The Surprise Gift (2)

Jim had never been particularly good friends with Frank. In fact, just before Frank had time off school for a week’s holiday in Florida with his family, they had been in been in trouble with Mrs. Jones, their teacher, for fighting in the dinner line.

It was a huge surprise, therefore, when Frank returned from his holiday to announce that he had bought a souvenir present back from Florida especially for Jim. “I don’t know why he’s done that,” Jim said to the boy who sat next to him. Frowning deeply he rolled the pen round in his fingers, only half listening to Mrs. Jones explaining the class’s homework. It was a rather splendid-looking fountain pen with a delicate, soft grip and the word “Florida” written in red, white and blue letters down the side. It felt solid – heavy and well-made – and wrote with a smooth, flowing blue line. Creasing his brow again, he murmured, “Maybe it’s his way of saying sorry after that fight we had.”

“Jim Davis, stand up!”

The sharp tone in Mrs. Jones voice made him jump. He stood. “Have you been listening to a word I have said?” she asked. Jim looked at her blankly. He didn’t know what to say. “I have asked you three times now. What’s the matter with you this morning?” Jim still did not know what to say. His eyes cast around the room for a clue. He hadn’t been listening. He had been thinking about his pen. Wondering… He rolled it round in his fingers, nervously.

“I’ll take that,” she snapped, and snatched the pen suddenly from his hand. At the very moment she did so, a great fountain of black, foul smelling liquid squirted out of the top of the pen into Mrs. Jones’ astonished face. There was a sudden silence in the room… No-one breathed… What was going to happen now? Why had Jim done this to Mrs. Jones? The good girls in the front row were shocked. Some of them felt like crying when they looked at their teacher – black ink dripping from her chin and down on to her beautiful silk scarf which elegantly set off the dark print of her dress.

Jim didn’t understand.

He knew that he hadn’t done anything. It wasn’t his fault. However, he could see that he was going to get the blame. Standing there next to Mrs. Jones, and with twenty-nine pairs of eyes looking up at him, he had never felt so alone.

Picking up a handful of tissues, Mrs. Jones dabbed her chin and wiped her face. “I just need to go the staffroom a moment, children,” she announced. “Please get out your reading books and read.”

As she was about to leave the room, she turned to Jim. “Go to Mr. Rothwell’s office,” she said, and left.

Jim knew very well that naughty children who were sent to the head teacher did not enjoy the experience. And he could see that, from the teacher’s point of view, this was way beyond just naughty…

He dared not think what would happen to someone who had covered a teacher with black ink – black ink which stank! Tears pricked his eyes and began to trickle down his cheeks even before he had set foot outside the classroom on his fearful journey to the office.

Perhaps surprisingly, despite the terrible event that had occurred, Mr. Rothwell listened to Jim. He listened as he was told about the pen, about Jim’s surprise and about what had happened the week before. After telling Jim to sit down and wait, Mr Rothwell left.

Only later did Jim learn that the head teacher had gone straight to his classroom. Mr. Rothwell knew about boys. His experience had given him a rich understanding of their ways. And it had not taken long before a cheerful and confident Frank had become red in the face, tearful and had admitted that the ink in the pen had been intended to cover Jim – an act of revenge for the fight and one which had so seriously backfired. For a few moments, Frank had thought that his plan had worked out better than he could possibly have dreamed – that a Jim in trouble with the head teacher was even better than an ink-splattered one. It had been tremendous fun. But now it was Frank himself that was in trouble and, all too quickly, he realised that this was not going to be any fun at all.