The teacher tilted her head up, trying to look Jacqueline in the eye. Jacqueline stared right back. Slowly the teacher began to describe Jacobus’s behaviour, his tendency to interrupt, to not write down the assignments properly, to give ridiculous replies when called upon to answer a question.
As the teacher talked, Jacqueline let her eyes roam around the room. She noted the desks with little name-tags hanging from the front, the posters, the projection screen, the white board, and where the teacher sat. Then Jacqueline turned her attention back to the teacher, giving a nod here and there, listening to the woman vent about what a disruptive child her quiet and responsible nephew was.
“Mmm, yes. Boy’s being disruptive. That sure is interesting. Tell me honey, where does the child sit?”
The teacher shuffled her feet and glanced down, accidentally into the tunnel of Jacqueline’s cleavage.
“I’m sure a teacher of your calibre knows to look out for things like a child with trouble seeing. You’ve tried him at the front, haven’t you? Especially if he’s been a problem? Right up where you can keep a better eye on him and make sure all this isn’t the result of being as blind as a bat, like Maddy, and our daddy? Daddy, he was so short-sighted he couldn’t have hit a tractor with a shotgun if it’d been parked in his face. But luckily his teacher caught on lickity-quick and told his mama. So, I beg your pardon, ma’am, but are you sure the child can see properly?”
Later that afternoon, Piet and Ida were helping Jacobus pick out some spectacle frames. Ida kept selecting ones in purple or pink. Piet had a tendency to select ones that made Jacobus look like a cartoon character. But big brother was very patient, acknowledging their choices before moving on to others.
“Oh honey, now don’t you look handsome? Love it!”
Jacobus looked at his reflection briefly. Then he slipped the frames off to examine the price. Auntie Jax put her red-tipped fingers over his hand. “Now sugar, don’t you worry.”
“But my mother might not be able to pay you back.”
“Oh hush, now. Your mama was my big sister. You’re a big brother, so you know that’s a lot of responsibility. I owe her big time. Least I can do is handle a piddly little thing like this while she’s away. Okay?”
The children watched in awe as their Auntie Jax paid. On the way home Ida couldn’t keep quiet anymore. “Auntie Jax, how did you get so much money?”
Jacqueline glanced in the rear-view mirror at her niece strapped in the back.
“Oh, I just make money from other people being stupid. There’s a lot of stupid out there. I see a trend, I put money in, and then take it out before things go badly south. Trick is not to be greedy. Greedy rides all the way up, forgetting they are gonna crash their fine damned butts right back down again.”
“I don’t think I’m supposed to use talk like that.”
Jacqueline laughed. “You’re right. Speaking French in front of a child is never good. Begging your pardon.”
“My friend’s daddy is French,” Piet said.
“That’s a whole different French.”
All the children squished up their faces, puzzled. Jacqueline stuck her arm out of the window and yelled, “Hey there!” at a passing car. This time the children didn’t flinch.
Tell us: Why do you think Jacobus’s teacher had not realised that he needed glasses? Would Maddy have questioned the teacher’s opinion, as Auntie Jax did?