This story is written as part of the “Once…At School” contest on Tell-A-Tale – Bringing together stories and storytellers to create a positive change.
“Rahul added some extra things to that green Beyblade. Otherwise he would not have beaten me. I asked him to let me see it but he didn’t agree” Anthony said.
“Let it go” Gurpreet said. “Cheaters never prosper”
There weren’t many things more insulting for a 7thgrader than being beaten by a junior at a Beyblade challenge. He swore to take revenge and bit into the chapatti jam roll his mother had packed for him, ripping it into two unequal pieces. He looked like a predator tearing its prey’s head apart from the rest of its body
“I will show that stupid fellow. Just wait and see.” he said, making sure he’d be audible across the room and the corridor.
When the bell rang, everyone scurried around the class, back to their respective seats except Anthony. Anthony sat on top of the desk meddling with his Beyblade, mumbling to himself about the form of revenge he was going to extract. Lost in thought, he didn’t notice the teacher walk in. All the others stood up, hands folded and in a robotic, unostentatious voice said “Namaste ma’am”. Mrs Mo insisted that her students greet all the teachers similarly. Respect, she said, was a trait fast vanishing from this generation.
“Anthony” she called out but he didn’t hear her.
“ANTHONY” she said, a bit louder this time but to no effect. She walked towards him and grabbed him by the pocket of his shirt. He jumped out of his trance even as she held him by the shirt trying to shake him out of the daze. But the sudden movement left the teacher with only his shirt’s pocket in her hand. He dug his hand in his face and burst into tears. He hoped that he’d earn some sympathy points from the teacher but her heavy hand landed on his back with a loud sound that stunned the class into a pin drop silence.
“Stop crying like a baby” she said and the crying stopped instantly. As Mrs Mo turned to go back to black board, she noticed the Beyblade.
“What is that? Give it to me” she said.
“Nothing ma’am. It is nothing.” He said, trying to hide it under a book. He had to hide it all cost. He was planning to challenge Rahul that evening to a re-match.
Mrs Mo reached over the desk and pulled the Beyblade from under the book. She examined it carefully.
“What is this?” she asked. She didn’t actually care but she asked nevertheless. There was no right answer to that question because she wasn’t planning on returning it. The school’s policy about toys was very strict. Anthony began thinking and re-thinking non-cliché excuses to reason with the teacher but he had none. Even as his brain overclocked thinking of an excuse, Mrs Mo tossed the toy out of the window. Anthony stood, his eyes popping out of their sockets.
“Madam!” he yelled and took a couple of paces toward the window. He was promptly sent back to his place by Mrs Mo. Anthony put his head down and cried again. This time, a more genuine outburst of emotion. There was only one thing more insulting for a 7th grader than being beaten by a junior at a Beyblade challenge- To be beaten by a junior at a Beyblade challenge and not going back to take revenge.
“I hope I never see her face again. I HATE her.” Anthony went on a rant. “How dare she throw my Beyblade? I hope her kids never get to play with Beyblades. Or Pokémon cards. Imagine how boring that would be. That’d serve her right” Anthony’s resentment for Mrs Mo was clear. He’d carry it with him till he graduated high school 5 years later.
15 years later…
Anthony stepped into the staff room of his old school and exchanged pleasantries with his teachers. At the far end was Mrs. Mo, now old and fragile but still teaching part-time. Nobody’s lessons had had as much effect on his life as her admonitions. He walked sceptically toward her wondering how he’d have to introduce himself for her to recognise him. He walked up to her and stood near a rack. She was deep in meditation but she waved at him to come toward her. He obeyed, almost out of fear.
“Good evening ma’am. I’m An…” he started.
“Anthony Rodriguez.” She completed. “Eat some ground nuts. You’ll put on some weight. You’re as skinny as you were in school.” She motioned to him to grab a chair. He sat down and updated her with his life. National Law School, Harvard Law School and now employed with one of the best law firms in the world. He had an enviable resume but, she said, she was only as proud of him as she was of all her other students. He nodded with a smile. You can’t ever please Mrs Mo. She expects better than the best. Suddenly, a young boy ran into the staff room. He wasn’t much older 6 and he ran straight to Anthony.
“Francis! I asked you to stay in the car, didn’t I?”
“I want to go home papa!”
“Francis, have you forgotten something?”
The 6 year old stared into the ground, shy, kicking his feet around for a few seconds. He looked up at Mrs Mo and folded his hands.
“Namaste ma’am” he said and then dug his face into his papa’s arms.
Mrs Mo laughed out loud. “Namaste little one. You’re a smart little fella, aren’t you?”. She got up and walked to her cupboard and came back with a little box which she handed to little Francis.
“What is that?” Anthony asked.
“Nothing. It’s nothing” she replied. Anthony remembered instantly what it is. “You kept it all these years? I..” but she wasn’t listening to him.
“If you don’t know how to use it, ask papa ok?” she told Francis who looked carefully at the slightly damaged Beyblade without the slightest clue about what it was.
Anthony lifted his impatient bundle of joy, bid Mrs Mo farewell and turned to leave.
A hand landed on his back. His mind raced back 15 years. He was stronger than he was in 7th grade and she, older. But it sent shivers down his spine just like old times.
“It’s nice to know that you haven’t forgotten what I used to say about respect.” she said, “And you’ve raised a wonderful son” she continued. Anthony was delighted that he’d finally done something that Mrs Mo was pleased with.
“Your son did, but you forgot to say Namaste when you entered. So you, Anthony Rodriguez, have failed me again” she said, with a sly grin on her face.
Anthony smiled. “Good bye Mrs Mo.” he said. One always falls short of Mrs Mo’s expectations he thought to himself. But secretly, she was proud and he knew it as he walked out.