Fantasy Fiction posted May 26, 2013


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
almost too fantastical to be true ...

Too Many Birds Are Singing!

by visionary1234

Ambition Contest Winner 




















 "No! No! Stop asking me to read more! Too many birds are singing!”

Seven-year-old-Tommy slaps his hands to the sides of his blond head, defiantly covering his ears. Then, with perfect timing born of long practice, he quickly uncovers them for just one more daring moment. “You’re a pig, teacher!” And before anyone can say “Jack Robinson!” he covers them up again.

Miss Montgomery, the short, round woman sitting across the desk from him, opens her red-lipped hippopotamus mouth in surprise and a vein pulses under her temple like a small epileptic snake. The snake pulses even faster when Tommy starts to hum a tune – one he made up himself, and is quite proud of.

No more birds, not a word, no more birds, not a word …”

Repeat, ad infinitum, and it has the same effect as the Chinese water torture. Tommy screws his eyes tightly shut and that is that.

The classroom is antiseptically clean and bare of everything except the spartan essentials – one large desk, two wooden chairs (uncomfortable), one storybook (open, monochromatically illustrated, totally out-of-date), and two pencils (#1388-2/HB, with erasers) sharpened to deadly perfection, arranged precisely parallel to the width of the open book.

I know this, because I watched Miss Montgomery carefully arrange and re-arrange all of the above – much as she would have attempted to re-arrange herself for a highly anticipated hot date forty years ago when, believe it or not, she was young.

But she’s no longer young, and she’s not actually a pig, or even a hippo – though Miss Victoria Montgomery has definitely been likened to both by many an ungrateful student. (Most of them would only have thought it, though. They wouldn’t dare defy this fiercely rotund ball of a woman in the flesh). So far, in her long and spectacularly unsuccessful career as a remedial teacher, Tommy has been the first one to call a spade a spade – or a pig, a pig, to be truly accurate.

Today, however, Miss Montgomery bears more of a resemblance to an explosive fruit – a tomato, specifically. Did you know that, scientifically speaking, a tomato is officially a ‘fruit’, even though we think of it as a vegetable? You might also like to know that it belongs to the ‘nightshade’ family, many of which are deadly poisonous. Our observation of Miss Montgomery, therefore, is cannily accurate.

Tommy is still singing.

Victoria Montgomery is short of stature, disagreeable in personality, and long on years – a decidedly nasty combination. I’ve heard people call her ‘dumpy’, even ‘frumpy’ – both of which rhyme quite beautifully and are entirely true. Miss M, however, has never been guilty of listening to anyone else, and she secretly holds an image of herself as being rather glamorous, exotic - even striking - and she dresses accordingly.

Priding herself on a certain colorful savoir faire, she favors the most intense red – truly a volcanic vermilion - and today’s outfit reflects that bold choice. Large frills cling to her more-than-ample bosom, following the even larger curve of the rest of her beach-ball body down to her white dimpled knees. In short, she resembles an effulgent ruffled tomato – yes, that fruit-but-really-a-vegetable.

Regrettably, Victoria is not so generously endowed with teaching skills. She leans swiftly across the desk now, fiercely grabbing little Tommy’s hands so she can project her booming voice into his small, perfectly formed ears. “No to YOU, Tommy Jones, you rude little shit! The only birds you hear are in your own stupid, stupid, STUPID bird brain!”

And with that, she slams the storybook shut, marches to Tommy’s side of the desk and shakes him till his head almost falls on the floor. He temporarily forgets about birds because he’s fascinated by Miss Montgomery’s exotic red feather earrings, which are being sucked dangerously close to the twin hairy caves of her large, noisy nostrils.

Tommy will never forget that moment. Neither will his mother who, hearing raised voices from where she sits waiting in the reception-room, barrels through the door just in time to save her son’s precious head from bouncing across the floor and rolling down the steps to the school playground. That could be problematic - soccer is extremely popular this year!

Mrs Jones has no choice but to grab the boring-and-way-too-thick’n-dull storybook off the desk-top and she delivers to Miss Montgomery a mighty thwhack on her head.

The unfortunate mass of remedial red frills collapses to the floor in a strawberry-jello heap, which continues to wobble several seconds after final impact. Even the desk gets a fright as Miss Montgomery tumbles south, and it jumps a full six inches to the left. Who could blame it? I’m sure you would have a similar reaction if you’d seen Miss Montgomery’s latest acquisition – scandalous scarlet lace underwear, thong style. And very uncomfortable it looks, too. Victoria should definitely have kept that one a Secret.

“Mommy!”

Young Tommy Jones leaps into his delivering angel’s outstretched arms.

Mrs Jones could well be mistaken for an angel. She is pale and quite beautiful, with haunting blue eyes which right now are alive with concern.

“Oh Tommy, my magic child,” she sighs as they sit together on one of the uncomfortable wooden chairs. “Are you okay?” Her soft pearly-pink lips brush the top of Tommy’s head. “All I ever wanted is for to you to be able to read, like all the other little boys and girls. This lady was supposed to be helping you. I’m so sorry!”

Poor Tommy, you see, has A.D.D, or more correctly, A.D.H.D – Attention Deficit Disorder, or Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s a very fashionable diagnosis these days. Basically, it means he’s a squirmy little boy, like most other little boys, and has trouble learning to read.

And those birds singing in his head? Well, that’s simply a way of saying that there are too many interesting and overwhelming distractions around for him to be able to focus on the job at hand – reading.

