Ch 12: The Amazing Edouard Nikma !
The Amazing Edouard Nikma
by Brian Mark
Edouard Jean-Paul Nikma was born to Eloise and Pavel Nikma, not long after they settled in the United States. They had met, while working as Teachers in West Germany. Eloise was from the French-speaking part of the Province of Alsace-Lorraine, and Pavel from Poland, having been brought up under Soviet Russian rule, before defecting and escaping from behind the Iron Curtain to the West. Edouard had a number of brothers and sisters, some older, some younger, and they all attended the prestigious, up-market Kane's Memorial Elementary School in Gotham.
His Teacher's first impression of him in First Grade was, that he seemed exceptionally bright. He was multi-lingual for a start ! For, given the international and multi-cultural background of his family, Edouard could speak fluent English, French, German, Polish and Russian, by the time he was five years old ! None of his siblings, though multi-lingual of sorts, could ever hope to match his ability and aptitude, when it came to languages !
But all that was soon to change, as it soon became clear to her, that Edouard was falling way behind the others in his class, in Reading, Writing ( especially spelling ) and Basic Primary Mathematics. This would frustrate the young Edouard, since he felt that he could understand his Teacher perfectly. In fact, one to one, and orally, Edouard could still seem a very bright pupil indeed. Unfortunately, he suffered greatly in the School, due to the fact that his brother and sisters before him had all been really high achievers. He would be constantly adversely compared to his siblings throughout his time at Kane's.
As year followed year, the young Edouard just got further and further behind in his work, and was clearly struggling. He himself could not understand, how most of the other children had no problems with Reading, Writing and Maths. Since, for him it all seemed like Greek. Ironically, if it had been Greek, he would have excelled at that too ! When it came to factual and educational programmes at home on TV, Edouard had no problems. He drank it all in, and might even add a little thought of his own ! It was like he had a photographic memory, and yet, there was super-intelligence there too !
He didn' t like any of his Teachers much, since they all dealt with him in a condescending and disparaging manner, all, that is, except one, Deputy Vice Principal Grey. Edouard thought, that she was the best teacher in the school, as did most of the parents. It was felt, at the time, that she should have got the appointment as Principal of the School, ahead of Principal Harley. But it seemed to be the case of 'who you know, rather than what you know' there. Harley had been good friends with two leading members of the School Board of Governors, and Miss Grey had been passed over.
Well, she began to wonder whether there might be something different about Edouard, that might make it hard for him to read and write. She had expressed such thoughts to his Parents, but they seemed in some way offended at the thought, that there might be something wrong with their child. She had also gone to the Principal, but he felt, that what she was suggesting didn't make any sense at all, and that Edouard was either just lazy, stupid or both !
Well, 'push finally came to shove', when the Principal became his Teacher in his final year at Kane's. The man grew more and more impatient with him, and started to humiliate him in front of his fellow pupils. It particularly annoyed Edouard, that the Principal would call him Edward, when, in the same breath, criticizing his Reading and his Spelling ! ... He was E-dou-ard, ' ay - do - ar ', with a silent 'D'. ... Finally, one day, matters came dramatically to a head.
- Honestly, Edward, one of us has got to be totally stupid, and it certainly is not me ! How on earth do you expect to make it to Gotham High with grades like these ? Why couldn't you be more like your Brother and your Sisters ?
The young Edouard simply stood up, the words, ' One of us is totally stupid ' ringing in his ears.
- OK Principal Harley, you have just said, that one of us is totally stupid, and that it is not you. Well, let's just see about that !
The Principal sits down in absolute shock and disbelief. Nothing like this has ever happened to him in 35 years of teaching.
- You are forever setting us challenges and questions, day after day, week after week. Now. let me set you some challenges and questions for a change ! Then we shall see who is 'totally stupid' as you put it ! ... Let's start with a few little riddles, ey !
I know ! What is the difference between a teacher and a steam train ?
- ( Still taken aback ) I don't know !
- A teacher will tell you to spit out your gum. But the train will say chew chew ! ( The class giggle at that one !) ... Until I am measured, I am not known, yet, how you will miss me, when I have flown. What am I, Principal Harley ?
- Until I am measured, ... measured, ... measured, ... no, ..., now hold on, give me time, give me time !
