Archive for school

Bully Best Friend

Posted in Lucerne Village, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2012 by javedbabar

“You are! You are! You are!” screamed the boy in pain.

There was no dispute that Samuel was now leader of the gang. He was fair-skinned and blonde, ten kilos heavier, and six inches taller than most other boys, and all of them were afraid of him. He beat up boys and forced girls to kiss him. It made no difference if they were gang members or not, but gang members got off more lightly, with fewer bruises and bites.

Many parents complained to Samuel’s parents, but they shrugged their shoulders and said he was out of control; they didn’t know where he got it from. Besides, The Authority banned all forms of domestic discipline, so there was nothing they could do. The official guidance Samuel received at school was written only, nothing verbal, or, God forbid, physical discipline to counter his physical conduct. It barely dented his bad behaviour.

His Grandpa was a tough character, and was asked to have a word with him. Rather than acting as a good influence though, his Grandpa’s pep talks made him proud and pompous.

Things were set to get worse when Dale arrived at school. His parents had lived off-grid in an “undisclosed location” since his birth, and had home-schooled him till thirteen. The Authority had then threatened to lock them up, and take Dale away, unless they returned to “civilization”.

Dale was the same size as Samuel, but dark and hairy. Either they would fight each other in rival gangs, or together become twin terrors. It could go either way.

On his first day at school, Dale stood in front of Samuel in the playground. Samuel was a wary of this strange new boy, and rather than pushing him out of the away, he instead said brusquely, “Excuse me.”

“Excuse me, what?”

“Excuse me,” Samuel launched himself at Dale, screaming, “Pleeeease!”

They fought for ten minutes, resulting in a complicated stalemate, with both boys and then four teachers, tangled on the floor, before they broke apart, laughing. After this, Samuel and Dale become inseparable best friends.

They continued fighting each other for fun, much to the relief of others, who now became spectators rather than participants, cheering for one or the other combatant, often laying down bets. The Samuel-Danny fight became a popular ritual. Teachers bet on it too, and Miss Jewel and Mr Wong won $100 each.

“That shopkeeper charges too much money,” Dale said to Samuel. “He wants two dollars for chips when they’re one dollar everywhere else, and a potato costs ten cents to grow. He thinks we’re stupid. We should raid his shop.”

“We should smash it!”

“We should burn it!”

They decided to do all three things, and raided, smashed and burned it that night. The tied-up shopkeeper begged them to stop, each by name, and when they realized he recognized them, they smashed and burned him too.

The police came to school the next day to quiz teachers. Because of regulations, they were not allowed to quiz children. Samuel and Dale smirked at the back of the class.

A week later, the shopkeeper’s daughter saw Samuel and Dale and set her Rottweiler upon them. After a long fight, they killed the dog. Samuel only suffered cuts and grazes but Dale was bitten badly, and a few days later, died.

Samuel was withdrawn from school and stayed at home for two weeks. He went to visit his grandfather who lived beyond the swamp at the base of Mt Negra. He told him all about the gang, the fight, the shopkeeper and the dog. And most of all about how much he missed his best friend Dale.

His grandfather clipped his ear and said, “Don’t be such a wimp. You get that from your father, not from me, for sure. I had killed four guys by your age. Now go back to school and kick some ass.”

Survival of the Fishest

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2012 by javedbabar

Mr Cooper loved the light glittering on the ceiling. It looked like a sea in the sky. He’d managed to convince the project manager to put reflective paint on the ceiling by telling him it would save on heating and lighting costs.

This was his favourite part of the job, teaching kids to swim. “Right! We’ll begin with the principles of buoyancy,” he said. “Who knows what happens when humans enter water?”

No hands went up, so he picked on a small boy at the front. “You – what happens?”

“We sink,” he said quietly, and looked scared.

“Wrong! We float. The human body has high water content, so its density is close to water. Due to its cavities – I mean your lungs, not your teeth – the average density becomes even lower and we float. So your natural state is floating, not sinking. Got it?”

The small boy pulled in his lips and nodded. A tall boy at the back was not paying attention, and made his friend laugh. Mr Cooper said, “You – what’s funny?”

“Nothing Sir.”

“Well, why is your friend laughing? Are you both such imbeciles that you laugh at nothing?”

“No Sir. We were wondering why it is important to swim when you can use a boat? I mean, you can enjoy the water and not even get wet.”

