The Fantail

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A school student is having problems with home life, and relishes her precious hours at school.

Submitted: September 28, 2011

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Submitted: September 28, 2011



The leaves tangoed across the grass, every now and then being flicked up by the breeze and then diving back towards the ground.  The trees watched in amusement, swaying to the music of the whistling wind.  The paddock beyond the field shimmered as lambs raced around and around until finally, faithfully, returning to their mothers to be fed. A fantail caused my focus to switch to the windowsill, where he had just landed.  He seemed to look longingly into the classroom. You don't want to come in here, I thought, you're free.  You can go anywhere.  The bird cocked its head and I sighed.  You don't know how lucky you are.  He wasn't kept in captivity by his own kind.  He didn't need to know a plus b, he just needed to travel between the two.  And he didn't need to be told how important it was for him to be himself.  He lived in the perfect world of anarchy, of liberty.  I shuddered as I thought of what would happen if humans lived like that – intelligence was a curse.  Although looking at our modern physical selves, our kind would be all but extinct without it.


I forced my attention back to class.  The teacher was talking enthusiastically, devoting his entire attention to anyone who would look him in the eye.  I tried to tune in to what was being said, but it really wasn't making much sense.  He might as well have been talking in Lithuanian.  I looked back at the window, but the bird was gone.  Strangely, I felt betrayed.  You left me.  I wanted to go with you.


I imagined what it would feel like to be lying in the paddock:  the breeze on my face, the warm spring sun on my skin, the grass pressing up against my back...  I longed for it so completely it almost felt like I was there.  Almost.  I could still faintly feel my body moulded into the chair and my arms resting on the desk.  Unwillingly, the barricade of my mind succumbed to the teacher's intent voice:  "...exams are only five months away!  November!  But you must remember – 'a diamond is a lump of coal made good under pressure'."  Why do we have to be coal in the first place?


Then the bell rang, signaling the end of class, but the students were already out the door.  I felt sorry for the teacher.  He was just trying to pass his knowledge on, that's what people did instinctively, didn't they?  In fact, all the animals I could think of educated their young.  However, I did question the relevance of some of the things we were taught at school.  I liked to question and challenge things, especially the way humans lived and how we enforced laws.  For instance:  who is to say that money dictates whether or not you can feed, clothe and support your own family?  Sometimes I wished we all belonged to small, self-sufficient communities in which the elderly were revered and the youth cherished; where every family helped every other.


I lingered in the classroom, but finally swept the papers, pens and books off my table into my bag and slung it over my shoulder.  I walked out slowly, reluctantly .  On any normal Friday I would have been eager to feel that little bit of freedom one felt when leaving a classroom - the more tedious the class, the sweeter the liberty.  On any normal Friday, I would have looked forward to my favourite feeling of freedom of getting off the bus on a Friday afternoon, after being at boarding school for a week.  This week I would rather be at boarding school than anywhere else.


I treasured the few, short, solitary journeys I had at school.  Walking back to my locker was one of them.  I could appreciate the magnificence of our planet uninterrupted, just for a while.  Recognising the insignificance of my life made me feel safe and secure – no one would remember if I failed a test, if I embarrassed myself in public, how I dressed or how I wore my hair.


Who do we live for?  We live to please the ones who care.  We go to school because our Government demands that we do so.  We try to do well in school because our parents and teachers encourage it – we might even get a reward.  Like a silver cup.  So we can toast to our successes?More like have it lying around in the house somewhere so our parents can be pleased when someone notices it, and cares.  We care because we have been taught to care.  I often wondered if I cared.  Despite my beliefs and opinions, I really did.  And I hated that.


Winning, achieving, succeeding.  It was nice to go up in assembly to receive a prize, but it also seemed really... insignificant.  When you looked at its importance, you would almost feel ashamed of the absurdity of it.  What was the real value of school?


Relationships, I thought.  Human relationships were as old as our existence:  older than two times six, older than English, older than inverse proportions.  At school we were faced with so many people, with a huge diversity of personalities.  Because it was a small community, I had relationships with most of my fellow students, and all of my teachers.  It was intriguing to get to know all of these different people, to find ways to get along with them, to find common interests.  I tried to make all of my relationships successful, to keep an open mind, to always be pleasant.  The hardest, yet most important, thing in a relationship was to be able to see it from the other person's perspective.  And it is hard.




I saw the fantail again - well, it was a different one, but very like the first.  It hopped along the lawn, pecking at the ground in search for food.  He was self-sufficient.  I watched him with such longing - I really envied his life.  Simple.  If you were hungry, you would find food.  If you couldn't find any, you'd starve.  Free.If you wanted to fly, you could fly.  Innocent.  Acting entirely on what you need - you would live life for yourself, but not selfishly.  You would die unloved, but no one would be hurt missing you.  Take me with you.

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