Flash Fiction #119 — This story is modified from two real life events.
Nali was an 11-year-old girl, living in the staff quarter of a rural university on the edge of Mongolian Steppe. Her mother worked there. The place was so remote that cars, buses, bikes, donkeys, horses, and camels could be seen, proceeding side by side, on any given day on campus.
The university was chronically underfunded. The buildings were in urgent need of repair, the labs lack equipment, textbooks were outdated by half a century. Nali’s primary school was even more underfunded, but Nali was very happy there since her teachers adored her. Every day, she was very eager to go to school in the morning and was very reluctant to go home in the afternoon. However, every happy existence comes with a dark cloud. To Nali, this dark cloud took the form of an 11-year-old boy Sulang, who’s a bully of Nali’s class.
Nali had known Sulang since their kindergarten days. He’s loud, boisterous, unruly, and aggressive. He also had endless pocket money, which enabled him to become the leader of a five member “gang”. Teachers didn’t dare to discipline Sulang, because his father was the head of the transportation department in the university that controls and schedules all the university vehicles. In those days, people didn’t have the money to buy cars. They all looked to the university to help them whenever a car was needed. If you wanted to buy new furniture from the furniture stores in the nearby city, you had to kowtow to Sulang’s father for favors. Otherwise, you had to pay exorbitant delivery fee yourself. If you wanted to have a wedding, you had to beg Sulang to send drivers to pick up your relatives and their bulky gifts.
Due to his father’s position and other people’s indulgence, Sulang behaved like a little tyranny in school. It is easy to assume that Sulang was a brainless kid–a stereotypical bully is often very stupid–but that’s not true. Sulang was clever and gifted in reciting poems. However the school curriculum was too boring for him. Sulang had nowhere to vent his energy–nobody gives him any guidance–and eventually he found a way. He started to write demeaning descriptions about his classmates, giving them obscene nicknames, exaggerating their physical imperfections, laughing at their test scores or other futile efforts. Every day, he would write several such pieces and read them aloud in the classroom during the break time. His loyal gang of five would cheer, followed by his fans. However the students who were the target of his ridicule would be scarred and injured. Some would cry and some would live in silent hatred of him.
Nali was one of the students Sulang picked on, and consequently she hated him. As time passed by, Sulang’s privilege became more conspicuous, which made her hate him more. She was not envious of his smart outfit or handsome bike, but rather his ability to obtain popular books. In this rural university, there was no bookstore and there was only one very inadequate library–this was the time before internet and web browsing coming into our life. The only books available were those classical literature written by Asian or European masters, which nobody wanted to read. The contemporary books were extremely popular and were often unavailable. One had to bribe the librarians to get the popular books. And needless to say Sulang would always get the popular books. Nali saw him reading one of those coveted books at school.
“What can I do to get possession of those books? Even for one day?” She wondered and the thought obsessed her.
(To be continued here.)