Mokhoddis School Days Episode II
A gigantic nimbus cloud rested over Golden Hills. A squirrel took refuge from the biting wind by huddling inside the Maple tree that sat outside of class E. The maple had half-yellow and half-green leaves as if it was fighting to stand its ground against the changing season, only it was slowly losing its ground. As winds blew, the leaves danced, suspended in the air for a second until finally fluttering to the ground as to signify the acceptance of death. Students, with their scarves around their necks and beanies covering their heads, trudged to class with great effort as if a horse was dragging a cart full of rocks out of a muddy river. Principal May yelled at the top of her lungs for students to get to their classes.
“It was another dreadful Monday at Golden Hills Academy.” Mokhoddis thought.
“Alright, class! I know all of you want to huddle up in front of a fireplace and drink hot chocolate this week, but we, unfortunately, still have some work to do!” Mr.Deyoung slid a drawer open and grabbed some supplies. “For this week's assignment, I’m going to give you something relaxing. You’re going to be releasing your creative juices out of that bottle and letting them flow to wherever you want them to lead.” Mr.Deyoung walked around the class passing out canvases and paint brushes. Mokhoddis watched the squirrel resting outside. He wished his life was as simple as the squirrel. No homework, no chores, and no responsibilities. But the squirrel has to worry about having enough food for the winter or else it will starve. Maybe the squirrel’s life wasn’t as simple.
Mokhoddis scanned the classroom. It was emptier than usual for a Monday. A third of the class was absent. Did they catch the flu or did they just want to skip school? Phet was trying to open a bag of crackers while failing each time. His chubby fingers slipped from the bag. Phet got angrier as his fingers grew more oily with each attempt. He let out a whine in frustration. Mokhoddis found it amusing watching Phet struggle. In front of Phet, Josiah sat still, leaning on one hand, with a smile on his face while waiting for the canvas. Even motionless, Josiah radiated his charm across the room. Mokhoddis narrowed his eyes. He turned to the right of Josiah. There, Rubina sat with an open book on the table while she rested her cheek on the right hand. Every few seconds, Rubina would look up at Mr.Deyoung and nod to his instructions, but every few seconds, she would also peek at Josiah. Rubina tried to juggle listening to Mr.Deyoung,reading her book and taking glimpses at Josiah.
“This guy can’t go two seconds without having a girl stare at him.” Mokhoddis rolled his eyes.
Behind Rubina sat Nina. She had her left hand in hoodie pocket and held a no.2 pencil on her right, doodling on a sheet of paper. She had earbuds on one ear while the other hung loose, leading inside her pocket. Was she also trying to multitask like Rubina?
“Alright, I passed out everything you need for this assignment. Sooo.” Mr.Deyoung jumped in front of the blackboard and started writing. “For this week’s assignment, You will be symbolizing a scenario where your creativity has led you to overcome a daunting obstacle. It can be anything. For example, did you have a fear of heights while hiking on a mountain trail? Maybe you decided to imagine the cliff as part of a video game background that mitigated your fear. Well, you can symbolize this in your painting and how you overcame it.” Mr.Deyoung lifted the marker and rested it near the blackboard.
The class followed with silence.
“Cmon! Where’s the energy class? Are none of you excited to paint?” Mr.Deyoung slammed the table in an attempt to get the class to wake up. The slam sent Phet into shock. He opened the bag of crackers, sending them flying on his desk. One of them fell in Josiah’s head. Phet noticed Mokhoddis staring and gestured to him to stay quiet.
“I have some exciting news actually.” Mr. Deyoung fixed his glasses. “ As you know, this Friday is Golden Hills’ annual farmer’s market. The farmer’s market is held every Fall at the townhall to celebrate the harvest of pumpkins that come from the vast fields that surround our little town. And this year specifically, we apparently had a great harvest. So the mayor is planning to host an art contest to bring the community together.”
“An art contest? That’s the mayor’s great idea? Couldn’t we have a paintball contest or something?” Mokhoddis thought to himself. He looked across the classroom. Rubina now sat straight, with her book closed, only attentive to Mr.Deyoung. Nina took off her earbuds, and sat attentive with her notebook closed.
“Are these guys really getting excited about an art contest? What are they five?” Mokhoddis giggled to himself.
“Anyone can enter their artwork into the contest. Three winners will be chosen, 1st, 2nd and 3rd. And of course, I want one of you guys from class E to be on that list.”
