Head and Tails 3/3

By Drum Digital
16 November 2013

I walked back to my classroom with the roll of brown paper under my arm.

My hands were shaking badly. The pupils were all out for break now, running around in the sunshine or gossiping in groups or kicking footballs around. Many of them greeted me as I passed.

??Good morning, Mr Lecoge, sir!'' ??Oh sir, must that homeostatis essay be ready for tomorrow, sir?'' ??Sir, are you going to show us all those insects you got from Namaqualand? After break? You promised, sir!'' It was Justice Dube. Poor boy, he was going through such a difficult time. So I stopped to speak to him, despite my own difficulties. ??Of course, Justice. Those specimens are some of God's most amazing creatures. I'll tell your class all about them!'' I've always loved being a teacher.

It's what I was born to do. The sight of young people opening their minds, their eyes shining with interest: that's the most beautiful sight on God's Earth. And guiding young minds has been my greatest joy and privilege. Yet it was all going to be taken away from me: just so some foolish middle-aged headmaster could impress some young girl. Fury swept over me as I opened my classroom door. I sat at my desk, shaking. In front of me lay all the Grade 10 biology tests. And around them stood all the jars and bottles, filled with creatures I'd brought back from Namaqualand. They scurried about in fright inside their glass prisons.  How beautiful they were with their tiny legs and their delicate antennae! I found Charles Moloi's test paper and scattered

extra ticks around his writing so he could pass. His family needed something to feel happy about. Then I found Thabo and Tshepo's papers. I checked through their answers again. Yes, there was no doubt they had copied from each other. I took off 10 marks from their totals. Cheating is cheating and they must understand that! Perhaps it will help them grow up to be honest citizens. Satisfied, I put all the tests into a tidy pile.

Very carefully, I wrapped the papers up in the brown paper: not just one sheet, but seven. Then I put lots and lots of sellotape around the whole package. Even that was not enough for me. I found a box and placed the whole parcel inside it. I closed the lid tightly. Then I tied it all up with six lengths of string. I made knots that would take a long time to undo. ??Right, Mr Headmaster!'' I said, there in my empty classroom. ??You want my test papers? Well, here they are. Have fun opening them!''

The thought of our headmaster struggling to open my parcel made me smile. It was good to smile in the middle of all I was feeling. But you know, maybe our headmaster is right after all. Maybe I've become forgetful. Yes! Because one of my specimen jars seems to be empty! The lid's off! The creature that was inside has disappeared! Gone!

Where on Earth has it gone to, I wonder? I can't seem to see it anywhere on my desk! Parabuthus granulatus, that's its full zoological name. Guess I'll have to search high and low until I find it. Well, after I've delivered my test papers. Our headmaster seems in a hurry to have them! I don't want to keep him waiting. Yes, I'll go right now and dump this well-wrapped box on his desk. Right in front of him. And when I leave his office, I'll make sure the door is closed tightly. Then I'll come back to my classroom and search and search. I must find the specimen.

I don't want my Parabuthus granulates roaming free. That would be dangerous. Someone could get killed! After all, Parabuthus granulatus, or the granulated thick-tailed scorpion, is one of South Africa's deadliest creatures.

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