Amazing the turn a day can take

I was part of the small group being sent to the principal’s office. The corridor was quiet but for our buckled shoes on the cement ramp. A head shorter than my peers, I struggled to keep up. 

This was a moment. I knew it, even then. I held my exercise book, full of red ink, firmly against my chest. I’d never entered Mr Sneddon’s office before, not in all my two years and three months at Edgemont Primary School. Sibongile was there all the time, and he led the way. 

Amazing the turn a day can take. Things had begun decently, with Carin and I working on an Afrikaans skit we would present to the class. I was pleased to be paired with her, not just because we were friends, but because she had an Afrikaans mother, so I knew she had the language chops to carry me through. I had, as expected, stuttered my way through the presentation, but I was pleased at the end of it all to note my performance hadn’t been the worst. 

In art class my flowers had turned out well. Mrs Swart said she loved the “intensity” of my colours. Whatever that meant. But she said it with a smile. And then, when I was digging in my desk looking for my maths book, I found a pocket-size Chomp I’d forgotten about in the back left corner. Keeping the desk’s lid resting on my head, I was able to scoff it right in the middle of class! And at Big Break I’d run up to the area near the foyer clutching my R5 note and managed to get the very last hot dog. I’d wanted two, but you really have to hustle on tuck shop day. 

So things were going respectably well for me. But a shift in gear was now taking place.

We entered the reception area, three girls in simple blue smocks and two boys with white shirts tucked into grey shorts. Mrs Brink led us into the principal’s office. It smelt the way old people smell. “Students from Std 1R. For you to see their spelling,” she said, her hand bending in our direction. 

She exited.

“Sibongile, young chap,” Mr Sneddon said, stretching out his hand for the exercise book. The two managed a deft exchange of the book so that it fell open to the page where my classmate had kept his finger. I quickly tried to find the right page in my own book and adjust how I held it so I could perform a similar feat.

Mr Sneddon glanced at the page, reached without looking for his stamp, and bashed it onto the ink pad then the book. He closed it and handed it to Sibongile, saying, “Twenty out of twenty. Again! Excellent work, Sibongile.”

I stood there, statuesque in my self-containment, full of the glory to come my way. I also had 20 out of 20! This was indeed a moment.

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