One | When the Train Stops Chugging
“Yo, Jack? Hurry up, we’re going to miss it!” A young man, dressed in casual, ran down the street, yelling back at a young adult, Jack. He has average looks, blond hair, a fair face, pale skin, which shimmered in the sunlight. The young adult nearly tripped, but kept running as well, “Dammit, this is your fault, Kieth! We wouldn’t have been late if you di-” He was cut off by having to save himself from tripping on a pebble. Kieth, with his black hair, darker skin, and more toned body, stopped at the train station, his imposing form towering over most others, “We can blame each other later, we need to get on!” He held a train car door open, watching as Jack practically dived through the door into the train.
The two sighed in relief, and Kieth chuckled, still holding the door, “Jack, I know I ask this every day, but you still owe me money...” thoughts obviously raced through his mind, but none Jack could decipher. Jack stood up from the dirty train floor, wiping dust off his suit coat, “I know, Kieth. I get my paycheck next week, alright, and I’ll save some of it... but it may take a few months to get it all.” he scratched his cheek with an awkward face. Kieth grunted, balling his fist, “We’re buds, Thinbull, it’s the only reason I am letting you stay off the hook for so long, I knew the situation you were in, and I know you would eventually pay me back, but this is taking a long ass time!” He hit the train wall as he let the door close. Jack just chuckled nervously, grabbing a handle on the ceiling while Kieth sat down.
The train stopped, and Jack moved towards the door, “Have fun at the shop, Kieth” he steps out as Kieth nods. A crowd swarmed the train to get on as another crowd got off, and when the train finally left, Jack was sitting on a nearby bench, “15 minutes early again”. A nearby bell rang after 10 minutes, and the blond man stood up, walking out of the subway station he ended up in, signifying the train went through a tunnel, and then started moving towards a large building, with a sign out front reading “Osaka Univerity”. Thinbull was a college professor in Japan, specifically in cramming all base subjects and linguistics. As the bell finished ringing, and the heavy door closed behind Jack, the building was lively. But not with students, no, just the teachers and professors, and Jack was nervous, it was his first day teaching there. As he moved towards the stairs, each step of his wingtip shoes clacking against the tile, each step being slightly clumsy, Jack could feel the sweat move down his brow to his chin. The pale man could feel his perspiration in his palms, a feeling he never liked. He had to walk up four flights of stairs, the fourth floor was where most of the staff-only and extra classrooms were. As he moved up the stairs, each footstep echoing up the shaft, Jack could hear the doors open and many more footsteps fill the air. Before he could even get to the third floor, many students passed him.
As Jack moved towards his classroom on the top floor, getting strange stares from students and teachers for looking like a Westerner. Indeed, Jack was white, not Japanese, specifically of the Afrikaner’s, Dutch descendants who became natives of South Africa, and his grandmother an American, which his mother picked up and then he picked up as he grew up. He just smiled, to one teacher he raised his hand and did the “live long and prosper” sign like the Vulcan’s from Star Trek from how alien he felt, which he was just that. Class 44. Thinbull studied Japanese since he was a child, fascinated by anime, and he recalled the number four. It is pronounced as either “yon” or “shi” and when he learned the word for death, “shi”, Jack found it fascinating how the homophone existed for two different subjects entirely. This is why 4 is unlucky, and room 44 on the fourth floor was sorta a bad sign to Jack.
He entered the classroom as the bell rang and the footsteps in the halls were diminished shoe squeaks and running. Jack stepped through the door, and the first thing he noted was his class was all made of delinquents. It isn’t obvious from their clothing, their aura, their stance, which was all very formal and proper. It was their eyes, the way they sparked with a certain wild energy, the way they clenched their hands under their desk with vigor, how they managed to keep a steady, uncomfortable pose because they had the energy to release to do so. It was all signs they were in some form bad. Subjectively bad, generally bad, not criminally. Perhaps a few shoplifted, maybe some are spoiled excessively, possibly a few rulebreakers and fighters. But that was no different. Despite being white, Jack grew up in the ghetto. Despite being alien, he earned some street cred amongst his black peers. He thought he could talk to these students or treat them like his old pals back in South Africa, he was wrong.
These students weren’t bad, they were cram students. Either they were the worst of the worst or the best students. But Jack didn’t think of this, no, he studied the room as he did back at his old home, not as a professor at a university. He didn’t catch his mistake, “So, who here has ever seen a fellow like me” he spoke in Zulu, one of the many South African languages her knew. When he received no response, he realized his mistake and wrote quickly on the board reading “Thinbull Jack” in Japanese romaji. Jack turned to face his students, “I am Professor Thinbull. I speak many languages, including Zulu, which you just heard... so let’s start with that!” Jack spoke fluent Japanese, but the students just sat attentively. He faced the board again. “‘The best way to learn someone is how they respond to questions and give answers’ is my personal motto, and my own quote. So quote me in the future, will ya?” his piece of chalk kept clacking and scratching against the board in swift, elegant motions, like a chef swinging his knife.
He turned around again, putting his hands on his desk, “Speaking of Zulu, a South African language, who can tell me what the Apartheid Legislation is?” he studied the room, nobody raised their hands, “Well for cram students you don’t really know the ba- Oh wait, they don’t teach that here.” he chuckled. Jack stood up straight again, writing on the board again, “The apartheid legislation was an act to suppress native black Africans by the British up until a few decades ago, and the release of Nelson Mandela along with other factors help cause its end.” Jack didn’t even stutter. A student raised his hand finally, and Jack studied a list, “Yes, erm, Aikawa Hiraoka?” it was a student list.
The student nodded, lowering his hand, “Professor, just Hiraoka.” He stated firmly, like a means to prove Jack’s idiocy. But Jack just chuckled, “I get mixed up with so many languages, and Japanese is the only one I know where family names come first formally... well, what was your question, Hiraoka?” He faced the board again, preparing to write more. Aikawa spoke louder, more disrespectfully, “Why are you teaching us all this? We don’t need to be taught, the whole point of this cram class is that we’re all too smart. We know everything in the curriculum” His tone was matter-of-a-factly. But Thinbull just wrote on the board more, “I am well aware of this, Hiraoka, which is why this semester I will teach you knew things, important history that you do need to know in this day and age... human supremacy and crimes against humanity. Our first unit will be on South Africa’s apartheid legislation, which was similar to the crop-sharing in The United States after their slavery era, but this was far worse. It was a strange gray area of not quite pure slavery, but it was perfect racism.” Jack just continued writing, “There will be many units, and today I want you to scour the Internet for basic information on every unit I give you.” He did a final loud clack on the blackboard. With beautiful kanji, the board read, “Unit One: South African Apartheid. Unit Two: In-depth View of Holocaust. Unit Three: Japanese Invasion of China in WWII. Unit Four: Viking Prisoner Enslavement.” And as he finished up, class ended as a bell sounded of, each student leaving. Jack started to grab his items, and sat down to study student names and create a syllabus.