Jennifer Jackson scowled at the paper lying in front of her on the dining room table. She lifted her head and stared unhappily out the window at the bright, sunny day outside.
Finally she leaned forward till her forehead just touched the table, and then she lifted it just a fraction and banged it on the table three times, not quite hard enough to hurt. Her mother, Rose, glanced over from the kitchen counter where she was busy chopping up vegetables in preparation for dinner.
“Tough assignment?” she asked sympathetically.
Jennifer spoke without raising her head. “I can’t believe the teacher is making us write an essay on the second-last day of school. I think he just hates us.”
“Oh no, I’m sure he doesn’t hate you,” said Rose. “He just wants to make sure you’ve learned whatever it is he’s been trying to teach you.”
Jennifer lifted her head. “He hates us,” she said positively. “But then I’d hate us too if I were him.”
“You would? Why?” Rose wanted to know.
“Because we don’t co-operate and we just whine and moan every time he gives us an assignment and then we all make up excuses for why we have to hand it in late. All of us,” said Jennifer. “We’re probably the worst class he’s ever had.”
“Interesting,” said Rose. “Maybe you’re right. He’s new isn’t he, so he never had a class with Brady in it.”
“Even if he had,” said Jennifer, “our class was worse than any of Brady’s.” She sighed. “So now I guess we gotta’ pay the piper.”
“The piper must be paid,” said Rose. She put down her knife and came over to sit down at the table. “Is there a topic assigned for your essay or do you have to come up with your own?”
“We have to come up with our own,” said Jennifer. “It has to be a topic that’s related to Manitoba agriculture, because the teacher wants us to write about something that we’re connected to, and it’s supposed to be a topic that’s controversial, so we have to look at both sides of the issue and then take a position one way or the other.”
She heaved a sigh. “I don’t know why he can’t just let us write about what we’re going to do this summer, like we did in Grade 2.”
“I see what you mean about whining and moaning,” said Rose. “If that’s what he’s been putting up with all year it’s no wonder he hates you.”
“I know,” said Jennifer. She sighed again. “What am I going to write about?”
“Why don’t you write about the Canadian Wheat Board?” said Rose. “It’s topical and it’s controversial.”
“Umm, maybe because I don’t know anything about the Canadian Wheat Board?” said Jennifer.
“Neither does anyone else,” said Rose “but that doesn’t stop them. There’s five letters to the editor in every newspaper, with five different opinions about the wheat board and all of them are wrong.”
“How do you know they’re wrong?” asked Jennifer.
“Because there is no right opinion about the Canadian Wheat Board,” said Rose. “No mater what you think about it you are wrong. At least that’s what your father says. And your father is always right.”
“Except about the wheat board,” said Jennifer.
“Well obviously,” said Rose. “Everybody is wrong about that.” She paused. “You could write about global warming,” she said.
“How would I relate that to Manitoba agriculture?” Jennifer wanted to know.
Rose shrugged. “You could make the case that the floods all over Manitoba are the result of global warming,” she said. “That all the rain we keep getting is due to too much moisture in the air because the air is too warm. And because the polar ice caps are melting and all that water has to go somewhere.”
“That’s a bit of a stretch,” said Jennifer. “I mean obviously global warming is happening but I don’t think it’s responsible for the floods!”
“Well there you go,” said Rose. “Your teacher didn’t say which side of the issue you were supposed to come down on, did he? So you come down on the ‘I don’t think so’ side.”
Jennifer pondered that for a moment. “That could work,” she said. “You don’t think it is global warming do you, that’s causing the floods?”
“Maybe it is,” said Rose. “Maybe it isn’t. Either way, I think people should leave their dikes in place till next year. Or the year after that.”
“That kind of seems like a no-brainer at his point,” said Jennifer. “Either way.”
Rose nodded. “Not much to write about there,” she said.