Too Cool For School: 80 second read by Farriz Mashudi 22/09/2020

“It’s a tom-ahto”, Parker said. ”I liihke app-ples.”

He walked with a crumpled left leg that made his knee nearly touch the floor with every step. The grin he always wore was naturally lopsided, and his drawls barely understandable at times. The drooling didn’t help.

At five years-old, I didn’t know what my class-mate had, except that Parker was handicapped. That didn’t mean everyone in our Kindergarten class didn’t love him. And Parker loved Shelly the most. She had strawberry-blond hair and pig tails and always wore something pink. They made a cute couple.

Maybe Parker didn’t know a lot, or maybe it was me still getting used to what was what in Canada, but Parker was right about this one . . . Tomatoes, sucked.

That’s what came out of my lunchbox for fruit that day. And no one would trade with me. I had nothing else left to eat. My mother was evil.

In Malaysia, sometimes the housemaid would make me nasi tomato for lunch. – Mashed and infused with onions and sweet-smelling spices, you didn’t see anything but an orangey-red, rice-porridge mush. I’d never think of eating a tomato raw, or uncut.

Parker was right. 

Tomatoes aren’t like apples.

But my stomach said I needed to eat. I finally bit into it, hating every moment. The mushy insides with baby-frogs’ eyes oozed out into my small hands, making a mess. Oopsy . . . Could the teacher, send a complaint note home with me today? Please?

I looked up, but she wasn’t at her desk.

“They’re so squidgy, aren’t they? Even when they feel firm. Do we think tomatoes are a fruit or are they vegetables, Class? Does it matter? Because they’re so fun!” There she was, kneeling beside me, at our table. “It’s so cool of your mom to send you tomatoes, I wish all the parents were like that. And you’re so cool for eating them. Good girl.”

The looks round the table said something else.

Even Parker was being quiet.

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