I’m doing something scary in 20 minutes. I don’t know if I’ll come back or not, but I definitely know that I left the fridge door open at home before I left. I also definitely know that I forgot to refill Blackie’s food bowl, and this means that when Grandma comes home and sees the dog make a mess on her S$500 antique rug she’s going to make meat pie out of Blackie. I think about the last thing that happened at home-Father and Mother bading me farewell at the doorstep. Father is putting a reassuring hand on my shoulder while talking about blabbity blab, and Mother is busy stockpiling bottles of Brand’s chicken essence and vitamin C candies in my pockets. All I remember afterwards is their gleaming faces and the flourish of flowery handkerchiefs as I sit back in the bus on the travel towards an inescapable fate. If you ask me, the only thing I regretted was not watching the latest episode of Sesame Street (I wanted to watch Big Bird ride the unicycle), because it was then that the letter had came and I wasn’t allowed to watch TV until the end of Time. “No, Johnny, you can’t. Now go back to your room and finish reading the nursery rhymes,’ Mother once said when I had demanded to watch Elmo’s World. On the TV had been a woman who had a lot of powder on her face and who was talking in a real boring voice (I can never understand why people just had to listen to those awful channels). Now that I’m on the bus on the travel towards an inescapable fate, I look around to look around at my fellow comrades. They are all clad in stiff, starched uniforms with water bottles strung around their necks and blue duck-caps fitted on their heads like mine-some are chatting with their friends, some are peeping into their lunchboxes and a surreptitious few are playing cards at the back of the bus. One of them looks at me with fire in his eyes, and I turn around and pretend to look out from the window at a cat moon-walking on the pavement outside. Grandma told me once about this kind of people-she told me that they were called ‘thugs’, and that if I were to ever meet them on the street I had to look away. As I watch the cat topple off the pavement and do a double flip-flop, I wonder if the thugs behind would smile if I gave them a Vitamin C candy each. Probably not, I guess.
It is then that the bus stops at an enormous building that is a hundred times bigger than my home. When we tottle down from the bus a smiling lady dressed in bright bright red who has a lot of red colour smudged on her mouth rushes towards us and smiles at us-her mouth thins and stretches wide to reveal a set of large and intimidating teeth. Behind me someone whimpers at the sight of that mouth. “Helllooooo children! Welcome to Sunshine Elementary School! Oh my, what wonderful and lovely children you are, my dears!” She screams while swooping down on us like an overgrown bat. “Today’s the first day of school for everyone of you, so I do so so so hope that you will come to love and enjoy every single day of your life here! Hee hee hee, oh… what wonderful children you are, my dears…” The lady smiles.
I stare at the intimidating building and the smiling lady in front of us. The thugs somewhere near are flexing their little arm muscles while looking at my pockets. Then something cracks inside of me. With a loud shout I surrender the packets of vitamin C candies in my pockets, and run straight for my life towards the entrance of the school.
Before me stands a formidable 30-metre tall metal gate with barbed wires aligned along the top of the gate. Behind me, the smiling lady says, “Welcome to Sunshine Elementary school, my dears! I am proud to say that this school offers the best boot-camp education in the whole nation…oh my, what wonderful children we have here…hehehe…”