We were to do our very first group project, due two weeks after. The teacher arranged for us to work in our groups, which meant that I had to work with the two Elaine-like girls, the two Pokemon-fans and Conrad.
During our class discussion on the project, Conrad was surprisingly cheerful. In fact, he grinned and muttered to himself at times. I was unnerved. A happy Conrad was never a good thing. In the middle of our discussion, Conrad suddenly butted in (just when I was making a good point, the rascal):
“Alright, guys. I think we’re getting nowhere. Without Internet resources, we cannot hope to get any facts for the project. Here’s what: I will take charge of the project. My father has recently bought an Unabridged PC Encyclopedia, which will be quite enough for me to do the project.” I protested: I had always been the main man in projects of this nature, and I was not about to let Conrad do anything that might undermine my reputation in class.
“Don’t worry, Esplanade, everything will be fine. Why don’t you just go home and study for that BIG math test we have next week? I should be able to fit the project into my busy schedule, what with my Mensa meeting and all. Alright, guys. That’s all. You just go home and have a fun time.”
“And… we shall have Esplanade’s and Conrad’s group next. They will present on the history of ancient Singapore, along with a seemingly random side-lecture on the Pythagoras’ Theorem,” giggled our dear teacher. Conrad grinned, stood up, and took out his thumbdrive from his branded pencil-case, while instructing us loudly, “Just read from the script I took pains to prepare last night, and remember to synchronise this with the slideshow I prepared at 3am alone the other night!” A few discerning students giggled.
Cold sweat broke out. How could I have been so stupid? My fate was sealed the moment I decided to let him do all the work. But I was lucky if this was all…
The slideshow ran perfectly, although I noticed that Conrad gave most of the more important slides to himself, saving me only a short slide on the unique properties of scalene triangles. But I knew it was all over as Conrad, smirking away, pressed the button for the last slide: the mandatory list of roles of each group member.
Conrad – group leader: did research, analysed situation, created slideshow, created presentation scripts
Bill – did research
Tommy – did research
Jill – did research
Larissa – did research
Esplanade – timekeeper
My cheeks burned with rage and embarrassment. This time, the giggles were complete: and in fact some boys laughed openly, pointing at me as if I were a retard to be goggled at. Conrad smiled benignly, looking at the teacher every now and then. But I was sure his plan had succeeded; the teacher now stole peeks at me and frowned through her ever-present smile.
The next day, the teacher called for a “class meeting” yet, and Pin De, turning a deep shade of green, promptly excused himself to go to the toilet. There were a few blank votes, and a solitary vote for Pin De, written in what appeared to be Pin De’s handwriting. There were twenty other votes, and the teacher, who was obviously delighted at how the suspense was killing everyone, took out each vote, slowly unfolded them before calling out the name of the chosen candidate.
“The first vote… Esplanade!” Conrad grinned, and congratulated me.
“Next up… Conrad! All even now!” I smiled weakly. Elaine placed a fat arm on my left shoulder and whispered something. Apart from the encouraging tone, I could not pick up anything she said, as her mouth seemed to be permanently flooded with dribble, and now was no exception.
And so the names were slowly read out. After about fifteen votes or so, I firmly believed that I was losing to Conrad by a margin, but the teacher soon called out, “We have sixteen votes counted, and the score is exactly eight to eight! Four more votes!” Elaine gripped me tightly.
“Esplanade!” Nine on nine. Around this time, Pin De had returned from the toilet, and sat at his desk, smiling blankly at the space in front of him as the rest of us still gathered around the teacher’s desk.
“Second last vote… Conrad!” I closed my eyes.
“The last vote goes to…. Conrad! And Conrad is our class monitor, having won eleven votes!” Conrad punched his fist in the air, as a few girls screamed his name. I trudged back to my seat, with Elaine still gripping tightly at my shoulder. Conrad was the new class monitor. And me? I was left with Elaine’s dribble on my uniform.
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