The Missing Assignment
Mount Barker, South Australia
“Scary Mary” was known as a swot, a brain and a teacher’s pet, and this was by the kids who liked her, of which there were precisely two. These three were members of the school chess team and did really well at the weekly quiz night. Mary was of a striking appearance, being albino with milk-coloured, long, straight hair and mauve eyes. Her eyebrows were invisible and her lashes white. Some people referred to her as “The Ghost”. She always did her homework the night it was given and always received top marks. The kids who didn’t like her, basically everyone else in the class, ranged in this from mild dislike to outright loathing. Among the latter were the three boys Toby, Mark and Joe; boys who consistently underperformed and who never started their homework until the night before it was due, or later.
This was why, towards the end of term, Mary was surprised to meet Toby outside school, a Toby who was being nice to her for a change.
‘Hi Mary,’ he began, shyly, ‘I like your hair like that.’ Mary refrained from replying that her hair was no different to the way it had been for the past three years, giving Toby the benefit of the doubt, as perhaps he was just slow to notice things.
‘Do you mind if I walk with you for a bit? I’d like to ask you about our maths assignment.’
‘Okay, no problem. Did you want some help with it?’
‘No, no, that is, yes a little. Perhaps we could work on it together?’ he sounded desperate, so she agreed.
She had of course already completed her assignment. She tried to show him the basics of how to answer some of the questions, but he really didn’t get it. They shared some milk and muffins, and then he left.
‘Thanks Mary, you’re a brick!’ Mary was not convinced that that was a compliment, but smiled anyway. When she went to put her assignment away she was astounded to find that it had gone. Luckily she had a backup copy she could take to class. She would be tearing a strip or two off that Toby. The cheek of it!
The next day at school, she was surprised when she opened her backpack, as there was the original assignment. Had she put it there and forgotten? Her doubts were allayed when Toby and his mates each received the same marks as she did in their assignments. The teacher couldn’t believe it and was immediately suspicious. Later in the break, she approached the trio:
‘Congratulations boys, I think you’ve finally got the hang of calculus.’
‘Bugger off, ghost-girl!’ sneered Joe, nastily. But Toby pushed him angrily.
‘Don’t speak to her like that, arsehole!’ then to Mary he said, ‘I’ve been meaning to thank you for your help last night,’
‘Ooow, Toby’s got a new girlfriend,’ mocked Mark, gesturing crudely. Toby walked away from his friends, leading Mary out of earshot.
‘Sorry about that. They can be such dickheads sometimes,’
‘You shouldn’t let them copy your assignment. One day you’ll all get caught and the penalty is zero marks,’ warned Mary, hoping that the maths teacher didn’t think SHE had let the boys copy hers.
‘I know, but they’re my friends. By the way, have you done the English assignment yet?’ Toby asked, casually.
‘Of course. Why? Do you need some help with that too?’
‘Perhaps if you could just go over the meaning of the question?’
Later that evening, after Toby had left, Mary checked and sure enough her English assignment had gone missing. This time she was prepared; she took out a completely different version she meant to submit the next day. The boys would find that unlike maths, which had definite answers, English was more subjective.
Once again, the original assignment miraculously found its way into her backpack. She thought she saw the boys smirk as they handed in their work. It wasn’t until the following week that the results were announced in class. Her assignment got top marks, as usual, and the boys sitting up the back were preening themselves with glee. All the marks were read out in descending order until only Toby, Mark and Joe were left. They looked confused when the teacher called them to the front of the class.
‘Toby, your work is sloppy and makes no sense, nevertheless I would have given you a pass, but …’ and he paused for dramatic effect. ‘Then I read Mark’s essay, which is word for word the same as yours. Okay, you’ve copied each other, I thought, but then …’ once again he paused. The boys were writhing with embarrassment. ‘Then I read Joe’s essay. Joe, you really outdid yourself in the “I couldn’t give a shit”, stakes. You submitted a grainy photocopy of an essay signed by Mary Smith,’
Toby and Mark were looking furiously at Joe, who was grinning sheepishly. Mary gasped in horror as the teacher turned to her and said,
‘Bravo Miss Smith. If these incorrigible, lazy, good for nothing boys were going to copy your work, then let it be bad work. After all, you study hard for your marks, why should they have a free ride?’ He turned back to the boys, who were now shaking their fists at Mary, ‘No retribution will be taken against Miss Smith or the three of you will be expelled. As it is, you receive no marks for plagiarism – look it up Joe, it’s under ‘P’. Let this be a lesson to you all. If you copy from one another, or from Wikipedia or from a book, that’s plagiarism, and you get no marks. If however you quote from another’s work, you MUST acknowledge that you have done so with a footnote and in the bibliography. I’m tempted to give Joe a mark for acknowledging where he copied his assignment from.’ Joe looked up, hopefully, ‘Relax Joe, the temptation has passed.’
Bio: Jane calls this piece a whimsical tale about school days and how we may wish they were like Scary Mary’s revenge!