The taxi stopped in front of me. I knew him. It was Sudin, John’s uncle. I was sure about it. John was my friend but we were not too close but still I knew his uncle because his uncle was the only one working as a taxi driver and taking care of him. Sudin looked unhappy. As usual, he took me back home if there was no bus. For a while, it was in silence then he told me what had actually happened to John at the school.
John had trudged across the entire length of the field and still, no one had asked him to join their team. The Physical Education teacher was exasperated. He needed the class to get into five teams to play the game but none of them would take John as a team member. As the minutes ticked away, the mesomorph-body-type teacher started berating the class for not cooperating. Standing in the blistering hot sun with the teacher’s harsh words raining on them, the students felt their dislike for John even more intense. John was left with no choice but to stand apart from the class, as he always had, and subject himself to the humiliation of burning hatred.
Back in the classroom an hour later, angry voices filled the air as they were raised in condemnation of the boy they sneeringly called ‘the tortoise’. It had never been clear why they chose to dislike John very much but the very sight of his pudgy body and stuttering voice had been enough to turn the class off from the very first day he was introduced to them. Suddenly, the excited voice from the class prankster, Jim rang out above the din. He had a plan to punish John! The class began clustering excitedly around him.
The next day dawned bright and early as the class boarded the bus for the field trip to Kundasang Memorial Park. The class was in high spirits as they were keeping the secret that they had planned right down into the details. The park was a beautiful stretch of green, peppered by numerous tombstones dedicated to the war heroes. John was hypnotised by the picturesque vista of the park as he had lost in his own world ignoring his classmates’ sudden disappearance.
Some time later, John made his way back to the bus. What greeted him was a lonely bus, standing at the asphalt parking lot with not any single person in sight. He found it was very odd. He thought only the teacher would not be there because attending some arrangements at the park office. Where were his classmates? There were no people on the bus, but engine was roaring and their belongings were there. Suddenly, a sudden shiver and fear gripped him and John began running about the park shouting for his classmates.
All this time, hiding behind some shrubs, a hundred metres away was his delighted classmates. They were so besieged by the success of their joke as they almost fell over with laughter. Some even congratulated Jim for remembering that John had a terrible fear ever of loneliness as his entire family was killed in a car crash. Suddenly, someone shouted “Don’t run towards the road!”
John was running helter-skelter in the direction of the road some eight hundred metres away. The unbridled laughter now gave way to shocking silence as they realised that John could not hear them. What they saw was unfolded like a movie in slow motion as a container truck appeared on the road and John was running towards it. None of them could ever forget the sickening scream that tore from John or the screeching of brakes of the truck that attempted to stop itself from crushing John’s body. It was a scene that indelibly imprinted in their memories as they were struggling with the guilt of literally driven John into death.
John’s uncle was very disappointed. How could John’s classmates do something like that to an orphan? But what had gone let be by gone he said. Uncle Sudin then sent me to the home safely. My regular experience taking a taxi became weird with that confession of Uncle Sudin who had lost John in a tragic accident.