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I didn’t know if I should be happy or sad, or both. I didn’t even know if these were good marks or bad, but I knew that I was the topper of the class, because Master Gobsmack himself had announced that I was the topper, although not as happily as he would have, like, ‘Er… Junior here is the, er, has, well… you know, got the highest marks,’ that way. He hesitated before declaring the topper and said that he didn’t have any wish to announce each one’s marks, because if anyone is passing by he would think how old Master Gobsmack teaches about.
Master Gobsmack began to recite a poem, ‘Top’ by Henry Buffs, yet he eyed, every time, each student with grave eyes and once or twice even growled at Billy, who was the lowest in the class.
What is this oh God/ why is the world so sad ?
The world is so dark a place/ how bad! How bad! How bad!
Then Master Gobsmack told everyone to recite the lines and further added, ‘If you won’t, I won’t take the orals, I don’t think I want to shame myself again off such grades, to say these are my students…’
The world was so hearty place/ what has become of it ?
I will tell you what/ an ugly pit! An ugly pit! An ugly pit!
It was difficult to understand the poem. At least I found it difficult, because I personally liked science, and was the topper in just that. I looked at my paper where I had written my answers so hopefully. There were marks in red, here and there. That thing had brought tears to my eyes the first time I saw the paper, I looked around then and found everyone gasping and some even crying. Some had even reached Master Gobsmack on the platform, demanding an explanation. After that, when Master Gobsmack announced that I was the topper in the twenty marks test, my heart sank like a ship in sea, only my heart sank in the sea of both happy and sad and even confused emotions, if there is any like that. Anyway, I folded the paper neatly and kept it in my bag, at least I was the topper.
I sit against a wall/ that is so wide
I cry against a wall/ and another man came and asked for my side
I tried to imagine Ma, looking at the paper wide eyed and I telling her that I had topped it. I smiled at that visual, not noticing that Master Gobsmack was eyeing me. As soon as he caught me smiling he bellowed, ‘Master Junior Plump! There is no need to smile, these are the worst marks by standard, and I don’t know how the others got lesser marks than you,’
My smile dissolved into a smirk. The other day, Eddin had topped the English test and he had been greeted by claps and even Gobsmack smiled widely and said, ‘Very good, very nice, very intelligent, very good, very nice, indeed you have proved…’
That man was God/ smiling sadly and coming with a pop
He said don’t worry and don’t be sad/ because my man, you are on the top
I looked at Master Gobsmack, he would be happy of course, that I had topped, won’t he? I mean, whatever it maybe, I had topped and he can’t deny it. It wasn’t his right to deny. But I was confused, because every time someone topped a class test, there would be claps, congratulations and a feeling of triumph but there was nothing of the sort in me, I only felt sad and confused and there were no claps for me. I decided to ask him what the matter was after the class.
For the first time I smelt/ I smelt the smell of win
For the last time I thought/ I thought the feeling of doing a sin
Was this a sin then? Having being topped is a sin?
The bell rung and Master Gobsmack slammed the book hard and growled at all of us.
‘I really do hope you score better the next time,’ he said or rather warned. I was about to get up and ask for my, well, right but seeing Master Gobsmack’s mood and temper, I abounded the notion.
The day passed coldly enough and everyone had got the rift of the ‘marks massacre’ of Class B, so every teacher or master that came and went warned ‘I do want you all to get some decent score on, you know,’ and then every master or teacher looked at me and said, ‘Don’t be too happy for your marks too,’
Was I happy for my marks ever?
After the school, I, Billy, Stone and Devdas walked towards our home silently. There was nothing to say really, Class B had been put in turmoil after the ‘marks massacre’. Our respect was lost.
I walked silently towards my house, bid all of them goodbye and went home. Ma asked how the day was and I didn’t say anything, just gave the paper to Ma.
‘What is this? Oh! Your test paper, you did well, didn’t you Junior, I knew you… What is this? You got a… a…’ Ma’s reaction. She couldn’t even say what I got so I did it for her, ‘zero, yes,’ I said.
‘Zero! You scored a zero Junior!’ she said.
‘Yeah Ma and guess what, I topped with a zero,’ I said.
She gave me a confused look.
‘The others got their grades in negative,’ I told her. She thought for a while and then screwed her face, ‘But they at least got some numbers on their papers, you scored a zero!’ and stormed away into the kitchen. Yeah whatever, but I was still the topper, wasn’t I?