiled to her and deep in my heart I whispered my genuine utterances, “Thank you so much my dear teacher, without your interference there is no real me in this world. Thank you very much, teacher for your generosity and kindness in giving me a second chance!”

(3011 words)

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