Mr Cooper was a master of the long game. He said, “You’re right there, we could use a boat.” The boy nodded happily. “In fact why bother going on the water at all when you can play the Titanic video game? That way you can have a really exciting adventure, safe in your home.” The boy continued to nod.

Oh dear, thought Mr Cooper, it’s even worse than I imagined. The noble tradition of movement through water using one’s limbs, without aid or apparatus, is in dire straits indeed. He thought of the epic stories of mankind. Would Gilgamesh have swum to the bottom of a deep pool and found the Plant of Immortality? Would Beowulf have dived into the boiling lake to slay the monster Grendel? Would Odysseus have survived his twenty year voyage sailing home? Heroes have always been swimmers. It shows their mastery of nature.

There are Stone Age paintings of swimmers, five thousand years old. If the power grid went down, today’s useless kids would be thrown right back there. No Hotmail, no Google, no iPhone, no PlayStation, no television, or microwave. Back to basics for everybody. Hunting, gathering, and swimming!

Mr Cooper rubbed his hands. It was time to have some fun.

He picked on a brown boy. “You – where are your parents from? Guatemala? Okay, that’s close enough. Imagine if they needed to get across the Rio Grande to get from Mexico to America. Do you think they’d make it?”

The boy was confused, and said, “I don’t know, Sir.”

“Well, let’s see if you would.” Mr Cooper pushed him in.

He pointed at a stocky boy. “You – are any of your family in the army? Good. What about the navy? No? Well you can be the first.” He pushed him in.

The children drew away but their backs were against the pool; they had nowhere to go. He pointed to a boy with glasses. “You – you look like a good student. Do you like biology? Good, try marine biology.” He pushed him in.

“Now the rest of you can jump in too, before I use one of you to illustrate what good exercise swimming is for amputees and paralytics. Fortunately you have use of your limbs.”

Some of the children were scared of water, but they were more scared of him, so climbed and jumped into the pool. The ones that couldn’t swim clung to the side.

“Great, you’re all in the water. Now we can begin.” He threw floats into the pool. As the children at the edge reached for them, he said. “Don’t be complacent though. You could easily die from drowning. You could panic in the water, become exhausted, catch hypothermia, or become dehydrated. Something could hit you in fast-flowing water and cause blunt trauma. In open water you could suffer bacterial infection, or in places like this, suffer from chlorine inhalation. Jellyfish can sting you, crabs can puncture your skin, even small sharks can bite and cause blood loss, sea snakes are venomous, and eels will shock you.”

The children were scared and some momentarily forgot to swim, and sank. “Right – all of you must stay in this pool for an hour. Get to like it. If you try to crawl out I’ll throw you back in.”

He was being hard on them, he knew. But we have evolved from water. It is our natural home. Only when we rebuild our relationship with water will we respect the earth’s life force, become Water Brothers and Sisters.

As a Water Master tasked with carrying our racial memory – that of fish crawling from oceans, becoming mammals, then apes, and humans – Mr Cooper took his duty seriously. He looked at the light glittering on the ceiling, as if there was a sea in the sky. This is what it must have looked like, he thought, to our earliest ancestors. The bravest and strongest ones. The ones who knew that the purpose of life was survival of the fishest.

Train Spotters

Posted in Global Travel, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , on April 2, 2012 by javedbabar

The railway station had been closed for years, but there was always something going on there. Mack had seen it operating as a Greyhound terminal, FedEx office, coffee shop, massage parlour, deli, toy shop, beauty salon, and art studio, and whatever the business, it was always called The Station. The only thing it didn’t do was operate as a railway station. How stupid, he thought.

The funniest thing was that the same small man always worked there. Regardless of the business, there he was. Mack wondered whether he was the owner trying different ways to make money, or a long-suffering employee being made to change jobs annually. Mack hadn’t much need to courier documents, have a Fairtrade Shiatsu massage, or buy crazy sculptures, but if he ever went in there for something the man was super friendly. He felt a kind of kinship.

Mack also noticed that however hot the day, the small man never wore short-sleeves. This was kind of strange. Ok he was indoors mostly, but even there it got sweaty. He didn’t even roll up his long-sleeves.

