I had the immense pleasure this week of observing by invitation a group of young students during a discussion on the importance of concentration.
Their roly-poly teacher held aloft a large blow-up of a photograph her son had taken only the previous morning. Then, one by one, she addressed her somewhat phlegmatic eight-to-ten-year-old students, as follows:
All right, children, quickly now. Take a good look at this picture. What does it remind you of? You first, Robert. It reminds you that you had no breakfast? That’s too bad, Robert, but that’s not quite the answer I was expecting.
How about you, Alvina? It reminds you that you are what you eat? That’s so true, darling. But it’s not what I want to hear right now. And you, Kennedy? Are you all right, son? Tell us what this picture brings to mind. Heartburn? How can a photograph remind you of heartburn? Oh, I get it, the cheese pizza. Have you been eating again at Bois Patat? I’ll give you another shot. No, no, Kennedy, dear. Not that kind of shot. Let’s leave that to the boys at Bois Patat, shall we? I’ll give you another opportunity to tell me what the picture brings to your mind. Cool ones, you say? And what precisely are cool ones?
How about you Emma? Does this picture remind you of anything special? Don’t be shy, now. Did you say toys? What kind of toys, dear? Bottle-shaped toys? There are no toys shaped like Coke bottles. Anyway, playing with Coke bottles is dangerous. You could hurt yourself, if one should break.
You’ve been so quiet, Poodal. You, too, Assjamer. Catamaran got your tongues? What did you say, Miss Rigidbutt? Emma was referring to a vexed toy?
Oh my goodness, Rigidbutt? What’s a vexed toy? Toys can’t get vexed. Ah, you said sex toy? And what’s that, my dear? What about this picture that reminds you of, er, sex toys? The Coke bottles? You must be thinking about boy toys and toys made especially for girls. Like Barbie dolls and toy cars and tin soldiers. Young lady, they are called gender-based toys; not sex toys!
Your turn, Phil, dear. What does this picture bring to your mind? Noffing? How many times have I told you there is no such word? Stick your tongue out, Phil, and say after me, slowly: noth . . . ing.
R-i-i-i-g-h-t. Noth-ing. Not nof-fing! Now, about our picture? You say it brings noffing to mind? Ohhh, Phil, you can be so silly at times.
All right, all right, my children. Teacher will now give you a hint. But you must promise to concentrate. As Mr. Derek Walcott says: you must train your eyes to see. What was that, Ms Eyezack? Your eyes are trained only to see essays? Do you see an essay in this picture?
Children, let’s forget about pizzas; Coke bottles and essays, too. Think harder. What else do you see in this picture? Good boy, Kalson. You see a roadside pizza shop. Very, very good.
Now take another look at the trees in the background, what do you see? No, no, Emma dear, that’s not a slot machine. Please try to concentrate. Did you see a sign, Phil? You’re always so good at spotting signs. Now what does this sign say? Good girl, Rigidbutt. It says “No Vending.”
So now, when we put it all together what we see is a picture of a roadside vendor vending pizza where vending is illegal. Right, class? Good. So again I ask you, children. What does this picture remind you of?
At this point seventeen grubby little hands fly up. Their young owners echo one another: “I know Miss. I know Miss. I know Miss. Ask me, Miss!”
“All right, then,” the teacher says. “Kennedy, you tell us what this picture brings to your mind? Our House of Asses? How many times have I told you it’s House of Ass-em-bly, Kennedy. Not House of Asses. Can you tell me why the picture reminds you of our House of Assembly, Emma?
“It reminds you of our House of Assembly because a pizza vendor is vending where vending is illegal. Just as our House of Assembly members habitually vent where it’s illegal to vent. Good girl, Emma.
“Does anyone know what people who break the law are called? Yes, Kennedy? They are called criminals and renegades and . . . Did you say lawyers? Oh, so sorry, Kennedy. You said ‘criminals and renegades and liars.’ Excellent, Kennedy. Excellent. Class, let’s all give Kennedy a nice round of applause.
“Now, if he can just bring himself to stay away from those bad, bad Leroy Browns at Bois Patat, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one day he should find himself elected Prime Minister of this Rock of Sages!”