Fiction · Flash Fiction · How to be British · Language

A4

Thursday, June 15, 2017. Daily Brit Wit.

A4:

Noun (mass noun)

A standard European size of paper, 297 x 210 mm.

"He walks into the teachers' lounge and startles at the sight of a child, nearly dropping the ungraded essays he's holding. It's not that children scare him; he's a teacher, after all. He just doesn't know how to interact with ones…so small.

He shakes his head to clear it. Of course, the child hasn't noticed the intrusion and he can't identify if the lounge is actually occupied by other staff. Hesitantly, he walks in and clears his throat.

The child, a girl he finds out, pauses in her ministrations and sharp green eyes flick upward and pin him in place. Her expression is neutral but she must see something in him because she shrugs and goes back to whatever has her attention.

The man fidgets. Then a fleeting thought floats by and he groans at the notion he's actually scared of a child! He enters the room farther and drops his messenger bag on an empty table rather noisily.

The girl isn't bothered.

He sets the essays down with more care and looks at his empty travel mug with longing. Hazelnut and Earl Grey waft from where the coffee pot and kettle reside just beyond the little girl. If he wants any type of a pick-me-up, then he's going to have to brave it. Briefly, he wonders if chatting with the little child would benefit him.

'Who do you belong to?' He blurts out.

'My mummy,' she replies immediately and continues…colouring?

He realises how terribly he needs his afternoon tea and darts passed the tables, but not without noticing the child doodling on several sheets of A4. He turns his back to her and pours hot water in his mug, glad at least some adult has been in the lounge recently. He thinks, bless you kind stranger, while fiddling with tea leaves and sugar.

'What class do you teach?' The girl child questions and draws the man's adoration of tea back to her.

He's immediately spooked again and jostles some tea on the counter and thankfully not his hand. 'Ummm…,' he stalls inarticulately and searches for napkins. 'Literature,' he settles for the easiest description and wipes up the mess.

She hums noncommittally.

He frowns. And waits for a response.

Eventually, he sips his tea and decides he may as well ignore the girl like she's ignoring him and returns to his bag. He does have papers to grade.

He's halfway through the first sloppily written essay when the child speaks again.

'What colour do you think a princess's sword would be?' She queries.

His head jerks upward and he glances over at her, flabbergasted. 'Uh…pink?'

'I think red,' she hums. 'You know, the colour of all her enemies.'

'Right…,' he trails off, barely a mumble heard by his own ears.

There's a lull again and the teacher warily watches what very well may be Lucifer's long-lost-spawn colour merrily. As soon as he glances down at the paperwork, she inhales. He raises his eyebrows as if bracing for her next question.

'And what colour do you imagine the princess's best friend The Dragon to be?'

'…purple?' He offers.

'Black it is,' she confirms and reaches for that particular shade. 'Maybe his belly could be blue.'

'Yeah,' he mutters, 'a blue belly makes sense. Help to identify his species.'

The little girl's palm falls to the tabletop with a startling slap. 'Don't be cute; the princess's best friend The Dragon is the last of his kind because somebody,' here the girl rolls her eyes and huffs, 'completely massacred his kin.'

'How old are you?' The man asks in bafflement, hung up on this slip of a girl using the word massacred when he's certain a decent chunk of his students a decade her senior cannot. Perhaps he should make it a vocab word?

'Seven,' she replies with a shrug. 'How old are you?'

'Thirty-five,' he answers. Then balks at the honest reply. 'Who's your mummy?'

'She's the history teacher.'

He tries to place all the history teachers, but their faces blur together and he can't remember which one had a kid. And perhaps that slightly explained why a seven-years-old girl knew a word like massacred.

'My daddy's a history professor,' she offers after a few beats.

And now he knew why a seven-years-old little girl would know the word massacre. He wonders if it's similar to a child of his knowing a word like oxymoron or juxtaposition at the age of three. He's still contemplating this when the period bell rings and a woman pokes her head inside.

'Abigail, are you ready?' The woman asks. She spots the only other teacher inside the lounge and smiles. 'Hello, Craig! I see you've met my daughter.'

The man turns and spies Amelia Witt and about spits his tea out at the realisation. Who would have known such a sweet woman would have such a daughter. He smiles weakly at her and offers some inconsequential platitudes he quickly forgets.

The child, Abigail he supposes, packs up her belongings. She skips toward her mother with a single paper in hand and stops by Craig's table. She smiles widely at him and holds up the clutched paper.

'Thank you for helping me colour,' she intones gravely.

He examines the artwork and finds himself impressed. The princess sits astride the dragon with a bloody sword in hand and the two hover in air looking over at what appears to be either the prince or king as their prisoner. 'Very clever,' he breathes. 'And you're welcome. But I didn't really help.'

'Oh, I know. It's like you've never heard of a fairytale before. But thank you all the same.' She states. Abigail grins cheekily and waves, running off to her mum."

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