Victor entered the room and looked around, puzzled, as the students continued their work. There was something unusual about this classroom (besides it being inside a mansion). Soon it dawned on him. The lack of modern technology, the outdated decor, the students’ haircuts—the room was displaced in time. He estimated, judging by the style, the room belonged in the sixties or seventies. The ceiling fan looked like the ones in his grandfather’s house.
Suddenly the teacher slammed his pen on the desk and glared at Victor.
“Gary Grimes!” he thundered. “Either you are ignoring me or those ‘fainting fits’ of yours have rendered you deaf as well as weak. Now get up here in front of the class!”
The students put down their pencils in unison and looked at Victor with expressionless faces.
“Huh?” he said.
“We use English in this classroom, boy! You will say, ‘Pardon,’ or, ‘Excuse me,’ not, ‘Huh?’ Now, you’ve had two weeks to prepare a five-minute speech on the life and exploits of Magellan, and you will get up here now and deliver that speech.”
“What? No, I… think there’s a misunderstanding. My name’s Victor. I just came in here—”
“Grimes, I am losing patience. If you are not up here in the next ten seconds you shall experience a foretaste of the Final Judgement. Must I get the cane?”
The teacher opened the top drawer of his desk and took out “the cane”. It was a thick, four feet long piece of bamboo, with shards of glass glued around one end. He stood and stepped out from behind the desk, weapon in hand. As he approached Victor, the students began laughing and shouting together, “Grimy Gary! Grimy Gary!”
Victor lunged at the door, flung it open then slammed it shut behind him. He stepped back across the hall, breathing rapidly, and watched the doorknob.
“What the hell is going on?” he said.
After a minute he tiptoed to the door of the classroom and put his ear against it. As silent as a thief he turned the doorknob and inched the door ajar, before opening it all the way. The bullying children were now focused on their school work; the sadistic schoolmaster was back at his desk marking essays. The only sound was the busy scratch of pencils on paper. Victor watched for a moment, remaining near the door. The teacher looked over his glasses at him, sniffed, and then went back to grading papers.
“Well, get on with it Grimes,” he said. “We haven’t got all day.”
Victor stared at the teacher. The students continued writing.
“Gary Grimes!” yelled the teacher. “Can you hear me, or have those ‘fainting fits’ of yours rendered you deaf? Get up here now!”
Victor left the door open and approached the front of the class, taking a wide berth around the teacher’s desk. He stood in front of the blackboard. The teacher rolled his eyes.
“For crying out loud, Grimes, don’t face me, face the class.”
Victor played along. As he turned to the children they all put down their pencils, sat up straight and looked at him.
“Well, Grimes?” said the teacher. “Are you going to deliver your speech, or do you expect us to just watch you standing there like an idiot?”
The teacher’s face turned red and he reached for the top drawer of his desk.
“No, wait!” said Victor. “The speech—yes, I have a speech. It’s all ready to go. I, uh… remind me again—what is the speech about?”
The students snickered, but a glance from the teacher silenced them. He turned to Victor and smiled, though his eyes indicated a cyclone on the horizon.
“My patience is at an end,” he said. “You will deliver an informative, articulate and confident speech about the life and exploits of Ferdinand Magellan, or you will remain here after class in everlasting detention.”
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