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The National Anthem
The twelve-year olds of a Primary school are forced to sing their national anthem over and over again. When their Discipline Mistress has had the last straw, she flys into a rage.
The National Anthem
The two vice-prefects stood at attention. “The national anthem,” the one on the right shouted in a clear, loud voice into the microphone.
The speakers surrounding the Parade Square burst into a loud, majestic chorus of trumpets and drums. “Mari kita rakyat Singapura,” the lyrics of the national anthem were sung in the young students’ proud voices. They stood straight and upright, their hands glued stiffly to their sides, their eyes on the gradually rising national flag flapping triumphantly in the breeze. From their lips spilled the resonant notes of their national anthem. With each word, with each tinkling note, their eyes grew brighter with patriotic loyalty, their voices grew strong and rang with love for their country.
All except the fidgeting group of twelve-year olds, at the far end of the Parade Square, sang in unison. The Discipline Mistress (DM) glanced at them momentarily, before turning back to the flag. She had made up her mind.
The restless Primary Sixes (P6es) looked about scornfully. Why should they care about singing? This continued even for the school song and the Pledge Recital. Why sing for a school that they are going to leave soon? Their voices dropped a whisper and they only mouthed the words silently. They slouched untidily and many started playing with their uniforms, turning their ehads to look anywhere else but the flag, and smiled at each other. Their untidy group was not standing in rows – a sharp contrast to the unbroken rows of the other levels, which looked very much like prim rows of toy soldiers from above. They mocked the fiery ardor that was reflected in every student’s eyes except theirs. Those who were initially singing faltered, unable to continue the song, their notes stuck in the throats. They were, in the squirming sea of P6es, the only ones left singing.
The whole left side of the Parade Square was as silent as a grave, apart from occasional murmurs.
“What is this, a rebellion?” the DM muttered angrily under her breath. As soon as the Pledge Recital was over, the DM marched over to the vice-prefect and snatched the microphone away with such force that the wire almost snapped in two. Her colleagues, observing her tightly-clenched fists and the twitching left eyebrow – always a sign of barely-suppressed rage – literally saw a black storm cloud hovering over the P6es, striking them with innumerable deadly bolts of lightning.
After the DM had dismissed the rest of the school, she stalked over to the loquacious bunch of children.
“Excuse me?” she said in a soft, dangerous voice. The chattering group noticed the warning signs of danger in the nick of time and quieted down immediately. The DM’s colleagues marveled at how a simple two-word question uttered by her could silence a whole crowd of rowdy children.
“Who do you all think you are, showing such disrespect to the school and the nation? I have already warned you yesterday about the appallingly inaudible state of your singing. Yet, you still give me this – this rubbish! Just because you are graduating next year, it doesn’t mean that you are exempted from singing! Shame on you! Look at the other students of the school. They are younger than you but they, at least, feel real pride for their school, and they show it in their singing,” the DM’s voice was bordering on screaming. It was only not to disturb the other students in the classrooms that she refrained from shrieking. “Shame on you!” she repeated again for good measure, to emphasize the great sin the P6es have committed.
The other teachers winced and felt sincere pity for the P6es. But apparently the P6es took no notice of the DM – their only response were snickers and blank looks.
“This is not funny! I want you all to sing again, without the music, until your volume has satisfied me! One, two, three!” she commanded.
There was silence.
“SING!! Why are you not SINGING?” she screeched. Reluctantly, the P6es started singing in soft, barely discernible voices. She walked up and down the aisles between classes, pinching harshly anyone who was not singing. Soon the singing was louder – but evidently, not loud enough.
“That side over there – you can stop singing,” she indicated a few classes. She turned back towards the other side, her glare boring a hole into each and every one of them. “I told you to sing. This is your last chance to redeem yourselves.”
Slowly, gradually, the song started again, and the DM would occasionally shrilly demand that they sing louder, and louder, and still louder. Tears welled up in the eyes of several of the more timid students as they strained with forced effort to put life into their otherwise spiritless singing. It was too much.
There was a crazy anger in the DM’s eyes as she whipped at many students. A terrible grin twisted her mouth and spittle flew as she lashed out at a small girl who burst into tears.
“Crying won’t save you miserable midgets from singing now. Don’t try to fool me with the oldest trick of the book,” she yelled, pinching the girl. Left with no other choice, the girl sang – as tears and mucus ran down her face – and the DM watched on, laughing, “Sing louder, all of you! Sing louder!”
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© 2007 Deis Innovant
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