- Eh Eh ( Imitating the buzzer sound on quiz shows, when an answer is incorrect )... O how ironic, Principal Harvey, Sir, since Time, in fact, is the answer! ... Yes ! ( As he kicks the air ! )
Someone in the class goes, 'Wow !'
- I will always be broken, every time I am spoken. What am I Principal Harvey ? (The class giggle at Edouard's subtle corruption of the Principal's name !) ... What, Principal Harvey ? ... I can't hear you !... Silence is the answer, Principle Harvey, Silence, something I am getting more and more from you, if you don't mind me saying ! ( A few of the class dare to start applauding ) ... What gets wetter and wetter the more it dries ?
- ( Standing up ) Now come on Nikma, control yourself. ... You've had your fun. .. Now ...
- Fun, Principal Harvey ?... I'm only getting started !...
- ( One boy pipes up with a question for Edouard ) Hey, what is the answer to the last riddle, man ?
- Why, a towel, of course ! ... Old joke ! ... I know, let's try a little bit of English, and some Spelling !... What English word is pronounced exactly the same, when you take away four letters, Principal Harvey ?
- ( Really rattled ) Look, sit down, Edward, I won't tell you again !
- I'm waiting for an answer, Principal Hardy. What's wrong, Principle Hardy ? This isn't exactly a Spelling Bee, you know !... Having problems ? ... The word, 'Queue' ! ( The whole class gasps ! ) ... Now let's try a little Mathematics ! Maybe, English isn't your strongpoint ! ( Someone in the class goes, Owch ! )
Edouard goes up to the chalkboard. Harley can't stand in his way, because, by now he is almost numb ! The boy starts writing up this sequence of numbers.
- What's the next number in the sequence, Principal Hardy ? ( Harley goes to the board with some chalk in his hand, and tries a few quick calculations. ) Eh Eh. .. Sorry, Mr Principal, Sir. .. This is the answer. .. Let me explain it to you in a way, that you can understand !
Why ? Because line 2 says one 'one', to describe the number on the first line. Line 3 says two 'ones' to describe the number on line 2. Line four says one 'two' and two 'ones' to describe the number on line three, and so on and so on !
- My goodness. .. Why of course. .. Brilliant, .. quite brilliant ! Exclaimed the Principal ( under his breath ).
- I suppose I cheated. That was a mathematical riddle. .. Too difficult for you, Principal Hardy ?. ... Let's try the Laws of Probability !
Another boy says:
- You can not be serious, man !
- If your sock drawer has 6 black socks, 4 brown socks, 8 white socks and 2 red ones, how many socks would you have to pull out in the dark, to make sure you had a matching pair ? ... Come on now, I'm waiting, ... I'm waiting. .. ( Harley is now really beginning to lose it, trying a complicated calculation ! ) The answer is simple, Harley. There are four colours of socks, so the answer is five. .. You are bound to have at least one pair the same !
- Still too difficult ? ... Let's try one more problem, eh ?... You have a barrel of oil, and you have to measure out one gallon, but you only have a three gallon can and a five gallon can. How do you do it ?
- ( Now beginning to talk gibberish, but still determined to try to solve the problem ) Three gallons. .. Let me see now. . .Five gallons ...
- Too late ! ... Out of time ! ... You fill the 3 gallon can, and pour it into the 5 gallon can. Then fill the 3 gallon once again, and empty it into the 5 gallon one, until it is full. 5 gallons from 6 gallons leaves one remaining gallon in the three gallon can. Simple mathematics, Principal Hardy ! Six take away five equals one !
One final little conundrum, before I leave. A man on a camel arrives in a town on a Friday. He stays there for three days, and leaves on Friday. How come ?
- Oh, I don't know. .. I don't know. .. You win E-dou-ard. ... Yyou win.
- Why thank you Principal Harley, thank you ... ( Goes to leave, .. stops then turns round ) ... Oh, and, by the way, the camel's name is Friday !
He leaves. The whole class erupts, and gives him a standing ovation, while Harley is a gibbering nervous wreck ! Edouard bows once or twice.
- Thank you, ... Thank you. .. You are too kind ! ( He leaves.)
One boy shouts out to him. 'One more Edouard, just one more !'
He comes back in.
- OK ... Here's a good one. ... What stinks while its alive, but smells real good, when its dead ? ... Bacon !