Highly Commended Story - The School of Repairs
“The School of Repairs” by Emily Thompson, British International School Budapest, Hungary, is the Highly Commended story in the junior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Emily Thompson is a seasoned traveller. She was born in the UK but moved to Houston in the USA when she was five. Five years later, the family moved again and Emily found herself in Budapest, studying at BISB. Emily developed a love of reading from an early age. One of her all-time favourite novels is Anne of Green Gables and she is currently reading The Warriors. She devours fiction but isn’t so keen on non-fiction or novels with very long chapters. A love of reading and writing runs in the family and Emily’s Grandpa is one of the many inspirations in her life – along with her 13 year old dog, Diesel. Emily is currently planning her next book, which will be about a girl called Enid and what happens when her grandparents come to stay...
The School of Repairs
Smoke filled the air waking me up with a startling cough. I was used to waking up like this though. There had been a forest fire about a week ago. I remember the fire, people were screaming, evacuating their houses. I saw mothers carrying babies wrapped in bundles and men with buckets filled with water. Even though that seemed like ages ago, smoke still filled the air. It woke me up every morning, making me remember that terrible day.
Many houses had perished but our house was still standing strong. Families were letting people live in their houses, while the men built new ones. Two families had moved into our house, the Quires and the Diallos. All the children slept in one room while the adults slept in another.
In the kitchen it smelled of porridge and strawberries. Even though my family isn’t rich we are able to grow strawberries. You see my father was a farmer but my mother is doing the farming now, as my father is helping build new houses. I sat down at the table, while my mother served the breakfast.
“Kayla, eat your breakfast quickly and then take your brothers to school,” said my mother. I looked across the table to my 8-year-old brothers Ayo and Jayden.
“Don’t forget the Quires and Diallos,” continued mother.
I looked to the left. There were two younger girls, Sachi and Calandra Quire, and two older boys, Cayman and Jabari and a girl from the Diallo family. The girl, who was roughly the same age as me was called Jamila.
My walk to school has always petrified me, walking through the forest around Lake Quad that is home to the least friendly animals imaginable and of course going down the hill to reach school. However today with all the company, I felt I could do it all day (not that I don’t do it enough already). After we had finished the climb up hill Rocktma, I stopped to look at the view. This is my favourite place on the walk. The wind blows and sweeps up my long, brown hair and here is where flowers grow and the birds call from up above. Sometimes I feel like they are calling to me, telling me: everything will get better, things do, and you just wait and see.
“Now class, which snakes are dangerous and which are not. Please recite the poem we have been learning,” addressed Miss Amallo.
“Red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, friend of jack,” recited the class in unison.
I love nature class, where we learn how to protect ourselves if we were ever out in the open, alone. My favourite part is when we learn about flowers and how to make food for ourselves.
“Please proceed to your next class,” said Miss Amallo as the class stood up to leave.
I found Amaka in math class, her favourite class. Amaka and I have been friends since we were babies.
“It’s cold in here,” she said shivering. We looked up. The school had never been in good shape. The roof had been leaking for more than 50 years and the walls were in a pretty bad state.
“Don’t worry I am sure it will be fixed soon,” I said in the most positive voice I could manage. “I sure hope your right,” said Amaka.
Three weeks later, the Quire’s moved out. I missed Calandra’s jokes and Sachi’s bossy attitude. I ended up playing with Jamila for the rest of the week till she moved out too. When they moved out, I missed Cayman and Jabari’s arguments and Jamila’s big smile but my mother said to me I’d see them at school (not that it helped me though). I felt lonely that night in my wooden bed. I looked out the window and saw a shiny black thing, with round circles at the bottom of it. It was moving, trying to avoid my dad’s crops. I sat there gazing at the thing (which I found out later was called a car). It was beautiful. So shiny I could see my reflection in it. I figured out it was heading for school. I didn’t dare follow it so I just laid back down and fell asleep dreaming about the shiny, black vehicle.
DING, DING, DING.
What was that sound? I had never heard it before. Amaka and I were playing hopscotch outside. We were waiting for Miss Jalloh to shout that it was lesson time but instead we heard DING, DING, DING.
“What is that sound Kayla?” asked Amaka.
“I don’t know but everybody is going inside so let’s follow them,” I replied trying to sound brave.
“Mmm, Miss Jalloh, what was that sound?” Amaka and I asked.
“Well girls, our school is finally going to be fixed and given more resources. That sound you just heard is a bell. It signals that it is class time,” Miss Jalloh replied. She seemed very happy and was in a good mood. As we watched her skip down the corridor, we turned to each other and squealed.
“Kayla, Ayo, Jayden, wake up. I SAID WAKE UP. FOR THE LAST TIME WAKE UPPPPPPP!” Mother was getting cross, so I opened my eyes.
“Oh, thank goodness, you are awake,” Mother cried.
“Mother what is all the fuss about,” I grumbled.
