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Below C Level

by Gowri Bhargav

“Tring…!” rang the phone punctuating the silence in the house.

Shekar muted his office meeting and rushed to the living room to pick up his phone.

“Hello! Is this Mani’s father? I’m Mouli, his class teacher. I have something important to discuss.”

“Yes, Sir! Is everything okay with Mani?”

“Oh! Mani is fine with his perfectly active body and ever-growing invisible tail. Has Mani shown you his report card yet? I want it signed. It’s been more than a month now. Initially he said that you and your wife were not in town for over two weeks as you had to attend a family function. And last week he said that you were hospitalized due to an illness,” said Mr. Mouli. 

“Not in town?! Hospitalized?And, report card? When? How much did he score?” Shekar was puzzled.

“Well! It all boils down to a simple answer. His grades are below ‘C’ level. You might want to talk to your son today, Sir,” said Mr. Mouli and hung up the phone.

Shekar was quite shocked after attending the phone call. He discussed the matter with his wife Sheela too.

“I wonder why Mani has been lying to us. He used to tell us everything. Besides, he used to be a bright child until last year,” said Sheela with a worried expression on her face. 

“Right! I guess after entering middle school he’s grown horns along with a tail that Mr. Mouli mentioned. We have to tackle the issue smartly,” said Shekar and chuckled. 

“Reprimanding him will only make the situation worse. I’m worried about his attitude more than the marks. We need to win his trust and get the message across too. Also, we have to ensure he does not lie in future. But the question is, how?”

“Hmm! Sometimes complicated questions have simple answers. I have an idea. I think it will work,” said Shekar. He then discussed his idea with Sheela. 

Sheela nodded her head doubtfully.


It was 4:30 in the evening. Mani entered the house storming through the door. He threw his bag to one side of the wall, removed his soiled stinky shoes, and swung it across the shoe rack. 

He dropped his lunch box into the sink and without bothering to wash his hands or change his clothes he hastily opened his laptop to watch a video.

Sheela came out from the kitchen and sat on the dining chair with a book in her hand. She did not bother to ask Mani about the happenings in school and remained oblivious to what he was doing.

Mani’s twitchy fingers were busy playing games on the computer but after a while, he felt a strange silence surrounding him. He shifted his glance from the screen to his mother who seemed deeply engrossed in the book.

“Amma, did you want to say something?” He asked.

“No, not at all. You go ahead with your game dear,” she said and continued reading the book.

Go ahead with your game?! That’s so unusual of Amma. Mani was surprised by his mom’s answer. 

Mani ditched his game after a while and went to change his clothes. While he was in his room, he heard his parents conversing rather loudly.

“Mani’s class teacher had called in the morning. Did I tell you?” asked Shekar.

“Yes, you told me. And you also told me that you found the report card hidden beneath a suitcase in Mani’s Cupboard,” replied Sheela.

“Right! I thought I didn’t tell you.”

Mani was taken aback. Mr. Mouli had called?! Then he must have surely talked to him about all the lies I’d made up. But why didn’t they ask me anything about it?

Mani came out of his room quietly, took out a notebook from his bag, and pretended to read. He wondered if the seemingly calm atmosphere would turn volatile.

“Ding dong!” The doorbell rang. It was the pizza delivery man.

Mani wondered what the occasion was. Generally, they reserved pizzas for special days.

“Mani, I have ordered your favorite pineapple double cheese pan pizza. Come let’s eat,” said Shekar patting him.

“Thankyou Appa…but Appa…about the report card…Mr. Mouli?”

“Oh, that can wait. I will sign it tonight. Don’t worry.”

On other days when pizza was ordered Mani happily hogged at least five slices but that evening he was unable to eat beyond one. 

“Mani ! I’ve made brownies for dessert too,” said Sheela in her sweetest voice.

Mani didn’t know how to react. He could feel his stomach churn with guilt as she handed him a bowl of hot brownies with vanilla ice cream.

Soon it was time to go to bed. Mani’s head was filled with innumerable questions. As he went to his room he found his report card duly signed by his father.

Mani couldn’t control himself anymore. He rushed to his parents’ room and knocked on the door.

“Yes dear, come in,” said Sheela.

“Amma, Appa! I have done terrible things, lied… but you both didn’t utter a word against me, why? Instead, you’ve been nice to me. And…the report card was also signed despite my miserable grades, how come?”

Shekar and Sheela looked at each other for a few moments and at last Shekar replied;

“Well! The answer is quite simple–we love you dear. We understand your state of mind and remember we are always there to help. Your poor performance should not become a reason to lie.We just want you to introspect and realize your mistakes, Mani.”

Mani’s heart melted and he burst out crying.

“Appa, I’m truly sorry. I have spent way too much time on screen and have not been focusing on my studies. Also, I will never, ever lie again. Please forgive me. I love you very much too.”

The three had a group hug. After a while Mani went to his room and slept with a great sense of relief. Shekar and Sheela seemed equally relieved that the idea had worked.


 Word Count :  994

The above story has been written for a contest conducted by ArtoonsInn. 

 Prompt :Write a captivating 1000-word short story by incorporating the timeless wisdom of Dr. Seuss: “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

Picture Credit : Pixabay

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