I, the long-haired American teacher, began the story. "There was a penguin mother, a penguin father, and a little penguin baby."
The first fifteen-year-old student was Marian. He is the youthful, blue-eyed smiling boy who'd drawn a whale on the board in our last class. In a class characterized by wild girls, he has a sweet and bright personality. His hobbies include soccer and table tennis. He happily added, about the penguins: "They played American football and did wrestling."
Marian always sits beside quiet but pleasant Marek. Marek's thinning fluffy-blond hair, uneasy look, and mature attitude make him seem older than he is. He helped with, "They lived in Antarctica."
I figured it would help if I illustrated the story on the board. I drew the father penguin wearing a football helmet and face-mask. "... And they wrestled!" said Marian. I drew the mother penguin holding the baby penguin upside-down by his leg. Some icycle drawings represented Antarctica.
"The mother penguin talked in a beat-box, and they lived on the West Side." A rapper's microphone suddenly appeared in the mother's hands, and the family wore gang bandanas.
Let me introduce this third class-member, David Mojik, by first saying he's twenty years old and in class with fifteen-year-olds. Shaven black hair and beard stubble decorate his pale head. He's a loud funny guy who hunches over, wears sloppy t-shirts, and says he enjoys the "free life." He studies in a private high school, which means if his parents keep paying, he can keep going, even if he never advances to the next year. Incidentally, in the Czech Republic, class-mates are together for every class, seven or eight classes a day, for four or optionally eight years straight. They must get close - or else really sick of each other - during that time. (In David's case, he seems to be absent from many of those classes.)
Young Renáta sits next to David. I'd just taken away from her a cell-phone she was playing with. This is a big class, and telling a story together seemed to capture their attention. Renáta is the short-dark-floopy haired girl who'd drawn a squirrel last class. She chomps her gum and slides her body through the air in a very sassy way. She said, "There was a car driving, and they had an accident, the car hit the penguins."
Continuing around the desks arranged in a circle, Markéta Antelová was next. She collects erasers and pencil sharpeners. She's a sweetheart with light-purplish skin, and cheeks and a nose so soft you just want to poke them. Her short, sunny-brown hair had been feathered on the first day I saw her. "The baby penguin's leg was broke," she said. I turned his straight, stick leg into a bent, stick leg.
Katerina needed help to say, "The ambulance took him to the - 'nemocnice' - hospital." She's small with curly, long, brown hair and tiny glasses. She's quiet and shy.
"The nurse looked after the doctor," said Veronika. She usually tries to hide when I'm calling on the students to speak, but she was ready with this maybe-not-completely-harmless quote. She has rose-white skin, brown eyes that chirp like a bird, and cheeks which wrinkle towards her pursed pale lips. She likes swimming, dancing, and hip-hop.
The thin jean legs of her friend, Karolina, dance when I call on her - they dance so fast she might one day take off into space. She'd answered my earlier questions with words, not full sentences, which got me thinking it'd be good if we told a story in class. She said, "The baby penguin went to - 'operace' - operation." Karolina actually has as much fat on her as a stalk of celery. She has Latin-American skin and long, painted-blond hair which don't really match.
A girl with a small, lumpy head with black hair around it said, "The mother penguin was crying." Adriana's favorite clothing is a bikini. She responds ably and confidently when called upon.
"The mother penguin went to work as a prostitute." Ol' Martina was next. Martina has beautiful features: long, sunflower hair and blue eyes. However, she's often distant and solitary and sad during class while the others behave opposite. She likes sports and skiing. She's tall and a tiny bit wide. I know little about her, but I imagine it's tough to be big in a country where everyone's thin. I drew money in the mother penguin's hands.
"The mother penguin pays for the operation." Kristyna said the suggestion of the girl sitting next to her. Kristyna has a very small head. Mostly, she just smiles - a very pleasant smile, the type of smile a person gives when she's just happy to be near someone and hear someone speak she doesn't care about what nor is it important if she herself speaks, and I think particularly a squirrel would find Kristyna's smile lovely.
The girl sitting next to her was Zuzana. Zuzana, my nemesis: the girl who compared me to Tarzan THEN insisted brontosauruses live and are "in the sea." Her spunky little apple-red-lipped face bore bad news for the whole in-suspense class. "The baby penguin died." Oh no! Zuzana's hobby is "smoking."
Monika continued, with her dictionary. "They went to the funeral." Her white sweatshirt was bright and new, like all the students' clothes except David's. She wore the hood over her head. She preferred looking at pictures of a drinking party Zuzana had with her (Zuzana's) father, to getting called on by me.
The next girl, Sharka, has a young face. But, her long scarlet hair was swooped back and spun around nastily like a spider's whip. She'd stolen her tall body from the Queen of Venus, from back in those days when the Queen had charmed the dazzling Prince of Jupiter, and she wore a tight long-sleeved t-shirt. Her hobbies are boys, DVD's, and television. "They went to the pet store and bought a new penguin." I drew the penguin couple holding a third, small penguin in a cage.
Lastly came Klára. She's the dark-curly-haired, slightly Gothic girl. She doesn't extravagantly show it, but I think she enjoys coming to our English class quite a bit. She finished the story. "The penguins bought a new television and were happy."
- Modern Oddyseus
Also - thanks to Vojkuvka; Michal & Elrina; Milán; smoking guy & laughing wife; Petr & Alice; Radím and Veronika; Pavl, Ivana, & Pavl; and Michael for the rides!
Much thanks to Albina, Igor, Katka, & Niki for letting me visit!