Friday, 7 January 2011

A BURNING DESIRE PUT ME IN THE HOT SEAT.

Did you ever wish your school would burn down so you wouldn't have to go anymore? Children don't generally plan to burn down buildings but they enjoy imagining what life would be like if they had more control over their situations.

Like the rest of the children at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, I yearned above all to be home from that distant institution. We often wished Joshua and his army would knock down Jericho's walls so we could return forever from our captivity.

In this excerpt from Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), I relate how my harmless blaze caused me plenty of grief.

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During the Christmas holidays, I stole a pack of matches from my dad and smuggled them into Jericho. Fire had fascinated me for years. I began experimenting by burning the moss which grew along the retaining wall, southeast of the school. It ignited instantaneously and left no ash that I could see.

Then I grew even bolder. I lit a small fire, fuelled by scraps of paper, on the south steps of the school. I pretended that the flames were burning down Jericho, allowing us to return home. Obviously, my small blaze could never destroy the institution. The steps were made of cement and the grass next to them was far too damp to ignite.

The grade one teacher chose that minute to walk down the hall toward the exit. "What on earth do you think you're doing?" Mrs. MacDonald demanded. "How dare you light a fire on the school steps!" She crushed it out with her shoe while I stood mutely watching her.

Mrs. MacDonald confiscated my book of matches and grabbed my arm. "You're coming to the principal's office," she threatened. A swarm of butterflies fluttered in my belly as I realized what trouble I was in.

"So you like to play with fire?" Mr. Brice demanded. "Hold out your hands." I mutely obeyed. He brought the strap down hard several times. "This will teach you what happens to boys who play with fire," he announced.

"What a stupid thing to do - trying to burn Jericho down," Charlie scorned once I returned to class. "Don't you know how dumb that is? The school's made of bricks and cement you know."

"I was just imagining it was burning down," I explained.

As Charlie and his followers teased me for my foolish act, I mentally chided myself for not thinking situations such as that miniature blaze

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this book and to order it. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.