Mr Wallace was a very grumpy teacher. He had been a teacher for 14 years and loathed every minute he was in the classroom.
Mr Wallace wasn’t the type of teacher to stand at the door and say, “Good morning, children!”; or even express a smile. He would sit at his desk, assign some worksheets and yell “shut up YOU!” at the slightest movement in the classroom.
The kids were absolutely terrified of him. For the most part they sat in silence, scratching our equations or frantic narratives with obvious plot holes. They barely asked a question or clarification out of fear of public ridicule and humiliation. On one occasion, while solving long division questions, a young boy named Oliver dared to ask the teacher a question. He did in earnest, though with some curiosity. As he approached the front desk, the words “Sir, how do I…” crept from his mouth. Without hesitation, Mr Wallace stood up from his desk and squealed “Sit down, you buffoon!” With tears crawling down his face, Oliver scurried back to his desk.
Mr Wallace wasted away his day yelling at kids that he had very little care for. When 3pm struck on the clock, he walked out of the class without saying a word and drove home to his empty house.
Why did he put himself through this pain? This writer finds it difficult to say. Mr Wallace never had any kids. He was never married. In fact, he had never had a girlfriend. He lived with a small dog, that he mildly despised. All in all, Mr Wallace was quite a disgruntled man.
One day, a small group of Mr Wallace’s students decided to play a prank on their grumpy teacher.
“He is such a nasty man,” said Cayla. “I think it’s time we taught him a lesson.”
“I hate it when he teaches math,” said Jessica. “He barely explains the equations! He just yells at us and says, ‘figure it out for yourselves, you filthy heathens!’”
Mr Wallace always had a way of coming up with interesting and grotesque little insults. Sometimes, it was a combination of wordplay: he would take your name and make a rhyme it with another word. For example, if your name was ‘Luke’, he would say ‘Lukey Pukey’ – much to the humiliation of his victim. Other times, he would identify some minor imperfections about your appearance. “Ergh! What is that horrendous stench coming from? Children, you must bathe more thoroughly in the evenings. My nostrils cannot stand such pungent odours.” All in all, the children felt horrible whenever Mr Wallace spoke.
“I have an idea”, said Isaac. “But no one can know.”
One Wednesday afternoon, the children sat at their desks bemused by a cavalcade of worksheets that Mr Wallace had handed out. One boy named Jack stared vacantly at a math problem. The numbers appeared jumbled and made zero sense to the boy. This was a common feeling among students; however, he feigned engagement and pretended to scribble his answers upon the page. However, Mr Wallace, as always, noticed as he notices everything.
“My boy, are you naturally slow or are you attempting to irritate me?” Mr Wallace asked with disdain.
“No sir, the questions are tricky,” confessed Jack.
“Tricky? Tricky? My friend, we have covered improper fractions over the last couple of weeks,” Mr Wallace asserted. “There is nothing tricky about these questions.”
“Yes, sir.” Whimpered Jack. “Sorry, sir. I will figure it out.”
“See that you do.”
As Mr Wallace wandered the room inspecting the children’s work, Isaac, Jessica and Cayla took this opportunity to set up their plan. It was simple. So simple, they could hardly believe they had thought of the idea. It was perfect.
There was only one thing that Mr Wallace appeared to like within the classroom. His coffee and his glorious coffee mug. The mug said “I hope you step on a Lego piece” – except, the word ‘piece’ was replaced by a red block of Lego. This was printed on both sides of the mug. Mr Wallace seemed to be ambidextrous, so regardless of the hand he used to drink the writing would always appear. The children thought the mug was rather clever, though only added further mystery to their teacher. All they knew was that he loved coffee and that mug.
While Mr Wallace was at the front of the room dealing with poor Jack, Cayla passed a note to Isaac, who was sitting three rows to her right. Are you ready? Isaac did not say a word. He just nodded.
Cayla stood up from her desk and walked up to Mr Wallace.
“Sir, I need to go to the bathroom.”
“Bathroom? Bathroom? Little girl, you have just had lunch.” Mr Wallace appeared incredibly confused. “Why would you need to go to the bathroom?”
“I would rather not say, but I must go.”
“Fine, leave us.”
Something peculiar was happening as Cayla spoke to Mr Wallace. Isaac had stood up, quickly nudged Jessica on his way, and tiptoed across to their teacher’s desk. The night before, the trio had collected a sample of small sachets of chilli sauce. One at a time, Isaac and Jessica retrieved the sachets from their pockets and poured them into Mr Wallace’s mug, careful not to leave any evidence behind. The sachets were squished into their pockets to be disposed of later. The perfect crime. Once finished, they slowly slipped back to their desk without a hint of being noticed by Mr Wallace, returning to work as if nothing happened.
Now, dear reader, you might be asking: why did no one else in the classroom notice this or even say anything towards this untoward behaviour? Why would they? This was an opportunity for the entire class to enjoy.
A short time after, Cayla returned from the bathroom and received a silent scowl from Mr Wallace. She slouched into her desk awaiting a response from her colleagues in crime. Jessica and Isaac looked at Cayla with a nod of approval. The deed was done. Now, they wait.
For what seemed like a long time, it appeared that Mr Wallace had forgotten his precious coffee. However, as the children stacked their chairs and cleaned the room and emptied the bins, their disgruntled teacher returned to the mug. He held it to his lips for moment, before saying “Okay, little people. It is three o’clock. You may leave.”
The children did not move. Normally, they ran out the door, desperate to evade their teacher’s horrid presence. Instead, they stood at the door staring at Mr Wallace as if he had said nothing at all. Mr Wallace appeared confused. It was like time had stopped altogether. He waited for a moment before bellowing “GO!” The children rushed out the door, both frightened and excited about what might happen next.
The last to leave was Cayla, who watched as Mr Wallace took a sip from his mug…