Aaah … but speaking of distractions … let’s get back to Mrs Montgomery.

Of course Mrs Jones checks that Mrs M is still alive. After all, in a previous life-time (which she can’t recall, naturally), Tommy’s mom was a nurse in the Crimean War. At that time, her name was Florence, and she had a fascination for small, sweetly singing birds. And lamps.

Victoria Montgomery is still splayed in the recumbent position, groaning a little, mouth agape. At least she has truly excellent dental work.

With her underwear on glorious display, she wallows up, spluttering on red feathers. She isn’t at all polite. But then again, neither is our brave Mrs Jones.

Tommy, being the stoic little lad that he is, simply chalks it up as one more Bad Teaching Experience. He hopes in his heart that one day, he’ll make sense of all those funny black squiggly squares, circles and runny things in the books his mother loves so much. After all, he doesn’t want to disappoint his mom. One day …

And so Tommy and Mrs J keep dreaming ... for three more long, frustrating years.

Did I mention that there’s no Mister Jones? No, Tommy doesn’t have a dad. Well – once upon a time he did, but not anymore. Mrs Jones had to explain to Tommy about Heaven.

But today, my dears, all that is going to change – though no one knows it just yet. Shhh! Here they come!

Sweet Mrs Jones climbs up her front steps, balancing a large brown bag of groceries on one hip as she gropes in her handbag for her keys. Tommy, much taller now, is beside her. He is ten years old, remember, and growing quite strong. So he is able to hold another big, brown bag all by himself.

“Allow me,” says a rich, mellifluous voice. It sounds just like marshmallows should taste – sweet and dreamy. Tommy’s mom turns around and comes face-to-face with the owner of this voice. He is very tall, very strong and very, very smart. He reaches out and relieves Mrs Jones of her groceries while she unlocks her front door.

“Hello there,” he says. “I’m Jack. I just moved here last week.”

Mrs Jones blushes. “I know,” she says. “I saw you.” She suddenly feels a little breathless. “Nice to meet you, Jack. I’m Teresa.” She laughs and it sounds like the silver tinkle of fairy bells.

She reaches out and touches her son on his shoulder. “And this is my son, Tommy.”

She really is quite, quite beautiful.

“Hello, Teresa. Hi, Tommy,” says Jack, with a friendly grin. “Teresa, I’ve been talking to the neighbors, and they mentioned that you might need a little help teaching Tommy to read.”

Teresa’s sweet blue eyes mist over. She rather likes Jack, but of course she can’t say anything just yet.

“A little?” She smiles sadly. “Yes, you could say that.”

“Well,” says Jack. “May I help? I’m rather good at this sort of thing and--”

“Everybody always says that!” Tommy interjects.

Aaah, but I’m not everybody.” Jack is absolutely correct, and he continues. “And … I’m not going to charge you a single cent. So there!”

Of course, this sounds too good to be true.

Oh I’ll just bet there are some cynics out there who are far too anxious to tell Teresa and Tommy that if something sounds too good to be true, it is, right? Well, sometimes, my cynical friends, you are just plain wrong.

Tommy knocks on Jack’s door every afternoon after school (which he hates, but he tries his best). Jack invites him in, and together they sit and--

You thought I was going to say “learn to read”, didn’t you? Nope. They play games! Shapes. Sounds. Sequential memory.

Tommy is delighted because he loves to play games and he’s very good at them. No teacher has ever played games with him before – ever, ever, ever.

Remember I mentioned that Jack is clever? Very, very clever? Well, as luck would have it, he just happens to be a neurologist, amongst other things. That’s a brain doctor, right? You have to be enormously clever to do that.

But as it turns out, Jack has not always been enormously clever. Oh, no …

“Did you know,” says Jack one afternoon, as he and Tommy and Teresa are munching their favorite granola bars and dipping them in milk, “that when I was your age, Tommy, I couldn’t read?”

“No way!” says Tommy, disbelievingly. He helps himself to another granola bar. (He is especially fond of the ones with lots of chocolate chips and raisins).

“No. Not a word,” confirms Jack. “And those darned birds drove me crazy!”

What?” says Teresa.

Tommy knows exactly what Jack is talking about.

“I hear them too!” he says, excitedly.

“Hmm …” replies Jack mysteriously. “Have you noticed them singing much lately, Tommy?”

Tommy pauses, and thinks. “Well … no … not really …”

“Do you still think you can’t read?”

Tommy looks doubtful.

Jack plucks a book from his bookcase and hands it to Tommy.

Hesitantly, Tommy sounds out the title: “Too Mmmmany … Birds Are … Singing”.

Mrs Jones nearly chokes on her granola bar.

“What’s it about, Jack?” Tommy is curious, as they’ve just been talking about birds. He doesn’t even notice that he’s read five whole words by himself.

“It’s about me,” replies Jack. “And it’s about one young, really bad teacher I had, years ago, when I was only seven. She was always yelling, telling me I was dumb. But you know what?”

Tommy shakes his head.

“She was the one who made me smart.”

Tommy wrinkles his nose in disbelief. Mrs Jones’ eyes are as round and blue as Wedgewood dinner plates.

“Yep,” says Jack. “I decided to prove her wrong. I wanted to learn to read more than anything else in the world. So I did. And now I’m the world’s best teacher.”

But Tommy is already miles away.

He’s reached Page Three … all by himself. 










 



 
 


Ambition
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1999 words and a nod, of course, to that wonderfully quirky Roald Dahl
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