I knew it. I shouldn’t have eaten that bowl of sweet, sour and spicy noodles last night. I was enjoying an outing with my friends yesterday, and after a long day of vigorous sports, I was famished. When we had walked past a roadside stall proclaiming that they served the ‘Best Noodles in All of History’, the tantalising smell of roasted meat wafted out from the humble booth. I couldn’t resist the urge to eat.
My friends and I walked in and ordered huge bowls of spicy curry noodles with lemons and sweet, tangy, mouth-watering pork. The food was so good. Like water to a dehydrated man stranded in the desert, we attacked our meals with gusto. It was only after every single drop of soup had been slurped up that we noticed the state of the ‘kitchen’. Even if it was possibly the best food I had ever eaten in the history of my life, the hygiene of the place probably dated back to the time of the Black Plague.
We stared in horrified silence as the cook, whose face was obscured, coughed into the rusty pot while flies hovered over the food. Rats scurried about and left droppings on the chopping board. I wasn’t sure what scared us more: the potential food poisoning, or our inability to see what had been going on until after we had eaten. There must’ve been black magic at play or something! Shuddering, we paid and ran home, gagging as we went.
I wish I could say that it was just a horrific experience, that I could attend classes the next day looking totally glamorous and physically none the worse for wear.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t.
After a night of endless vomiting and spending an hour in the toilet in the morning, I sat miserably in the assembly hall at school, listening to our principal drone on about how, as students, we must take pride in our illustrious school and make every effort to spread its good reputation. He made the exact same speech every week, and by now I could recite it word for word, yet he forced us to sit in our seats the whole time and insisted that we listen with bated breath.
Normally, I could fake it; today, I tried.
I really tried.
Sweat rolled down my forehead as my stomach churned. Every second seemed to last an hour. In addition to his normal passionate speech, he now included, of all days, a long spiel about how students should give our fantastic, top-grade teachers gifts every two days. This was a topic he showed more enthusiasm and interest in than all the years he had spent teaching my class. He even delved into the details, comprehensively listing what we could buy them in addition to the ways we could serve them.
I had drunk some water earlier in the hopes of settling my stomach, but now my bladder was also acting up, so every time the words ‘make coffee’ or ‘buy Starbucks’ came up, I was forced to train myself in the much-needed skill of ‘mind over body’.
Feeling stressed, I closed my eyes for a second to distract myself from the workings of my panicked digestive system, but was immediately spotted.
“Leanne Lucy Lim!” came the venomous, outraged cry of Mr Clark, spit spraying from his mouth. “How dare you divert your eyes from me!”
The whole school swivelled their heads to face me as Mr Clark eyed me from atop the stage. Everyone’s gaze bored holes into me as I slumped down in an unsuccessful attempt to blend into the seat of my plastic chair.
“Do you not have any respect for me and your school? I represent, I embody, I am the school! To look away from me is to turn your back on this school. Where is your school spirit? Where is your loyalty? Traitor, cretin, craven! Stand up and explain yourself!”
I stood up, and the pressure on my bladder increased. I started hopping around, dancing as if being bitten by a storm of fire ants.
“Stop fidgeting! If you want to dance, dance the school dance that I personally choreographed!”
“I… I…” I scrambled for words, but couldn’t put it off any longer.
“I need to use the bathroom!”
The whole hall was cloaked in a deathly silence before the bubble was burst with raucous laughter. My cheeks flamed scarlet, as did Mr Clark’s. Our facial colouring was for different reasons though; while mine was from embarrassment, you could practically see the steam creeping from his neck up to his flushed ears and balding head.
“LEANNE LUCY L-”
Before he could complete his castigation, I fled. Not from his fury, but towards relief.
I practically flew down the bare, poorly maintained halls towards the toilet as my body aimed to violently expel last night’s traumatic meal. When all was said and done, I could finally sign in relief, slumping down in the stall now that I was free from the gripping agony.
Agony… my face crinkled up as I knocked my head against the stall door. Mr Crank – no, Mr Clark – was going to kill me! Internally screaming, I cursed my stomach for not being able to hold it for just two more hours. Already I could imagine the chain of events: Mr Clark was going to expel me, my parents would chastise me and rant to my grandparents, who would crucify me for dishonouring the family name.
Miserable, I trudged back to the hall. As expected, I was ambushed by Mr Clark, who was waiting outside like a snake poised to pounce on its prey. A worn-out prey that just survived a crisis and was now tumbling straight into another catastrophe.
“Why didn’t you like my food? As your principal, you should appreciate everything I do! Not only did you disrespect me by leaving without a word last night, but you also had the audacity to get distracted in today’s assembly?”
Eyes as wide as the toilet bowl, my brain flashed to the cook coughing into the pot. Realisation dawned, and I staggered. It couldn’t be… what was he doing there as a cook? Should I be concerned about his obviously questionable hygiene? What do I do with all this unwanted information?
“That was you? You poisoned us?!”
Mr Clark’s eyes bulged in fury, but before I could be rebuked again, I fainted, falling into blissful oblivion, my brain unable to tolerate any more.
Written by: Marinella Lotte