Welcome to the Spot Writers, bringing you your weekly dose of flash fiction. This month’s prompt is to write about waiting in line, making it as interesting as possible.
This week’s story comes from Dorothy Colinco. Check out her blog for fiction, books reviews, and book news.
by Dorothy Colinco
She pretended not to feel the eyes that were examining every inch of her. She could feel their gaze on her slightly scuffed shoes and no longer white-bright but still neatly-folded socks. She remembered the fraying hem in the back of her skirt toward her left side. Before she could stop it, her right hand flew to her left elbow, feeling for rough bumps but instead feeling smooth skin, thankful that she remembered to put lotion on this morning.
Most of them tried not to gape and whisper, though she almost wished they would so she would have some reason to feel the righteous indignation she felt. Some stared with dreadful pity in their eyes. She couldn’t blame them — of course they were curious. This was the line for students who couldn’t take final exams because they hadn’t paid tuition or book fees.
Why was she standing here? If she had been in their shoes, wouldn’t she gape as well?
It was natural to wonder why the daughter of the founder of the very school they attended had to, one, pay tuition in the first place, and two, miss exams because she couldn’t afford it. It was unjust, yes, but mainly bizarre. She was the main attraction in this circus of an act in which students were summoned in the middle of taking an exam to stand in a long line of shame. It was all too third world. If she were back in the States, teachers would be severely reprimanded for mentioning that she had free lunch provided by taxpayers.
They were to either bring a check to the registrar or sign a promissory note. “I promise to pay X amount on X date.” Her classmates joked about that English word. “Promissory – it means I PROMISE I’ll pay; Sorry!” She didn’t even have a check to fidget with for the benefit of her peers.
Through most of this, she held her head high, intently studying the health advisory poster on the wall covered in a sheet of protective plastic.
Some of her peers couldn’t filter their reactions. “You have to pay?” What was worse were the reactions of the ones coming to her rescue. “She’s just like one of us.” What they meant was that she was down-to-earth, that she didn’t see herself as above them. But what she heard was an indictment. She heard that she was a fraud, carrying the founder’s name but not having the bank account to back it up.
The first time this happened, she thought it was a clerical error. Surely someone would catch it, or at least after she waited had waited in that excruciating line, they would see her and say, in a slightly panicked voice, “Oh, what happened? You weren’t supposed to be on the list!”
But when her turn came that first time, because she always waited her turn, never using her name to cut corners, skip lines, or —apparently— avoid paying tuition, the registrar saw her and, with a veiled expression, asked her to sign a promissory note, never once making eye contact.
That first day, she waited until she was home to start crying from shame and embarrassment, begging her Nanna to please pay her tuition on time. “Rice comes before tuition, Anak.” That word of endearment for a young child made her think of her father, a great man, rich in character and virtue but poor in silver. He had chosen a Spartan life for himself and, consequently, for his children.
After the promissory note was signed, the pink copy for her Nanna stuffed into her pocket before, she hoped, her peers could see, she made her way out of the registrar’s office, walking past everyone else still in line. She was careful not to run, but she still walked quickly to avoid having to stop and talk to anyone. She arrived back at her desk, where several of her classmates raised their heads before focusing their attention back on the exam.
She took her pencil and picked up where she left off. Now that her eyes were on her paper, she felt other classmates steal one last look at the founder’s daughter, back from delaying the payment of a debt.
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com
CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/