Tzoras jots down the date of the primary school students’ last excursion this year. A week before his son’s University entrance exams. He couldn’t possibly be absent from this critical moment in his son’s life.
He unlocks the top desk drawer and takes out a deck of cards with famous actresses on he’d bought on an educational trip to Thessaloniki. He counts them. Fifty one. One’s missing. Fingers move deep into the drawer, through grade books and the register, under the desk pad. Nowhere.
The door knocks. ‘A minute,’ he shouts. He shoves the cards back into the drawer, then says, ‘Come in.’
Fotes Karatheodorou, a fifth grader shuffles in, head bent.
‘What is it, son?’ Tzoras drums his fingers against the desk.
‘Nothing, Mr. Headmaster. Mrs. Patidou won’t let me in because I was late.’ His eyes are glued onto his left shoe.
‘This is not the first time, son. It’s become a habit of yours, I’m afraid.’
‘I overslept. It won’t happen again, sir.’
‘I’m sure.’ He raises his index finger. ‘Bear this in mind, son. Hard work and discipline will help you go up in the world. Not slumbering all day long like an old dog. You reap what you sow.’
‘Mum was late from work and I had to look after my little sister and-’
Tzoras has a lesson in ten minutes. If this boy keeps blabbering on, he won’t have time to play solitaire, see whether his son will get into University or not. ‘Right, Right.’ He brushes him away. ‘Tell Mrs. Patidou I let you in.’
The boy bends down, makes to sweep some dirt off his left shoe, then wipes his hand off his back. He breaks into a smile and heads to the door. ‘Thank you, sir.’
‘Remember. You reap what you-‘ Tzoras glimpses at a piece of paper poking out of the boy’s back trouser pocket. Marilyn, it reads. And then the door bangs and Fotes’s steps echo along the corridor like some cannibals’ drums in the jungle.