Illustration by Ghazala
TOMMY’S bag pack was always full of junk of all kinds, from broken pieces of wood, plastic, glass, jigsaw puzzles, bits of mysterious things and torn and folded pieces of paper, to tails of rats, claws of birds, teeth of strange creatures and the oldest, most worn out things that were only fit to be inside a dustbin.
However, Tommy thought of his bag pack as a useful asset and considered it his most precious possession. He filled it every day with any junk, useless or unused thing that he thought could be of ‘use’ to him. His precious possession was hidden in a secret place where it was beyond his mother’s reach and sight.
Quite strange enough, ‘Tommy’s secret bag pack’ as he called it, did come to be useful a lot of times because the careless and forgetful Tommy was used to losing new things or forgetting where he kept them, and every time he lost something, he always found or invented something new from the ‘useful junk’ stored in his bag pack to replace the missing item.
One day, when Tommy decided to do his homework, a thing which he seldom thought of, he couldn’t find his new pencil. “It’s the fifth pencil that I have lost this week!” said Tommy. “Never mind, I’ll surely find another pencil from ‘Tommy’s secret bag pack’.”
Saying this, he dragged out his bag pack from its secret place for it was too heavy to be lifted. He emptied it, scattering a pile of the oddest and dirtiest things on the floor.
After searching the junk for a while, he finally found a pencil. It was a strange pencil which somewhat looked like a quill, but Tommy was used to strange things. He placed the pencil aside, stuffed the junk back inside the bag pack and pushed it back to its secret place. The first homework was of chemistry.
He had written in his homework diary: “Answer questions 1-20 on page 37 of chapter two.”
“Solve 20 questions!” Tommy exclaimed, “How on earth will I do that?” Tommy didn’t have the energy to solve 20 questions so he decided to write anything that came into his head just to be safe from the chemistry teacher Miss Mary’s scolding.
Just as he touched the page of his chemistry notebook with the pencil, a strange thing happened. The pencil flew off from his hands, then landed again on the page and as quick as light, solved all 20 questions! Tommy couldn’t believe his eyes. ‘It’s a magic pencil,’ he thought, quite surprised as well as delighted at the idea. He had never discovered anything magical in his bag pack before. Now Tommy was dreaming how with his magic pencil, he would complete his homework daily without any mistakes and surprise all his friends and teachers and receive their praise.
He wanted to dance, but he decided to do his homework first. “Complete all my homework!” he ordered and the magic pencil solved all math sums, drew the perfect diagram of a frog in his biology notebook and solved the whole exercise of physics in a few seconds.
Tommy just couldn’t wait to go to school the next day. I’ll become a genius of my class! He thought.
The next day in school, chemistry was the first period. Miss Mary came and the first thing she did was check the homework which except Tommy, everybody had done wrong. Tommy couldn’t wait for his turn. When Miss Mary came to him, she asked, “Have you done your homework, Tommy?”
“Of course I have!” said Tommy loudly so that everyone could hear him.
“Well, let’s see,” she said peering over him above her spectacles, quite shocked. She checked his notebook with a most astonished face. Then she put it on his desk, glanced at him as he puffed with pride and announced to the class, “Tommy has answered all his questions correctly!”
There was a gasp of disbelief from the whole class as Tommy swelled with pride.
“Now Tommy,” she said, “I would like you to answer me a few questions regarding this chapter since all your answers are correct so that the others can listen and write the correct answers in their notebooks.”
Tommy was horror-struck. The ground seemed to have slipped off from under his feet. Before he could say anything, Miss Mary posed her question clearing her throat, “Explain Amaedo Avogadro’s molecular theory.”
Tommy shivered as the whole class stared at him. At last he managed to stammer, “I… I… I forgot...”
“You forgot?” said Miss Mary putting off her spectacles. “How can you forget so soon, Tommy? Only yesterday did I give you this homework,”
Tommy didn’t know what to say. “Well, I must say,” said Miss Mary at last with I sigh, “that you have a very bad memory, Tommy. You should eat almonds every morning. I’ll write a note to your mother in case you forget.”
Tommy was horrified at the idea of his mother receiving a note from his teacher about a ‘bad memory’. The class ended after a while and Tommy prayed that the next lessons wouldn’t be disasters like chemistry.
The biology and physics lessons weren’t disasters thankfully; the biology teacher didn’t check her homework and the physics’ teacher only praised Tommy and didn’t ask him questions ‘to prove his intelligence’ as Tommy thought.
However, math was again a disaster, in fact a nightmare. Miss Kate, the math teacher demanded her complete homework notebooks as soon as she entered the class. Again, Tommy was the only one who had answered all his math sums correctly or whose sums were magically solved correctly.
Miss Kate was quite amazed to see Tommy suddenly do so well at math and commended him, “Very well, Tommy. All questions correctly solved!”
Tommy hoped she would say no more but his heart gave a skip when she added, “that’s why,” she rubbed the blackboard then turned to Tommy, “please come and solve question 16 and 17 on the blackboard so that the whole class can know the correct answers and solve these two questions in their notebooks.”
Solving a math sum on the board in front of the whole class! This was even worse than giving an answer directly to the teacher! Tommy was dumbfounded as he thought of an excuse.
He finally said trembling, “Sorry, I can’t. I… I… don’t know how to write with a chalk on the blackboard.” The class burst into roars of laughter.
“Silence!” exclaimed Miss Kate suddenly becoming stern, “What an utterly nonsensical excuse, Tommy! Come here and do as I say!”
But Tommy could never even think of solving a math problem on the board and insult himself. He gave her all sorts of excuses he could invent until she finally said, “You’re acting very strange, Tommy. I’ll write a note to your mother about your odd behaviour.”
And as Tommy stood there in utter horror, the class ended.
What happened at home when Tommy’s mother received two notes from his teachers, one about his ‘bad memory’ and the other about an ‘odd behaviour’, I’ll leave that to the reader’s imagination. The result was that ‘Tommy’s secret bag pack’ was discovered and thrown away at once with all its contents, but Tommy also learnt to do his homework using his brains and he gradually did become a genius as he had dreamed, not because of any magic pencil but because he had learnt to use his brain.