Flashlight (Part Three)


     So we changed our clothes (we were in pajamas you know), brushed our teeth, settled down everything and raced to the hall empty-handed. (I have to write this bit because Danny is quite ill now). Only half the grade was there, so we got seated at our classes (Danny and I are from 6A, Tom, Kevin and Julian from 6B, Oliver from 6D and Jamie from 6E.) To my surprise, the police officers – all four of them – were waiting on the side of the stage with smiling faces. They blinked at us. We were too embarrassed to answer. I knew they were up to something. A punishment, perhaps, for our mischief. You know, the police makes mistakes too. On the other hand, it might be the Children of the Year award. Or maybe Heroes of the Century. Or Geniuses of the Millennium.
     Anyway, as time passed more kids came in, wearing their T-shirts and everything. I don’t know why, but for the first time in this camp, I was feeling quite positive, despite my fears.
     At eight o’clock sharp, Miss Chatterbox went onto the stage. She did not hint us or anything. All she did was her usual speech that starts with ‘good morning. May I be informed which children are late?’ A few kids were, and got into trouble as you would have thought.
     Miss Chatterbox ended her lecture with her usual ‘Thank you.’ Huh? What were the police officers doing, then?
     Next, the counselor took us to the cafeteria for breakfast. We had some porridge and mantaus, as well as some fried rice-flour noodles. A Chinese proper breakfast. Ah, I’m so glad to have a real meal. I easily finished by part. In fact, my room could have supper tonight.
     At breakfast, I talked about it with the guys. Neither Oliver nor Jamie saw the police officers, but they were sure that Miss Chatterbox would talk about or hint us, so they were quite surprised and disappointed. Danny and Julian didn’t say anything. Tom only said, ‘the police officers probably meant to be here anyway, whether we rescued people or not.’ Kevin did not say a word, but he was obviously depressed, disappointed and upset. As for me, I don’t really care about this thing, so all I did was supply the facts that the police was there.
     After the breakfast, we had another stupid activity in which we had to run around here and there looking for little cards with numbers on it. For some reason, the guys were pretty absorbed in the game, so they didn’t say anything about it. After a break and some more activities, we were exhausted. But we hadn’t had lunch yet.
     Lunch was delayed for an entire hour. I was starving when we finally reached the cafeteria. I could have eaten a horse except that they didn’t serve horse meat today, for some strange reason. There were more activities afterwards, and I dare say a thousand PE lessons or school assemblies would be better than one of those stupid activities. Lunch consisted of carrots and dumplings. Both tasted worse than potato salad.
     We talked little at lunch. Oliver, Jamie and Kevin were too angry to talk about this. Danny, Julian and I didn’t care. Tom, seeing that everyone was not talking, didn’t either. All we said was ‘I’d like a pair of chopsticks please’ or ‘Would you please get me the dumplings?’ That’s all.
     I say, it isn’t that funny that they didn’t talk about it. After all, who would want to listen to Miss Chatterbox or the councilor talk about it in the stupid hall? Not me.
     We had a little time to stay in our cabin and take a little rest, and then we had the go to dinner. This time, we’re having a barbecue. I noticed that Oliver ate like a bird. He didn’t even like his favorite chicken wings. Jamie had just as little appetite. Kevin, however, managed to hide his feelings and, you know, act like he normally did.
     We got some more lectures after dinner, again about our future. Well, we control our own destinies, as Miss Chatterbox said. Why do adults love to nose into them?
     That night, Jamie hinted his disappointment. ‘Last night was so thrilling,’ he said. ‘I wish we could do it again.’
Oliver was more direct. ‘I could rush straight to Miss Chatterbox’s office and demand that our heroism be seen!’
     You can be absolutely sure that he was all mouth and no trousers. Even a fool knows that he didn’t have ‘heroism’. Not if he enjoys seeing kids being bullied. Once he even shouted, ‘Encore!’ The bullies actually agreed, and poor Margaret had bruises all over. The bullies were suspended from school… and Oliver got away with it. It’s not a fair world.
     Even Superman doesn’t have the courage to ‘rush straight to Miss Chatterbox’s office and demand his “heroism” to be seen.’ Not a chance. Superman’s likely to come out as Miserman.
     Kevin still tried to hide his anger, but I think I heard him murmur to himself, ‘Maybe I should have just stayed in the mountains. At least I would get famous for being lost.