The whole class whispered to each other. They seemed intrigued by this. Mr.Deyoung held his fist up in a cartoonish manner “Now, I want to encourage all of you to enter, so.” Mr.Deyoung paused. The class looked at him in anticipation. “I will be giving free hot chocolates to whoever enters their painting into the art contest. Does it sound like a fair deal?”
The whole class celebrated. Mokhoddis watched them as they cheered. What are they cheering about? To Mokhoddis the value of a hot chocolate was not enough to persuade him to tackle a daunting task such as painting. Even just the mere thought of painting made Mokhoddis want to swap places with the squirrel outside.
“Mr, Deyoung, Mr. Deyoung, Mr.” Phet flapped his hand in the air.
“Yes Phet” Mr. Deyoung pointed his finger at him with a comical pose, holding canvases in his left arm.
“So can I paint about the time Mokhoddis and I set the SpaceMan record in all of Golden Hills using our teamwork?”
“Yes, that’s a great idea Phet. I’m sure yours will be a strong contender for the contest.”
“Mr.Deyoung, please don’t butter him up. Phet is terrible at anything that requires elegance and focus. Plus I did 90% of the work in SpaceMan, all he did was shoot when I told him to. How is that teamwork?” Mokhoddis took a shot at Phet.
“Mokhoddis! What did you say? At least I can paint better than you.” Phet was angry.
“That’s because I don't try? And what’s that cracker doing on Josiah’s hair? The only one I see eating crackers at 8AM in the morning right now is you Phet”
Josiah reached over to his hair and grabbed the cracker.
“Sorry Josiah.” Phet apologized while smiling. “Your hair looks better than Mokhodis’ hay bale even with crackers on it.”
“What did you say you cabypara?!” Mokhoddis retaliated.
“Alright, you two, that's enough. I better see both of you make up by lunch.” Mr.Deyoung interrupted.
“Mr. Deyoung” Rubina raised her hand in a gentle manner.
“Don’t worry about them. These two fools are always fighting. Anyways, when is the due date for this assignment?”
“I would like to say it's due whenever your brain juices tell you it is, but it is due by class on Friday. Of course, after getting your points for the assignment. I want to see you hang it up in the art contest too”
“Hmm, I have piano practice Mondays and Wednesdays, and a volleyball game Thursday so I’ll have to work on the painting on…” Rubina muttered to herself.
Mokhoddis was never intrigued by painting unlike Phet or Rubina. “There are no rules or logic to painting.” He saw no purpose in translating what was in front of him into a downgraded version of it on a piece of paper.
What is the point of painting? Phet would say, “The point is to enjoy it, life is full of stressors and painting is a good way to visualize those stresses.” but Mokhoddis saw no enjoyment in an activity that had no levels to beat or any problems to solve or any patterns to figure out.
“Mr. Deyoung, how will the art pieces be ranked?” Josiah stood up.
“That’s an excellent question Josiah.” Mr.Deyoung pointed at him. “There will be three judges. One being the mayor himself, another being your principal May, and the third is someone we don’t know yet.”
The class muttered hearing that principal May was going to be judging.
Josiah sat back down, unlike Mokhoddis, Phet, or Rubina. Josiah was indifferent to painting. Though he did not dislike painting, it was not an activity he would actively go out of his way to partake in. Nonetheless he was still a star student in whatever he did, a perfect rival to Mokhoddis yet, he did not see Mokhoddis as competition as Mokhoddis saw him.
“Now if you don’t have any more questions, for the rest of the class I want to give some tips on how to paint. First of all we must establish the primary colors and…” Mr.Deyoung’s words faded to Mokhoddis. “Eh? The squirrel was gone.” Mokhoddis thought it was hibernating, but it seemed to have moved. “Did it go deeper inside the tree? Did it get swooped by a hawk? Or did it simply leave the tree?” Mokhoddis peeked through the window. The squirrel was in the ground now. Two class B students were feeding a group of squirrels. The squirrel Mokhoddis was watching earlier had joined them. “Maybe the life of a squirrel isn't so bad.” Mokhoddis pondered.
“Alright, that’s it for today's class and I better see you all at the art contest.” Deyoung waved the students goodbye as they all walked out.
Rubina approached Phet while he was discussing with Josiah something she could not hear. “Phet.” She called out.
“Yes?” Phet turned around, now facing her.
“Did Mokhoddis say anything to you?”
“Say anything? About?”
“About this painting assignment and painting in general.”
“Hmm… I don’t think so, we don’t really talk about school that much.”
“I see… Thanks.”