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The Old Hunchback
“The last one there is a rotten egg!” shouted a boy.
Charging towards the old school house, they push over one another, resulting in some of them ruining their cashmere sweaters by falling into the wet mud left by the receding snow. The ones that fell into the mud pick themselves up, and begin to rapidly chase the other young men. Arms flail left, right, up, and down. The sound of their feet hitting the ground, creating the sound of stampeding horses, and the shrills of frantic children fill the air. This phenomenon lasts for a whole two minutes, involving ten to fifteen energetic youths. Naturally, no one person wins; multiple young men reach the school house at the same time.
A choir of voices shout: “Winner, winner, chicken dinner.”
“Hey, you didn’t win! I won!” follows.
Through all of their commotion, the old hunchback with the lazy eye slowly creeps out of the school’s toolshed. All of the young men stop in their tracks to stare at the hunchback. One boy even drops his lunch on the ground in astonishment. People rarely spot the hunchback; he mostly spends his time hidden in the shadow of the school. As he slowly hobbles across the field to the big bell, one young man takes the lunch that fell and hides it in his leather bag. The hunchback grabs a dangling rope and pulls it with all of his might. As the bell rings, the students come back to reality and notice what happened.
The faces of the young men turn gloomy at the thought of re-attending school, which implies enough work to make one’s head spin. The army of young men walk through the old school doors and into the building. Each educator sent a letter by horse to their students, informing them whose class they will attend. As the students walk through the hallway, they carefully examine the names on the doors, which indicates the educator’s classroom. The students enter their assigned classrooms with displeasure and discomfort, and the first day of school officially begins.
The hunchback with the lazy eye creeps back into the toolshed, his home. He sits down on the dusty mattress that lays on the floor and begins to work. Although his job is to maintain the school, he often has time to himself, which he spends making wood carvings. Inside of the tool shed, on a wooden shelf he erected the previous week, rests three wooden carvings: a mad bear, a child holding his mother’s hand, and a resting tortious.
His employer asked him to makes bricks that can be used to build new houses near the school. These new houses will increase the enrollment rate, putting more money in the educators’ pockets. The hunchback preforms this laborious take while humming a song from his childhood. He always sings that particular song in his head while he works; it makes the work go faster.
He sings while working, taking only a few breaks to use the outhouse. The singing causes
him to lose track of time, and he realizes that he was supposed to ring the bell fifteen minutes ago to signal the beginning of recess. The second he realizes his mistake, he quickly hobbles towards the bell. He takes a steady hold of the rope and begins to pull with all of his might. A little after the bell rang, the students begin to pour out of the back of the school like overflowing water in a dam. The hunchback gives a sigh of relief, he knows that recess is only thirty minutes long. If he had kept the children waiting any longer, they would probably run out of time to play. The toolshed is adjacent to the playing field. As the hunchback with the lazy eye limps back to his home, something slimy and wet hits the side of his face. By using his left hand to wipe it off, he realizes that someone had thrown fresh mud at him.
He looks up to find a crowd of children staring him down. One heavy child with red hair walks up to the hunchback. The young man shoves the hunchback backwards, causing him to fall on his bottom.
“Is there a reason we are late for recess?” impatiently asked the student.
All of the children realized what had happened; they missed half of their recess because the hunchback failed to ring the bell on time. The hunchback attempts to stand up again, but he is pushed back down by a hurtling rock.
“Hmm? Anything you want to tell us?” asked the child.
The boy has his arms crossed over his big chest and just smirks at the hunchback. Again, the poor old man attempts to stand up to retreat. Unfortunately, another young man comes up from behind and hits the hunched part of his back with a large, thick branch. The man screams in pain, and that very scream motivates the other children to take action. They encircle him, and begin their ritual. For the remainder of their time in recess, they beat the old man with their fists and their feet. A female voice rings throughout the school yard. It is the voice of a teacher calling the students back to class. She is unaware of the practice that has been occurring for the last fifteen minutes. If she had known, would she have done anything?
The children retreat into the schoolhouse and the hunchback is left alone to bleed in the field. He attempts to stand up again, but falls back down on his bottom. Yet again he tries to stand up, and again he falls. Finally, on the third attempt, he manages to stand up. Walking with a worse limp than before, the old hunchback eventually reaches his home. He goes inside and sits down on the mattress. Cuts, bruises, and blood cover most of his body. The blood stains darken the colors of his only shirt and pants. After properly fixing himself up, he begins to cry.
His crying wails fill the toolshed and the schoolyard without so much as a single sound. As the children leave school to return home for supper, the old man patiently waits in his house for the children to leave. He listens carefully to the sounds of the outside. Then, when only the sound of wind can be heard, he opens the door and steps outside. To his surprise, he finds a straw basket holding hot sour dough bread laying on his doorstep.