A Penguin Comes to Tea

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“What does the colour red make you think of?” asked the teacher, looking around the class.
Several short stubby hands shot up in the air.
“My Dad’s car,” said a little boy in the front row, “it goes really fast but I’m not allowed to sit in the front because it has a hair bag.”
“Air bag, silly!” said another little boy.
“Why?” asked a child at the far end of the group.
“Because it will chop off your head,” said the second little boy, making a chopping motion across his throat with his hand.
“Okay, that’s enough now,” said the teacher, “let’s hear from somebody else. She pointed to a girl on her left.
“Valentines,” the little girl giggled.
“Valentines, yes,” agreed the teacher, “any more?”
“Lisa’s boots!”
Suggestions and comments came from all over the room.
“Apples are green!”
“Not red ones.”
“John’s sweater!”
“The table in the corner!”
“The box in my bedroom!”
“What about you Liam?” The teacher turned to a boy sitting on the edge of the group who had not said anything yet, “what does the colour red make you think of?”
The class giggled.
“I’m sorry Liam,” said the teacher, “what did you say?”
“Thursday,” Liam repeated, even more quietly. He hugged his knees and looked down at his shoe laces. They were brown and curly, special elastic ones that were easy to do up and hard to lose, but they did not match his shoes, which were a lighter brown, and that bothered him. He could hear the class laughing around him; rather, at him, but he did not care.
Liam closed his eyes and thought of red. The soft, gentle, almost rose like red that was Thursday. The harsh, brash red that was A, the deeper red that represented 4, or 40, or 400, and sometimes 4,000 except that because 4,000 had so many zeros it sometimes came out as whitish, like the zero itself.
White. That was January, the cold month. Mrs Hadman had put up a big yellow poster on the wall with January at the top. Liam could not bear to look at it. Yellow was wrong. Yellow was for June, and July, warm summer months, and for Wednesday, and for –
Mrs. Hadman’s voice brought him back to earth. She was standing next to him with some paper in her hand.
“Liam, please pay attention. We’re starting the colour journal and I would like you to draw some pictures of things you know are red. Real things, things you can touch and see.”
Liam sighed. Thursday was real, wasn’t it? He had to come to school on Thursdays so it must be real. He picked up his red pencil and looked at it. Yup, it was real. Carefully he drew a big line on his paper, then another, and another and another. Underneath, he wrote a big, red “4”.
Poor Mrs. Hadman, he thought, she just can’t see properly.

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