Youth can dream without purpose. It is one of its greatest charms.
Jacques sat daydreaming in his history class with eyes half-closed. He was a perpetual back bencher and that suited him fine because he found it difficult to concentrate for more than 20 minutes, especially in history. The last bench permitted him the luxury of escaping into a world of fantasy, unnoticed. It was a world where he was always the hero and could do things he would never dare to do or say in the real world.
Jacques, 17, was a sophomore at Lakeside High School in Kingsville, Montana. He was a lanky guy with a freckled face and reddish brown hair. Though he wore braces on his teeth, his big brown expressive eyes and a well-sculpted nose classified him as cute. He did not excel in sports or studies or anything in particular but he had an affable charm that was endearing.
He hated history passionately. He just could not fathom why it was important to remember when and where stupid wars had started and how and why vicious power mongers had slaughtered each other. Remembering innumerable birth and death dates of people long dead was a real ordeal. His history teacher said that it was important to study history so that people did not repeat their mistakes. But, according to Jacques, no-one had learnt anything from history except to repeat it. This philosophical pondering convinced Jacques that the subject was a complete waste of time.
“In which battle was Napoleon killed?” asked Mr. Grumpton, the history teacher, nicknamed Grumpy by popular vote.
Grumpy was a short, stocky, bespectacled man who appeared like someone straight out of a 60s movie. He wore an old fashioned checkered tweed suit with an open necked shirt. His short, thick neck balanced a semi-bald head that was covered with greying hair. His beady eyes and moustached pout protruded from his round face.
“Ask Jacques, he should know. He is French,” someone shouted from the back of the class.
Now Jacques did not have anything French in him except his name. As the story goes, his father wanted to name him Jack when he was born but his mother thought that Jack was too commonplace. She wanted something different for her little bundle of joy. So they settled for Jacques, the French version of the English Jack.
“Jacques, are you paying attention?” thundered Grumpy.
Jacques was shaken out of his blissful reverie by Grumpy’s penetrating voice.
He fumbled and stood up.
“Errrrrr……..perhaps his last one,” Jacques answered earnestly.
The class erupted in spontaneous laughter.
“Very funny!! Leave the class, NOW!” Grumpy growled.
Jacques was used to this routine. He picked up his backpack, partly relieved, partly delighted to escape this torture and sauntered out of class.
Just as he was about to skip down the stairs to the cafeteria, Jacques bumped into his long time crush, Emily, and his heart missed a beat.
Writing order: Tulika Saha (Ind), Linda Alley (Aus), Griffin (Aus), Ken Burns (NZ), Roseyn (Aus), Roseyn (Aus), Gabrielle Burt (NZ), Donna McTavish (USA) Suraya Dewing (NZ), Hemali Ajmera (Ind)