Mack was small for his age and got bullied at school. He hated being there, so spent his free time hanging around town by himself, often near the railway tracks counting trains. Though passenger service was no longer operational, there were still regular freight trains, and occasional tourist trains. The freight trains had dirty diesel locomotives and up to a hundred container-cars. The tourist trains had shiny engines and a handful of glassy cars, plus one with a clear plastic bubble filled with grinning idiots waving.

He loved hearing the warning bells at the level-crossing, seeing flashing lights, and watching barriers go down. That meant five more minutes away from school. While drivers dozed, sent texts, or made calls, Mack watched the rail cars fly by – each a daring colour, a mysterious container on a great adventure. Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum.

One day at the crossing, waiting for a freight train to pass, Mack did a double-take. Was that a passenger car in amongst the freight cars? A regular passenger car, not a glassy tourist one? He hadn’t been paying attention and it was too late now. Maybe it was just a fancy-painted freight car, or had clever graffiti.

The next day he looked more closely. It was hard to stay focussed with so many cars going by. Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum. They sort of dazed you.

Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum. Mixed colours overwhelmed.  Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum. Fifty blue cars together entranced. Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum. Either way they affected your attention, delving into your imagination. Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum.

Mack remained alert though. He stared straight ahead and didn’t miss a car.

Yes! There it was! A passenger car with passengers in it! They didn’t grin or wave though; they were busy working and talking, and looked like regular commuters – how was this possible? Mack went to find the small guy, but he was busy polishing a red steel sculpture, sort of like an alien. He decided to ask him next time.

Mack watched the trains very carefully every day after that. Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum-Dum-da-rum. He counted the cars, and checked and matched them, noting their size, markings, speed, and direction. He felt less desire to go to school than ever.

Then one day, Mack felt a shadow fall across him. Uh-oh! Was it his Principal? “I see you like trains,” said the small man from The Station.

“Em, yes I do,” said Mack. He was suddenly nervous.

“I grew up here when they still ran passenger trains. I was totally obsessed by them. I thought I’d leave Lucerne as soon as I grew up, and imagined all the places I’d travel to. But they shut down the service, and I never went anywhere.”

But there’s still passenger cars!” said Mack. “I’ve seen them! There’s one in the middle of each train. I don’t know where they come from or where they’re going, but there’s passengers in them – I’ve seen them!”

“How do you know that?” said the small man with mock surprise. “Have you been train spotting? You know that’s not a cool thing to do. What would your friends say?”

Mack suddenly felt like crying. He turned away and said, “I don’t have any friends.”

“Don’t worry, kid. You’ll soon be making some new ones. I was a loner like you when I was young, and still am, but I am part of one of the world’s greatest communities.”

Mack was scared. He blurted out, “I’ve seen how you never wear half-sleeves. You must have tattoos. Are you a gangster or a Hell’s Angel?”

The small man was amused, and not angry at all. “My community is much older, and much greater than those. Look.” He rolled up his right sleeve. Running along it were tattooed railways tracks – endless rails and regular sleepers, his muscles providing ballast, his fingers tracing rolling stock. “I am a member of the Occidental Rail Brotherhood, ORB, founded by Periander. Have you heard of him?” Mack shook his head. “Periander built the Diolkos, the world’s first public railway, in Ancient Greece. It was a limestone trackway running from the stormy Aegean Sea to the sheltered Ionian Sea. A hundred men hauled ships on wheeled vehicles along parallel grooves. The Diolkos saved much precious cargo and thousands of lives. By running The Station, I proudly serve Periander.”

“The passenger cars among the freight trains, who rides on those?”

“We do. Our Brotherhood has branches worldwide. We’re always travelling on business. As well as the Greek systems, there were Egyptian systems – how do you think the Pyramids were built? And the Indian Chakra system, and Chinese chi meridians are railway systems internalized.”

Mack said, “But you want to travel, so why don’t you? You can.”

“Someone must run The Station. I can’t abandon it.”

Mack felt a jolt in his heart, and said, “I could do it.”

The small man said, “Do you mean that?” Mack nodded. The true work of the Occidental Rail Brotherhood was accomplished by spiritual passion, which provided the rhythms of their lives, and the means by which their journeys to distant destinations were fuelled. “Then you must be initiated. It will mean one year of much pain.”

“What do I have to do?”

“I will change this place into a tattoo parlour and we will begin immediately.” The crossing points of this world must be left open. He was pleased to have found The Station’s next keeper. He would ink him, and then be free to go.