That's Not Cricket
"I meant a real job. What's your ambition?"
"To be a professional cricket player."
"You mean a professional cricketer. You got to pay attention to articles 'a' and 'an', Ginger. Ah, there goes the bell! See you all next week."
Rushing out of Mr Timothy's class, the children were soon outside the whitewashed Intermediate School building. Their sturdy legs carrying a globe of knowledge fuelled their senses with wonder while some dragged their thoughts and lumped them to the ground as soon as they saw their parents. Some got on an amber school bus while others were whisked off in their parents' cars. Ginger had to wait for her mother who was always late to pick up her and her brother, Jim. She had to keep an eye on her brother who loved to wander off. One minute, he was tying his shoelace and another minute, he was pretending to fly with his arms spread out. Ginger sat quietly on the swing reminiscing about her English lesson. She had to do a presentation on Monday. Parents were invited to the class to watch their children present, and Ginger felt unease thinking about it.
Her mind wandered. She imagined a commentary of a cricket match: here's Ginger taking a shot. Oh, what a shot! What a dramatic end! White Ferns wins the World Cup!
"Ginger, where's your brother?" The voice startled her.
Jim with a sunny complexion came running into his mother's arms. Ginger heaved a sigh of relief. Jim was talking endlessly about a puppet play at his primary school throughout the journey while Ginger watched her mother drive through a busy street passing by a sushi restaurant, Turkish cafe and Korean eatery. She loved the blend of international cuisine in this part of the town.
"Hey sweetie, how was school?"
"Nothing exciting ever happens, huh?"
"Oh, I've got a letter inviting you to my presentation on my ambition on Monday."
"I don't think I can make it. I'm on morning shift!"
Ginger's eyes sparkled with delight but said in a hoarse tone, "Oh, it's okay, mum. Not a big deal."
"Perhaps, I'll ask Wendy to switch shifts with me. Yes, I'll do that!"
"But mum, you need not do that. It would be over before you could even spell my name."
"Oh dear, you need to polish on your performance and practice and practice!"
Ginger mumbled under her breath that it was a presentation and not a performance.
"My daughter, Dr Ginger Oliver!"
Her mother was struck by excitement, while Ginger's shoulders drooped.
Back at the school, Timothy was munching a crisp Gala apple that he had bought at the Wellington Farmer's market. While marking his students' essays, he lifted up his reading glasses and made eye contact with the new physical education teacher, Lydia.
"Lydia, care to join me for tea?"
"That would be lovely. I like mine with milk."
"The pantry is all yours. There's fresh milk in the fridge."
"I thought you -- ah, never mind. I'll make you one if you like."
"I'm good here. I've already a cuppa here. You'll find biscuits on the shelf."
"Thank you. Timothy, how was your day today?"
"Well, there was an incident in class."
Mrs Meddlesome stopped typing an email and cried out, "Mr Timothy, you must tell us all about this incident!"
"Yes, you do know Ginger, don't you?"
"Of course. The tall girl with sun-kissed freckles who sits at the back of the class. Her mother never turns up on time! What did she do?" Mrs Meddlesome dropped her weight on the red sofa.
"She wants to be a professional cricketer! Imagine a girl wanting to be that!"
Lydia was flabbergasted upon hearing that. She sipped her tea before giving a resounding reply. She dropped her china teacup onto the floor, and it shattered into pieces. Mrs Meddlesome jumped up quickly to avoid the tea staining her white blouse.
"Oh, Lydia! You got to be careful with those cups. They're Mr Timothy's wedding gift."
"I'm sorry, Timothy."
"Don't worry, Lydia. My wife wouldn't need them in her grave! The mop is over there. You do know how to use it, don't you?"
"Yes, Timothy. I can certainly make tea and mop!"
"Sorry, Lydia. You remind me of my daughter. Her mother--bless her soul--had done everything for both of us and we are quite lost without her!"
Mrs Meddlesome cleared her throat. She had to get back to her email but since gossips nourished her day, she wanted to hear about Ginger.
"Mr Timothy, you were saying something about Ginger."
"Yes, Ginger has a presentation on Monday. All the children in the class have some decent jobs to talk about while Ginger could only think about playing crickets!"
"Goodness me!", said Mrs Meddlesome.
"Aren't teachers suppose to encourage their students to be whatever they aim to be?"
"Look here, Lydia. Teachers have to guide their students to be on the right path."
"I'm afraid I've to agree with Mr.Timothy. He's a senior teacher who has seen his students graduate from universities and take up high posts in the government sector and corporate world. Cricket has no future! I cannot imagine Ginger running around in a courtyard with a racket, hitting a fluorescent yellow ball to play and doing that for a lifetime!"
Lydia and Timothy looked at each other and said simultaneously, "That's not cricket!"
On Monday, Ginger was feeling nervous as she waited for her mum who was still not around. Her mother's absence had taken a toll on her that made her feel melancholic although the classroom was filled with enthusiasm, as children and their parents took their places. As Ginger started to speak, her mum wearing a black t-shirt with a white fern logo walked into the classroom. Ginger's eyes welled up in tears. She recognised immediately the logo representing the New Zealand women's national cricket team. In high spirits, she delivered her presentation of her interest in becoming a professional woman cricketer. Loud applause rained in the room. Mr Timothy walked up to Ginger and said to her, "I'm proud of you today! Perfect delivery. But, mostly I admire your courage in speaking what you believe in!"
"Mum, how did you know that I love cricket and that I admire White Ferns?"
"Oh Ginger, I received a call from Lydia, the cricket coach at your school. Lydia said you could join the cricket camp this weekend. I'm sorry I didn't ask you what you like and assumed that you still liked becoming a doctor. "
"It's okay, mum. I love you. Shall we move to Auckland where I could study at the secondary cricket school in Auckland?"
Chuckling, Ginger's mum said, "Did you say Auckland? We'll see about that. First, let's go home and watch a cricket match together while enjoying a sushi takeaway."
"Oh yes, marvellous!"