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Giri was sure Kanta Sir could maybe just see the top of his head from the classroom window, if he bothered to look out at all. There was only an occasional tap and scrape of chalk on the blackboard, followed by Kanta Sir’s voice spelling out the vertices and angles and their relationships to each other, and the sound of the leaves rustling in the orchards outside. Once he had made a show of sending Giri outside to sit on his haunches, holding his ears in front of his classmates, no one in class dared whisper ambitious plans into each other’s ears anymore. The cemented floor outside the classroom was broken in more places than it was smooth, dirt tracing patterns on the floor along the crevices and grooves, tufts of grass pushing through the cracks. A half-dead bee flapped by. He resisted an overwhelming urge to put the bee into Kanta Sir’s shoes. They were inviting him by standing out among a dozen or so pairs lined along the wall with their large size, wide mouth agape. 

He had already spent way too many days looking at the orchards on his haunches and if he did not wish to spend another year in the same class, trying to make new friends, hiding his embarrassment with his antics, he had to stay inside more. It was his second year in this class and he enjoyed the attention playing the jester in class got him. But Kanta Sir did not appreciate his mimicry of his high-pitched voice and how his soft ‘g’s sounded like ‘j’s. 

He looked at the trees laden with apples, their arms outstretched upwards as if wanting to be relieved of their burden. From his haunches, he shifted into a cross-legged position, sighing a little. As bad as it seemed, if it were not for the prospect of staying back another year in this class, he could sit there and enjoy himself every day. 

From where he sat, he could hear the workers in the orchard walking towards the school, talking among themselves. They were louder than he had been in class but were still enjoying the chitter-chatter without a care in the world. And here he was, punished for nothing more than a whisper. Infuriated, yet glad that Sir had not sent him to the headmaster’s room, he plucked some grass from the ground and made different shapes with it on the floor. He started with an apple, made two more and then made a tree to hold on to them. Just to amuse himself, he made a triangle like Kanta Sir had in class and wordlessly imitated him again, as if daring him to punish him some more. He let his head drop and put it between his knees that he had now raised on either side to keep his head steady. He thought of getting up and running away to the fair. He had been planning to sneak out of the school after midday, but now Kanta Sir would force him to accompany him to his house with a load of notebooks that he had to check. That would be too late, his father would be waiting for him to join him in packing boxes of apples. 

The smell of distant rain on earth mixed with the smell of rotting apples knocked over by hail, reminded him of the smell of apples cooking at home. How he enjoyed the apple preserve on toast. Yet, nothing compared to the pure joy of fresh, raw apples. He had a sudden, intense longing to get up and head home and help himself to a plate of cut apples. He imagined topping it with the precious black salt that his mother would sprinkle on the plate with such precision that every slice seemed to get just the right amount. This never stopped amazing him.   

He rubbed his fore-finger and thumb mimicking the motion his mother made. A dry leaf had blown his way, and he wondered if it was possible for the leaf to be as crisp brown and dry as it was even when every thing else was moistened by the humidity. He picked it up and rubbed his finger and thumb with the leaf in between. 

Some distance away, a few workers could be heard hollering at each other. Strange as it was, he could hear them clearly when they had been softer and could not make out the words that they shot out like a stone off a catapult that couldn’t be discerned mid-flight from one end of the orchard to the other. Every time Kanta Sir drew a triangle on the blackboard, he was reminded of and would itch to get his hands on his catapult. He had found an apple twig that was just the right shape and tied a stretchy band to create the perfect lift. 

Giri’s interest was piqued when he heard what sounded to him like ‘hastidanti.’ As the workers talked, they threw around the word quite a bit. He looked up, the leaf falling back, forgotten. Wasn’t it the word he had heard on their school trip to the big museum in the city. It conjured up an image of the ivory, sickle shaped piece of what he now knew to be elephant tusks. He had wanted to touch it, but hadn’t been allowed to run his fingers along the curved tusk at the museum. Over and over, they said ‘hastidanti,’ till he heard them clearly enough to hear ‘high density’. He slipped back down for he knew it was a kind of apple farming. Even though their school was surrounded by apple orchards, including high-density farms, Kanta Sir did not think it important enough to tell the students what high-density meant. 

He did want his head to stay visible to Kanta Sir from the classroom window, lest he train his cane on him again, and rubbed his palms at memory of the sting from last time. He hadn’t heard any sound coming from the classroom for a while now, maybe they were all deep in their notebooks, solving problems that made no sense and presented no urgency. Even though he knew that it was highly unlikely, he wondered if his classmates and their teacher had played a prank on him and left from the window on the other side. He made a mental note to stay put for another few minutes before trying to peek from the window into the classroom. Giri had been planning to go for the local fair for an entire year, ever since it was last held. Now, he was not sure he would be able to make it. 

A soft plop sound and he could see an apple roll down and settle below the window of the next classroom. It had fallen off of one of the workers’ baskets. His longing for a fresh, juicy apple returned and there was nothing he could tell himself that would keep him where he was. The apple was red and plump with small pock-marks all over it. He instinctively brushed his fingers gently against his own pockmarked face. It was like the apple was marked for him. He knew since childhood that these were the marks left by hail and that these were the sweetest apples that one could eat. He would take his chances, he thought, for the apple and for the fair. 

Bending down ever so slightly to escape notice from the window, he crawled towards the next classroom and reached out for the apple, picked it up and ran.

Aditi Garg is a journalist by education and a copywriter by profession. She has been writing cover stories, articles and book reviews for national newspaper magazines for 25 years. She has recently published a book of poetry and is working on a poetry collection and a novel. Her work has been accepted by online journals and magazines such as Verse of Silence, From My Window, In Parentheses and Cool Beans Lit.

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