Fiction in response to Quality Education
By Colin Yuan
CC Image courtesy of Manfred Huszar
The boy got up especially early today. He has been looking forward to today for almost 2 months now. The local school in his village is hosting a literary festival for the children, giving them a chance to read classic books and meet authors from the city. Unfortunately, the boy only has an hour to explore this festival before he needs to help his father on the rice fields, so every second of this hour is precious to him. The boy’s family is one of the poorest among the many families in the village. They live in a small wooden cabin near the fields with only a bedroom and a kitchen. The boy dreams of going to school someday, but it’s never going to happen since eating dinner every day is already a major problem along with paying rent for the family.
The boy is a little different from the other children whose parents also cannot afford to send them to school. He doesn’t play hide and seek or jump rope with them, nor pull pranks on the neighbors, instead, he looks for used books and old magazines on the streets to read. He loves literature and it completely changes what he knows about the rest of the world. The only problem is that his family cannot afford to buy books for him to read.
After the boy came back from the literature festival, he went straight to the rice fields to help his father. It’s mid-September, the rice harvest season and the busiest time of year for his family, and his father wants to make a good profit this year. After hours of hard-working on the fields, the boy was exhausted, body completely wet with sweat. He sat down on a rock and decided to take a quick break. As he turned around, something caught his eye in his neighbor's house. Books, shelves, and shelves of books! Oh, the boy was thrilled!
He thought to himself:The days of looking for books on the streets are over! But, how I am I going to get it?
My father would not let me borrow them from me, harvesting rice is top priority!
The option is clear for the boy, he had to steal them.
Night arrived, darkness provided the perfect disguise for the boy to steal the books. He went over the plan again over his head and left his house quietly, trying not to make the floor squeak. He got in without anyone noticing, success! He picked only three books so they would not notice. The boy hurried back to his house with the books, filled with joy. He couldn’t wait to read them, so he lit up a candle, set it on a table, and dived right into the book. By the time he had finished reading it was almost two o’clock in the morning. The candles had a great impact on his eye strain, but he did not mind. By the time he had finished, he was tired, but also satisfied.
A month has passed, the boy has read almost two hundred books and he’s mastered the entire literary curriculum. He can read more difficult books with more challenging vocabulary. The boy’s desire to read more books grew stronger and stronger as his knowledge expanded. He wanted to know more, he wanted to read more books.
It's another typical night for the boy, except it's quite windy, but that wasn’t going to stop the boy from stealing books. As usual, he sneaked out of his room quietly and climbed over the window.
Let’s see, Charlotte’s Web or Little Women? Charlotte’s Web. The boy heard footsteps, with each one getting louder and louder. His heart raced, even he could hear his own heartbeats.
It’s over, he thought.
A man flipped the switch. The room was lit; it was so bright that the boy had to squint to see the man. He was quite old, probably in his fifties. The wrinkles on his face are very noticeable and he has a humpback, too. His arms were crossed, furious at the boy. The boy was scared. Tears traveled from his eye down to his chin. He knew that if his father knew about this, he would beat him. And that’s what happened, the man kicked the boy out of his house and told his father about what happened. The boy was badly beaten by his father, he could barely walk the next day. Everything is over for the boy; he’ll never get to read anymore.
“Knock knock.” The sound came from the window.
The boy got up and looked at the window. It was a girl, and in her hands was a book. He looked more closely. Charlotte’s Web, he read. He waved her to climb in.
“Hey, I’m your neighbor, the man is my father. I’m here to give you this book.”
“Really?” the boy looked at her with disbelief.
“Yes, the book is yours now. I saw what happened to you last night; it was horrible. So please, take it, it’s yours now.”
Tears dripped down from the boy’s eyes.
With sincerity, the boy said “Thank you.”