A Frustrating French Exam

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I hurry down the long corridor, passing door after door. I’m late. A French exam awaits me, but I can’t find the right room. I quicken my pace. Most doors are unnumbered. Those that still bear numbers have been tampered with. Numbers have been turned upside down or half ripped off with other numbers scrawled in their place. I’m reluctant to disturb the classes within, but I have no choice. Peering into one room, I ask, “Excuse me, where’s the French room?” The occupants turn and stare coldly. A boy at the back whispers, “Three doors down.” Uncertain, I push open that door to find the exam already underway. The few students present are clustered at the front of the class. I take a seat at the back. Any French exam will be a pushover, I tell myself, confident. I speak and write French fluently. I pull the pencil case from my bag and select a black crayon. It’s not very sharp, but it will do. The teacher is talking. When I finally pay attention, I realise she is dictating the questions and has already reached number six. Indignant at the unfairness of it, I scribble the answer. The blank sheet I am to use for the test is dark grey, making my writing difficult to decipher. What’s more, the teacher is talking so quietly that I can barely hear what she says. Am I going deaf? I shift closer to the blackboard, missing two further questions as I do. With growing frustration I scribble the next answer and begin making a note in French at the foot of the page, complaining bitterly about the absurdity of the situation. Engrossed in what I am writing, I miss several more questions. Enough! I get to my feet, noisily pushing back my chair and tear the paper in half, then in half again, much to the alarm of the other pupils who cross arms over their answer sheet to protect them. “I’ve had enough of this nonsense,” I tell the teacher in French, well aware that by doing so I’m demonstrating how good my French is. “You can’t hold exams in these conditions.” Now it’s the woman teacher’s turn to look alarmed. “Please don’t tell the headmaster,” she pleads in broken French. I storm out muttering curses in French.

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