A Lesson for Mr. Pipps, story by Monika Brewster at Spillwords.com

A Lesson for Mr. Pipps

A Lesson for Mr. Pipps

written by: Monika Brewster

 

The village is asleep, the schoolhouse silent. The only sound is the grandfather clock chiming midnight and the rain pattering on the roof of Mr. Pipps attic rooms.
Having corrected one pile of sepia-coloured exercise books, he eyes the other even larger pile, still untouched. The office chair creaks. Mr. Pipps stretches his arms towards the ceiling and yawns. He is exhausted reading the bland, unexciting recital of his primary school pupils: trees, baubles and the demand for ever more presents.
It’s his fault. The task of writing an essay titled ‘Christmas’ is truly uninspiring. He should have come up with a more exciting theme: Nightmare at Christmas, Christmas Ghost, Adventure at Christmas.
Only Ben, his star pupil, has found a more exciting slant. A Christmas Eve trip on his grandfather’s fishing boat. Mr. Pipps is truly reeled in with the creaking boat fighting its way through a Force 7 gale. The wind howls in the rigging, the sails flog and the Christmas tree in the wheelhouse topples over with baubles crashing to the flooded planking.
He slides his glasses into place and grimaces as he sips the dregs of cold tea.
Mr. Pipps sighs. It’s not easy to impart the gift of telling a mesmerising story. Thinking back to the teachers training at Roe College in the fifties he can’t remember it being taught.
With his handkerchief, Mr. Pipps wipes his brow and takes the next exercise book. Emma! He shudders. Her essays are as dull as ditch water – he winces at the cliché – and her grasp of the English language is dire. He’s heard about a new theory of word blindness. Dyslexia can seriously hinder a pupil’s progress. Eager to read more about it, he finds that publications about the subject are scant.
Emma’s exercise book is relegated to the bottom of the unread pile.
With a red pen, he crosses out, makes remarks in the margins and assigns each essay a number out of ten. The marks are dismally low.
The last exercise book looms. Mr. Pipps is loath to tackle it. All he can expect is a few lines of misspellings and tear-jerking tedium. The middle pages fall open. Mr. Pipps rubs his eyes. What’s this? He pushes his spectacles to the bridge of his nose and pulls the extendable lamp down. Before him is a pencil drawing as perfect as those of his favourite artist, Albrecht Dürer.
What Mr. Pipps holds in his trembling hands is a faultlessly executed picture of Bethlehem and the manger. It’s almost photographic. Hatching and stippling, light and shade. The child Jesus a perfect baby, Mary and Joseph wonderfully human. The joy but also the sorrow on their faces are so lifelike.
Mr. Pipps touches the rough wood of the stable. Sheep graze, but the shepherds are replaced by streams of refugees, the gaunt faces of women and children staring at him. Instead of the guiding star, explosions light up the night sky.
Wiping his eyes with the back of his hands, he whispers, ‘Shalom, Salaam.’ His voice breaks.
He pulls himself back into the present. Emma, his most challenging pupil, has taught him an important lesson; it’s not just writing that counts, there are different ways to tell a story.

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