When the Clock Struck Five

        Story by Thasneem A.

 (Thasneem is blessed with excellent creative skills. Her writing tasks have been unique due to the brilliant use of imagination in them. She was the Head Girl during the academic year.)       

                       Anne was really busy with the project she had to complete within that period, when her Arts teacher came in. ‘May I have your attention please’, said the teacher. ‘Ha… you may have it’, said Anne as she was searching for her pencil. ‘There is an inter-school drawing competition’, the teacher said, ‘to be held at the Esebelia Art Gallery tomorrow evening at 5:30pm. Each school can be represented by two of its students. From our school too, we need two. Those interested may raise their hands’. Almost ten hands went up.  When the teacher noticed Anne’s hand missing, she asked, ‘Why Anne? Aren’t you interested? You draw really well, right?’

           ‘Well, you see Ma’am, am really busy these days. I don’t think I would be able to participate’, she prevaricated. ‘Oh Anne, you need not practise anything. All you have to do is go there on time and draw the kind of picture they ask you to.’ ‘But Ma’am…’, she cried. ‘Please Anne, if you win, and I’m sure you will, it won’t just be a matter of pride for yourself, but for the school too’, said the teacher in a polite manner. She was not ready to accept anything all of a sudden. That was her conduct. She wanted others to press her and ask her on and on. ‘Just think about it’, said the teacher and went.

           If none were there, Anne would have jumped up high, for such were her feelings then. Inter-school competitions were not bad after all. You get a bunch of certificates and trophies if you win. And she was sure to win.

           She reached home earlier than usual, for she was running all the way with joy. ‘Mummy! Mummy! This is the luckiest day in my life..!’, she said throwing her bag away. ‘Oh.. Is it?’ asked her mother, without paying much attention. ‘Yes Mom’. And she narrated the whole thing exaggerating now and then. ‘And you know Mom, the teacher almost touched my feet, requesting. Well, she was lucky because I was wearing my new shoes. Or else her hand would have turned muddy’, she snickered.

          That night was a restless one for Anne. She drew and drew until all her pink papers were over. She had neither her lunch nor her dinner that day. ‘They would be amazed to see my drawing. And they would be stunned to know that am just 10 years old. And…’, she murmured to herself. What would I draw? What would be the topic? Will there be enough place for me to keep my things? – these were all thoughts that came to her mind. Anyway, she had to go to bed early, or else she would not be able to get up on time.

        Her mother was shocked to see Anne awake when she got up at 6:00am the next day. That was Anne’s passionate sleeping time and her mother used to struggle to wake her up. ‘Why so early Anne?’, asked her mother. ‘You don’t seem to know more about this competition, Mom. It needs practice. And that’s what I am doing here’, she said huffily.

         When she was having her breakfast she asked her father, ‘Do you have any idea where the Esebelia Art Gallery is? You won’t, am sure. After all, you only know to reprimand your boss and to cook pasta, which Mom taught you yesterday. Nothing else…!’ She swallowed a big piece of bread and said,’ You ought to learn it anyhow, for you have to drop me there today evening. I have things to do’. Her father could barely control his temper. The first time in his life to be humiliated in front of a small girl! ‘And why on earth should I drop you there, huh?’, he grunted. ‘I have my competition there’, she explained briefly and got up.

           That day till afternoon she was drawing, for she felt she was running out of practice, which according to her was of no use though. And at last she got up when the clock struck four. She started dressing then. She chose her second best frock and had it on.

            But she was crestfallen for she did not get any call from her teacher or her friends. That was strange. She was one of those representing their school and they don’t even care to call and inquire about her. Ha… I will make them pay for this once I win, she swore.

            She rushed to her father’s room and told him to drop her. She ran out of her house and got into the car and started playing her favourite song ‘Bobby smile’s baby cries’. Her father too got in and off they went.

            When they reached Esebelia Art Gallery she could hardly hold her breath. It was just… fantastic…! She saw the trophies too. They were colossal. Even Uncle Jack would not be able to lift it up, she thought. She got out of the car and slammed the door, leaving her poor father almost ready to explode.

            She straightaway went into the Gallery and saw an invigilator guiding the participants. Little did she know.  She ran to her and asked almost politely, ‘Er… Do you know where I should go?’. ‘Your name please’, the woman asked. ‘Oh sorry… I’m Anne. Anne Jones. Well at home they call me Anne and at school they…’, ‘Well that’s all I need’, the woman interrupted. ‘Now let me see… Hmm… Well… But… I don’t see your name here. Are you sure you are a participant?’, asked the woman, mystified. ‘Yea of course am there. My teacher implored with all her might yesterday’, said Anne, who turned a bit nervous. Her heart throbbed.

         The wall clock struck five and she saw Laurie, her classmate, running towards her, calling out, ‘Hey Nanny…’. Anne turned to the woman and said, ‘Well, that’s what they call me at school’. Laurie was panting when she reached Anne. ‘See, you are not participating Nanny… Ma’am said that you weren’t interested and she chose me and Liza for this. You can go back. Bye’, said Laurie and sped off. ‘You see dear, this place today is just open for participants. Methinks you should have to go back. Sorry’, said the woman and guided Anne to where she really had to go.