“School is starting earlier and you are late,” she screamed. I jumped up and woke my brothers who were lying next to me. On the walk I ran up ahead to look for the vehicle I had seen that night when I couldn’t get to sleep. Just as I had hoped, there it was the vehicle at the top of hill Rocktma. It looked like it had been newly polished too. I stepped forward reaching out to touch the black metal but just at that second, my two annoying brothers caught up with me and started running down the hill.
“We will beat you to the bottom,” they shouted.
“Oh no, you won’t,” I replied running after them.
As soon as I walked into school, I sensed change. First of all, I felt warm, not cold and the door didn’t slam shut like it usually did. Instead it made a little shush sound when it closed. I walked down the corridor and bumped into a stack of paint pots.
“OUCH” I screamed.
A man climbed down from a ladder that was standing next to the paint.
“I am sorry,” he said sounding annoyed at himself. “It was such a mistake to put the paints there; I should have put them out of the way to make space for passing students. Oh, and I am Kevin, I’m helping fix your school. What is your name young lady?”
“Kayla” I replied.
“Nice to meet you Kayla, now run along before you miss your class,” he said cleaning up the spilt paint.
I did as I was told and ran off to class. I saw Kevin a lot after that as he was fixing our school. Amaka and I even got to help him with some of his work.
A week after my incident with the paint, Amaka and I have seen a lot more workers including: Alice, Craig, Sophie and Paul but Kevin is our favourite. They are all from England and are trying to improve schools all over the world including ours. The teachers chose us and two other boys, Taavetti and Daichi, to help the workers. First of all, we made them lunch. Second, we helped show them around and lastly, we helped them with small jobs to renovate the school.
The improvements to our school started with small bits of equipment like the bell, a whiteboard, some desks and an outside play slide. Then they looked at the walls. For years the walls have been crumbling and falling apart. There has never been any paint, just plain brick. The wood beams are worn and there are no windows anywhere around the school so we formed teams to solve these problems.
There were four groups and we each had a responsibility. Kevin and I (group 1), Amaka and Alice (group 2), Taavetti and Paul (group 3) and finally, Daichi, Craig and Sophie (team 4). Team 1 were painting the walls. Team 2 were fixing the leaks and making windows. Team 3 were fixing the wood beams whilst Team 4 were getting rid of the bugs. Our school was infested with creepy crawlies. They took up most of the space. A girl called Ki made friends with them. She would sit in the corner and name them, while telling them stories.
Kevin and I set to work straight away on the walls. The east side of the school was already finished as Kevin had done it the week he had arrived. That left the west side and the little crafts room at the back of the school. Amaka and I liked to hang out there and weave little baskets and pick flowers to put inside them. We sometimes would take them home and put them outside to make our houses look pretty as if a queen lived there.
I sat down next to Amaka and Kevin for lunch and started to talk.
“Hey Amaka! How far have you got with Alice?”
“We have finished mending the leaks but not the windows. Alice says they will finish them after school so school is being let out early. She said we will be working with you,” I am not sure if Amaka was happy or not and just smiled, though Kevin had a different reaction.
“Yippee, now the work will be done twice as fast, so eat your lunch so we can skidaddle.”
“What does skedaddle mean?” I asked.
“Skidaddle silly. It means quick.”
“Oh, okay, yes lets skidaddle then,” cried Amaka.
“How was today?” my mother asked.
“Oh, fine Ma,” I said.
“Hey, you have never called me Ma before,” My mother sounded shocked.
I just shrugged my shoulders before saying, “That’s what British people call their mothers.”
My mother laughed “eat your dinner, it’s time for bed,” she said trying to sound British.
We both burst out laughing.
The next day I walked into school and boom it hit me, the smell of lemons, the breeze and the smell of fresh paint. The new windows, the warmth and everything else. It was magical. Everything was new, everything was fixed. It was like I was living in a new world. The walls were the same colour as the sky. The smoke was clearing and everything was getting better just as the birds had said. I ran outside to see a flock of them passing by. I smiled as Amaka jumped on to my shoulders.
“Kayla, I love it. School is awesome! We did it,” she started dancing and running around in circles.
“Calm down Amaka and yes, it is truly amazing!” we both skipped to class holding each other’s hands.
I didn’t want to say goodbye. We had had the best time and now it was all over. I started crying, which made Amaka cry too.
“Bye Sophie, bye Paul, bye Craig, bye Alice,” we cried out.
Then we hollered at the top of our voices “Bye Kevin!”
“Bye girls,” he screamed back, a jolly grin on his face. A grin that comforts you, telling you everything is going to be ok. It worked its magic, as our crying turned to sobs which turned to big smiles.
It had been a month after the renovation and the best month of my life. I stood at the top of the mountain waiting for my brothers to catch up. The birds flew past, singing we told you so Kayla. I laughed. Just then my brothers came running up the hill.
“Race you to school,” I screamed.
“Oi, it’s not like you will win!” they shouted back with cheeky grins stuck to their faces. I laughed, while running down the hill at top speed.