Angelina asked me for a story to be used in the upcoming story-telling competition at school.
“We have made up so many stories already, why do we need to write a new one?” I asked.
“Mrs S said the stories must teach us something,” Angelina answered.
That was a serious blow. Although there was much free association in my stories, I never realized they did not have any message. Anyway, we made up another story right away.
Linda is a primary one student. She loves going to school. She pays attention in class and does her homework well.
But something annoys her. No matter how hard she tries, she always forgets some answers or makes some silly mistakes during tests. Though her test results are quite good, she wonders what it would be like to have full marks in exams.
One day, Linda sees an old lamp on the ground on her way home. The lamp is gold in color but is all covered with rust. That reminds her of the magical lamp in Aladdin. Curious, Linda picks up the lamp and rubs it with her hand.
Suddenly, a puff of smoke shoots out from the lamp and a genie in black cloak appears. “What do you wish, little miss?” asks the genie.
It gets curiouser and curiouser. Nonetheless, Linda replies, “I wish to have one hundred marks in all my tests and exams.”
With another puff of smoke the genie disappears. Linda opens her eyes and finds herself in bed. “Oh, what a silly dream.” She cleans herself, eats breakfast, and goes to school.
The math test is held that day. Linda has prepared well but is a little nervous. As she glances through the paper, she feels calmer. The first few questions are on odd numbers and even numbers, which she knows well. She picks up a pencil and starts to answer. But her pencil stops in mid-air.
The paper has already been done. Each and every question has been answered. Mrs K must have made a mistake. She looks up. However, none of her classmates seems to have problems with their papers. They are all writing vigorously. Linda looks at her paper again. She reads the questions and answers carefully and is sure that the answers are all correct. Strangely, the answers remarkably resemble her handwriting and are written by pencil. Linda uses a rubber and finds that the answers can be erased. As she puts down the rubber, however, the answer appears on the paper again. While she is still wondering what has happened, Mrs K announces that the time is up.
The next day, Linda gets full mark the first time in her life. Mrs K says she has become more careful this time and wishes her to keep up the good work. Her friends cheer for her. Linda is uneasy but also enjoys the praise. She always knows she has worked hard, but being admired in front of the class is another thing.
In the Chinese and English tests later that week, the same thing happens. Linda gets one hundred marks without even raising her pencil. When she shows her parents the test results, Daddy says, “Well done, Linda. We are so proud of you. We hope you enjoy learning.”
Soon, Linda realizes that she can easily become first in class. The lessons do not seem so interesting now. She spends every minute at home playing with her toys and stops studying. Whenever Mummy asks her to revise her schoolwork, she replies, “I know everything already.”
A few months later, it comes to the final exam. The genie does not fail her. Once again, all the correct answers appear faithfully on the exam papers. Linda effortlessly gets all subject prizes in her class, as she has always wished.
After the exam, her class teacher Mrs S brings her to the headmistress. The headmistress is a kind lady. She says Linda has done very well this year. After a little chat, she asks, “What does eight plus seven equal to?”
Linda puts up her fingers and suddenly finds that she has not used them for math for ages. She clumsily counts her fingers and answers, “Thirteen?”
The headmistress and Mrs S are a bit surprised. “How do you spell kitchen?” the headmistress asks again.
“K…” Linda utters and cannot finish. She blushes and tries hard not to cry. On the way out, Mrs S puts her hand on Linda’s shoulder and says, “Never mind. I should have told you earlier. You are just too nervous.”
That evening, Linda keeps thinking about what happened. When has she become so bad? She has enjoyed the magic so much and stopped learning. Tears come out from her eyes and she begins to cry bitterly. Daddy and Mummy rush to her room and ask her what is wrong.
Linda decides to tell the truth. “Daddy and Mummy, I am sorry. I have been cheating.” And she tells them everything since the day she met the genie.
After she has told the story, Daddy and Mummy hug her. “The important thing is never how many marks you get or how many prizes you win,” Daddy says. “Being honest and enjoying learning are much more important.”
From that day on, Linda starts to pay attention in class again. She finds the subjects are very interesting after all and is surprised how she could have missed the fun. At the next test, she is relieved to see that the paper is no longer answered. Now, she sometimes gets one hundred marks and sometimes does not, but she knows in her heart what really is important.