Just like in The Girl Who Paints Butterflies, this one was also sent to enter the same competition. This one also failed to get any award. Therefore, I am posting this here to seek some ideas on how to improve this. Please send me a comment once you've read it. Thank you.
Oh, another thing. DO NOT republish this anywhere else. You may save it if you like, but only for private offline reading. Do not post this anywhere else.
I sat in the garden, with a book as thick as a telephone directory in my lap, being bored out of my wits. Sipping on a cupful of tea, I watched as my little girl played with her little girl friends. I could almost remember a time so long ago when I used to do the same. Back then though, it was mostly dolls and tea parties. Nowadays they play the 'who can read the fastest' game, which was unthinkable in my time. If someone suggested that we play a reading game when I was a little girl, I probably would have laughed at her face, assuming I didn't whack her head with my Barbie doll for talking nonsense first.
Sometimes I wondered if we're putting too much pressure on these kids. When I was at the same age, I could barely identify roman letters, much alone read. With kids these days, they learn reading, writing and counting even at the age of four, some in two or three languages at the same time, and proceed with more advanced education the moment they entered primary school. I couldn't help but feel like we're pushing these kids to mature too soon. Whatever happened to kids being kids? The next thing we know, the government may end up having to lower the legal age because kids keep getting pregnant.
God, I sure hoped that it won't happen to my Chibi.
You'll watch over her too, won't you?
I looked up from my reading. "Yes, sweety?"
"I won again! Third time in a row, Mama Min," she shouted full of joy.
"That's wonderful, dear. Play nice!" I said as I returned to the bulky, boring book in my lap.
Now they're learning about peer competition early too. I just hope that they know when to stop.
There, finally done writing the review of the damn book. I can't believe that such a boring book was ever published. Don't get me wrong, I love books just as much as the next girl, but works like these made me feel like getting a flight ticket to whichever hole this author lives in and strangle him to an inch of his life. That would teach him not to prolong an obviously boring plot. I don't mind if it's important to the story, but ten pages just to talk about how much a dog likes roses, the same dog that got shot at for trespassing after a few chapters? That must've been the lamest excuse for thickening a book.
500 pages of pure nonsense. That must've been my new record.
Unfortunately, I had to write a favourable review, pointing out the strengths of the book, which I was hard-pressed to find among the plentiful flaws that defied description. I wondered how this could actually be a New York Times Bestseller. Showed how much very favourable reviews could sell a book that nobody would want after two chapters. Sometimes I hated my job, I didn't think I'd ever be that good.
Sent. That was the best I could do with such a lousy book. I wondered if the editor actually read the book that he assigned me to review. I love reading very much, but books like these made me question my own career choice. Regardless, it paid enough and I could read plenty of books for free, which was the first reason that I applied for the job.
"Mama Min, I'm going to school now," said the little girl with pigtails in a pinafore at the entrance of my workroom.
"Come give mama a kiss before you go, sweetheart," I said while opening my arms wide.
She came closer and kissed me on the cheek as I hugged her softly. "Do you have your lunch, sweetheart?"
"Yes, it's in my bag," she said as she pointed to her larger than life bag.
How can anyone be so cruel to ask these kids to carry such big bags? She was only seven for goodness sake. Good thing that at least someone had the brains to sell schoolbags with rollers attached. I didn't think my Chibi would be able to carry that bag with her small frame.
Remind me to petition for lockers in the next PTA meeting.
I escorted her out of the house to a waiting car nearby. Our neighbour, Mrs. Hasmah was standing next to it, fussing over her children's appearance. She had been ferrying our kids to school since the new semester started, since she also had a daughter in the same year as Chibi.
Another reason I chose this job was so that I could be close to my little girl at all times. Poor girl, lost her real mother at birth, lost her substitute mother when she was four and her father was rarely ever home.
"I'm home." came the voice of a little girl from the hallway.
I was cutting onions and my eyes were watery as I cried, "I'm in the kitchen, sweetheart".
Chibi came in as I was washing my hands.
"Welcome home, sweetheart. How's school" I asked as I dried my hands.
She said in a low voice, "We got a test today. I don't think I did very well".
I looked at her and I saw that she was really upset, so I hugged her softly and said, "It's OK, sweetheart. A person's worth is not based on how good they answer tests. You'll get another chance to get good marks and next time, I'm sure you'll do better than this one. So after lunch, you will finish your homework and start studying, won't you?"
She cringed, as she knew that it was an order, not a request. I found that persuasion with a cheery face and friendly tone worked much better than a scolding when it came to telling kids to do something. I still had to train her for a while to recognize that signal though.
I kissed her forehead and said, "Now go upstairs and take a bath. Did you run a mile or something?"
"No, but we have Physical Education today. We played football," she said as she turned to leave.
I raised my eyebrow at her back. Football? If I played that when I was a child, my mother would've scolded me and called the headmaster in the middle of the night asking why the school asked her daughter to play a man's sport.
As we had our lunch, we chatted about many things. My day, her day, the neighbours, the neighbour's dog and other non-related things. I always found out a great deal about my little girl as well as the school she went to. Apparently, that same day, one of the teachers was given a leave for saying racist things. That was rare nowadays. Back in my day, teachers could say racist and politically-incorrect things any time they wanted, since students were too timid to report it. Nowadays if they did that, they might just as well prepare a coffin for their careers.
My husband rarely had lunch with us, even on weekends. He was always busy with work. I understood that his job demanded him to be away often and for long periods of time, but I hoped that he would have some time to spend with Chibi.
Oh, Lydia. How did you do it last time? How did you get him to take some breaks to spend time with his daughter? What should I say? What should I do?
It's wasn't out first fight, we've had many similar fights. Most often it started when I asked him to take some time off and spend more quality time with Chibi. Sometimes it was about household funds, sometimes it was Chibi's grades, sometimes it was about something so trivial such as what to have for dinner. Sometimes it was just an act to get us hot for ... some midnight activities.
This time though, it started when I told him of Chibi's most recent grades and suggested that he should spend more time with her. I guessed I never should've asked him to spend time with her while talking about her grades in the same minute, as he totally blew a gasket.
"You're at home, you're supposed to ensure that she's getting top grades. I don't care about your integrity and honesty crap. People only look at grades nowadays. You want to go to a good school, they look at your grades. You want to go to a good university, they look at your grades. You want to get a good job, they look at your grades. You want a promotion, they look at your grades!"
I kept silent. I was practicing a technique taught by a friend whose husband was a compulsive shouter to diffuse the situation. It was so hard though, to remain quiet. With every word he yelled at me, I felt my control started to slip.
I said in a barely controlled voice, "Do you want to push your own daughter to suicide? You want your daughter to suffer the same fate as that Indian girl?"
He glared at me, as I glared back. He then slapped my head hard that I almost fell, "Are you so stupid that you're using that in an argument"
He grabbed my hair and pulled my face close to his, and shouted right at my face, "Stop using lousy excuses, you're the one staying home all the time, you're responsible for her education. It is your job to ensure that she got good grades".
I kicked his femur, unsuccessfully trying to loosen his grip on my hair, "Chibi's just a child, she has the right to be a child, and she misses you greatly. If only you would spend some time with her, it would've been better".
"So now you're blaming it on me? And stop calling her Chibi, her name is Diana. Get that into your small head, it's Diana, it has always been Diana!" he said, while his hand attempted to pull my hair off my scalp, or my head off my neck.
"I've called her Chibi since she was four. Until she said otherwise, she's Chibi to me", I said while digging my fingernails into his arm.
.... There is more of this story ...