Note: Written during fifteen minutes of my Sign Language class today.
In the middle of his first year at Seigaku, Ryoma’s English teacher assigns her students an essay. It’s supposed to be about the students’ plans for the future; what they want to do and why. It’s a simple topic, but it’s just for practice in the language.
Horio announces to anyone who will listen (Katsuo and Kachiro) that undoubtedly Echizen will write about becoming a pro tennis player, becoming famous and beating everyone who dares to challenge him. When Katsuo asks Horio what he will write about, Horio declares smugly that he’ll be the one to beat Echizen.
Horio is partly right, but mostly wrong, as usual.
The first paragraph of Ryoma’s essay reads, “In the future, I want to defeat Tezuka-buchou. I want to become that much better so that buchou can become better, too, and then I’ll have to improve again.”
The teacher is startled when she reads it, but she doesn’t comment. She left it up to the students to decide their goals, after all. And Ryoma’s essay is far and away the best in the class. (Horio’s first sentence reads “When future comes, I be great powurful tennis player, and every persons fear me.”) The only thing the teacher writes on Ryoma’s paper is a large “98%” and a note reminding him to translate “buchou” to “captain” next time.
The next essay they’re assigned is supposed to be about the students’ favorite thing in the world. Horio loudly predicts that Echizen will write about tennis, and Katsuo and Kachiro nod in agreement.
Horio is only about halfway right again.
The first paragraph of Ryoma’s essay this time reads “My favorite thing in the world is to play my best in a game of tennis, especially against buchou. When I play against him, I can almost always play my very best. With buchou, I can more easily see how I need to get better than when I play against anyone else, even my father.”
The teacher reads through this essay with a sort of puzzled amusement. Ryoma describes his buchou’s tennis in detail, using thoughtful analogies and beautiful imagery that the teacher never sees in seventh grade essays, whether they’re in English or Japanese. She’s not sure whether to be shocked or delighted. In the end she settles for neither, and Ryoma’s paper is marked once again with a “98%” and a second reminder not to use the word “buchou.”
The teacher announces the next essay topic a week later, but she doesn’t think about it until after she’s already said it aloud. She suddenly gives Ryoma a sharp glance. Ryoma is watching her and looking bored, but is still writing down the assignment like a good student. She gives her head a little shake to clear her mind and goes on with the lesson.
This essay is supposed to be about the type of person each student would like to marry.
Horio shrugs to Katsuo and Kachiro, who are both looking expectantly at him. Echizen can’t marry tennis, after all.
But Horio can’t break his streak of wrong answers that easily.
Ryoma listens halfheartedly to the teacher, and a grin flickers across his face. He scrawls the first sentence of the essay on a piece of notebook paper. He doesn’t have to think about it.
He knows exactly what type of person he would like to marry.