Photo by MARY CELINE HARTWIG
legodile 'dredd x' seganabeng
under the class tree
The short piece of white chalk squeaked its last marks across a cracked, fading blackboard that was no longer black but a depressing pale grey, balanced unsteadily on a small steel chair and leaning against the stem of a tree. It swayed as the teacher scribbled a sentence.
The chalk broke into dust, leaving the tips of her fingers smeared in white. She turned to face the class. Forty-seven pairs of eyes looked intently at her, their lips quivering from the frosty air. About half of them sat on metal chairs while the other half squatted on the sandy ground, pencils scrawling on exercise books.
Sunlight filtered through the leaves of the sheltering tree and created on the teacher’s face a motion picture of patterns—an illusion that, through the eyes of the children, could have been amusing in a much warmer day.
“Alright,” she said. “Who remembers…?”
A gale of wind yanked away the rest of her words. Pages fluttered in the classroom, or rather, under the class-tree. The teacher looked up and anxiety creased her face, distorting her otherwise beautiful features. A whirlwind was approaching, spinning determinedly towards them, like a directed weapon. She stared at it, unsure of what to do. The children turned to look at the careening force of nature hurtling towards them. Fear struck across their faces, eyes bulging.
“Easy. Take it easy. Everyone please relax,” the teacher said to the class. The tree started shaking vigorously, shedding leaves and sending them flying through air, injecting more fear into the children’s hearts. Shortly, the tempest would strike. The blackboard took the first bullets. It went airborne and smashed against another tree a few feet away, breaking into pieces.
“Hold on tight to your books!” She screamed over the noise of the impending monster. “Squeeze together!” She failed to hide the tremor in her voice. “Now close your eyes tightly, now! Keep them closed! Keep tight! That’s it, that’s it!”
With its dust and sand and other particles gathered in its ferocious journey, the whirlwind grazed through the class, sweeping away every loose and light object in its way. It lifted up, abruptly changing direction, indeed like a guided missile and disappeared in the distance. In its wake, the cyclone left a shattering silence in the classroom. The class-tree.
“You may open your eyes now,” the teacher instructed the class. She saw in their eyes tears of fear. “It’s alright. It’s all gone now.” And gone with the wind was her hairclip. A cascade of hair fell across her face and down to her shoulders in a bunched ruffled mess. But that did not matter. That was not as important as what sat squeezed together under the tree, in the biting July cold.
Gently with a smile, she motioned for them all to stand. Forty-seven young boys and girls rose, still shaking from the assault of nature. She moved around the class and warmly hugged every single one of them. Then she returned to her seat in front of the class. There was no board to write on anymore.
“Please sit,” she said. “Let’s open our textbooks to page 5.”