The receptIonIst walks me In, “ThIs Is Mrs BIgnell.” A short, bony, bIrd-lIke woman zooms down to my level and says “Hello, JennIfer sIt down here, you’re very welcome” In saccharIne tones. The classroom Is large and square shaped wIth cubby holes formIng the dIvIdIng wall, there are bean bags and corkboards. It smells strange and new.
I look down and all I see Is faces, they look up at me momentarIly, one or two wave and then look back down at the paper on theIr desks. I sIt and hug myself, It’s not cold but I feel lIke I need a hug. BIgnose (as I had soon branded her) Is talkIng agaIn: “So today we’re goIng to have a lIttle test.” Test, ugh, frogs start jumpIng up and down In my stomach. I decIde to chew on my lIp.
“All you have to do Is change the passage from third person to fIrst person. Now, don’t forget to do your best handwrItIng and most Importantly don’t forget your capItal I’s,”. Okay, no problem.
PencIls scrIbble furIously and my tummy begIns to calm down wIth the cathartIc effect of puttIng pencIl to paper. I’ve always been obsessed wIth wrItIng my name repeatedly on a blank page, as If I am practIsIng my autograph or somethIng. I put my sIgnature at the top rIght hand corner and begIn.
FIrst sentence : “She lIkes to go swImmIng”, hmm lots of I’s. As per her InstructIons I change them all to capItals. I try to wrIte fast so the other kIds don’t thInk I’m slow. The speed has the added bonus of creatIng smudges on the page and dIrty hands, both of whIch convey sIgns of my genIus and fastIdIous devotIon to the task. By the end my page reads lIke a badly planned cItyscape wIth stepped skyscrapers juttIng up every few letters. It looked strange, even to my seven year old eyes. But teacher saId capItal I’s and teacher Is always rIght. It’s my fIrst day, I need to make a good ImpressIon. I need to do what she tells me. “TImes up”, I hand her my sheet wIth a toothy grIn.
A note arrIves home a few days later. I fInd myself branded as “confused”, and yes I am confused. My parents are laughIng at me. I scowl as I always have done and grab the page from Dad, threatenIng to tear It up. My beautIful page Is now reduced to a source of rIdIcule and dIsgrace. “ Jen, calm down”, he says, I snort and look at the floor. “Not every ‘I’ has to be a capItal”. I scowl agaIn, he’s stupId and wrong. “ Teacher saId”, I say and I stIck out my tongue and head for the garden.
Our fIrst garden was massIve, wIth three levels and hIlls to roll down. It also had the huge tree whIch held the nest of kItes that swooped down when we threw salamI. I grabbed a fallen part of a banana tree (we called them duck ducks because they looked lIke they had duck heads on them) and swIshed It, enjoyIng the whIstlIng noIse It made In the aIr. I went down to Apollo and the bonfIre. PIles of palm tree leaves and branches, pIled hIgh. The smoke stung my eyes but I loved the smell. He looked at me, “rubbIsh?” he asked, takIng the page. I smIled and nodded.
Chaelio Thomas is a writer from Dublin, Ireland with a strong family background in County Wexford. She is a graduate of UCD, gaining a BA in English and Geography, an MA in Drama and Performance Studies and an MA in Creative Writing. She was shortlisted for RTE’s 2010 PJ O’Connor radio drama competition, a participant in the Fishamble 2012 Playwriting Mentoring Programme and has had creative writing pieces published on headstuff.org. She mainly writes poetry and short stories at the moment. She tweets @Jenanifur