     I did remember to bring in my towel this time, but I found out that I forgot to bring a third second pair of underpants to the camp. I know it’s gross, but I wore the underpants the inside-out so that it can last another day. I was sure glad that nobody was looking (my underpants, no the other day.).
     That night, nobody did pillow-fights or Strange Lights conferences. In fact, we switched off the lights once everyone was settled. Nobody talked before sleeping. I was glad to have a good night’s sleep.
     The next morning, everyone woke up around six and brushed our teeth and changed into T-shirts, and not much other than that. We all walked to the hall in silence, except for Julian, who kept whispering to Danny. Danny, as you would have expected, whispered back so softly that Julian could not hear him.
     Miss Chatterbox gave another lecture that morning, and then we started another activity that was putting me to death. We packed and left displaying our normal characters, and nobody attempted to talk about the first night again.
     But I couldn’t help noticing strange things. Thanks goodness, I was sitting besides Danny on the bus, so we could talk together about it. Our teacher told us to keep quiet, so we talked with gestures, as we did that night. Before we were to go, I spotted an extra person sitting at the front of our bus. She looked quite familiar to me, but Danny only shrugged.
     The woman was the last to get down the bus. Before I did, I caught a glimpse at the woman. It was the police officer.
     We did not go back to our classrooms, but waited at the hall again. We sat in silence for a full five minutes when Miss Chatterbox appeared on the stage again.
     Miss Chatterbox did have occasional shots at our faces, and hinted a lot about our adventure. But she did not exactly say any real things about it until, like, after half an hour.
     ‘Sleeping is very important,’ she said. ‘But a few children were unable to resist their curiosity and skipped it. They had not expected save anyone’s life, however. Yes, curiosity is not always good, but in this case it really helped to preserve life. Therefore, although extreme curiosity does not always lead to good endings, some of it can really do the world a lot of good.
     ‘Let’s define “curious”. The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines “curiosity” as the eagerness to know about something. And knowing about things does lead directly to great influences, such as curious little Edison who improved the performance of telephones and light bulbs, and invented cartoons. But it’s not always so. Sometimes the great impacts of curiosity are not direct, but curiosity plays an important role in it. Had you not been curious, you may miss a lot.
     ‘An example of the indirect, but meaningful impact of curiosity goes: You are curious about what your father is doing. He turns out to be thinking over a very important problem. The fate of the company depended on it. He tells you what his problem was. Later, something reminded you of a perfect solution. You tell your father about it. His company survives, and of course, you are rewarded.
     ‘Similarly, those children were in procession of extreme curiosity, and they were therefore rewarded. They had sacrificed their sleep, but what they had done was of a greater value. They had conquered the danger of death. They had risked their lives for curiosity. They…’
     And she drones on happily ever after… until we were starting to feel very drowsy. Then she stopped. ‘Those students were…’
     It doesn’t take an Einstein to guess what she said next.
     ‘James, from 6E; Oliver, from 6D; Kevin, from 6B; Thomas and Julian, also from 6B; and finally, Daniel and Charles, both from 6A.’
     We stared fixed at Miss Chatterbox, trying to keep our eyes open – they felt heavier than ever. ‘Please come to the stage and accept your reward.’
     The police officers appeared from the backstage and we climbed the steps, both astonished and flabbergasted.
     Oliver’s lips curved upwards, with a slight feeling of satisfaction. What I read from Jamie’s eyes was simply glory. I did not have a chance to set my eyes from Kevin. Tom’s expression looked as though he was caring the butterflies in his stomach. Danny marched up the stairs as a gentleman would. Sometimes he’s just so different from any of us. Although I don’t quite believe it, I actually felt a little proud. But that feeling didn’t last. I soon felt quite weary. I would have been happy to be home.
     The policemen were holding certificates in their hands. On each of them was a painting of an award, clearly from Microsoft. On each certificate was our names, and the words ‘This is to certify that (someone) has been distinguished as the “Student of the Year.’ It was true. They were not joking around. They were really giving out awards.
     The principal, Mr. Cheung, appeared from the doors and entered the hall. We were each given a handshake, but in the astonishment, we had nothing to return. Everyone began chattering. There were cries of admiration from the crowd of students.
     The photographer tapped the button on top of the camera. Click! He did it again, from a slightly different angle. Click! And so our faces ended up in the intranet, available for every single student, parent and teacher to view.




Copyright © 2009 Abracadabra
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