Part Three: Clapping Champ

Essay by ElleiraHigh School, 10th grade May 2007

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She was the principal. Her voice blared through the gymnasium like an amateur trumpeter attempting The Last Post during an Anzac service. But her audience was much less solemn. Her words were steady, although undignified and muffled beyond the entire school’s movement and shock as they turned their heads around and gasped at my arrival. The teachers at the door ushered me to sit down, but there were only Year 12’s sitting on chairs at the back of the assembly. I would need to crawl over the bodies of Year 11’s and 12’s to reach where the Year 10’s were sitting. I found a spare seat next a dark haired boy. As I walked over to the seat, it seemed as if every pair of eyes in the building were on me. I wondered if they always did that to people who walked in during in the middle of formal assemblies.

When I put my bag down next to the chair, most of the school had forced their attention back to the principal, whose name I was told but forgotten.

I turned my head and noticed a girl walking in through the same back doors that I came in through. The only person that seemed to notice her entrance was me. She accidentally tripped over herself and made a loud thump as she met the ground. Still no one but me witnessed the incident. I turned my head back to the speaker, the principal, who was concluding her speech.

“I’m very proud to be here at Bundarra, and I feel that this year will be particularly promising. I’m hoping that all students are looking forward to it, because it’s you people that are going to make it happen.” She smiled, and everyone took it as if she were finished and began applauding. She was not finished with her speech yet, but the volume of the clapping and cheering was much louder than her amplified voice, so she gave up trying, grinned and left the microphone. Students continued to cheer, as if her speech was so full of inspiration and wonder. I hadn’t been listening, nor had I been there for a majority of it, so I wasn’t sure if they were being genuine or sarcastic. I was leaning towards sarcasm. They continued, and I suspected they did this in order to delay the end of the assembly, and waste time instead of going to class. I ceased from applauding, because it seemed silly to clap for such a long time. And the clapping went on.

And on.

The teachers didn’t stop the students from making such noise, but instead sat and smiled. The principal looked at her watch thoughtfully. The boy sitting next to me saw my slightly confused face and attempted to explain.

“You……. knew…..” his words were smothered with the noise.

“I can’t hear you!” I yelled over it.

“I said ‘You must be new here,’ I’m Byron,” he smiled at me.

“Yeah, and I’m guessing you’re not. I’m Tarryn. What’s going on with the clapping and stuff anyway?” The applause was growing louder.

“Our school does this every year.”“The applause?”“Yeah. After the principal’s first speech of the year. She records how long we clap and cheer for, until our hands and throats get sore.”“Oh, okay,” I smiled. “School tradition, ay?”Byron laughed. “Yeah, it’s one of our many.”I began to join in the applause again.

“How long’s the last record?” I asked, leaning closer to Byron so he could hear her.

He grinned, exactly as the principal had done earlier.

“17 minutes. It’s been about 6 so far.” The clapping was weakening, and the cheers had stopped, but we didn’t want to give in. We had to break the record. I was getting almost as excited as the rest of the school, but the palms of my hands were getting sore. I paused for a break, and noticed many others doing the same. Byron had also stopped clapping.

“Hey, let’s make a deal. First person to stop clapping owes the winner an ice cream.” He wore a smile of victory over his face, and I was not prepared to be called ‘chicken’ on my first day of school.

“You’re on.” I replied.

We began clapping again. After awhile, a voice inside my head kept telling me to stop, and that this game was lame. Another voice told me that I’m in a new school, a new place, with different rules that I have to live by if I’m going to be staying here, which I was. The voices were annoying me, so I decided to distract myself by looking at Byron. He had dark brown, curly hair, and brown green eyes. And he turned his head and stared those eyes right into mine.

“I’m gonna win this, ya know.” He said it with triumph. The school’s clapping began to die down.

“My leg’s itching,” I lied. I though maybe if I mentioned it, his mind would be conscious of his legs, which would hopefully become itchy in my favour. Everyone knew that you can’t clap and scratch your leg at the same time. You need both hands to clap. I was great at resisting itches, in case my plan backfired, which it usually did, but not this time.

“You should scratch it, if it’s itchy.”“Thanks for the advice, but nah, I’d lose the challenge.”Byron frowned, and started shaking his right leg.

“Great, now you’ve got my leg itchy.” He bent over, scratched his calf and at the same time, continued clapping, using his knew as a substitute for his occupied hand.

I hadn’t though of that.

“You’re cunning, Tarryn, but I know your game.”I pretended I was shocked.

“What game? I would never do that.” My laugh gave it away. Byron started laughing too. His clapping became weaker, down to the level of the rest of the school. Soon, the school had stopped entirely, and it was just the two of us left. I could see Byron’s palms, which were as red as a beetroot. Mine were like strawberries. Byron had forgotten that I only started clapping just before he challenged me, and he along with the rest of the school had begun six minutes earlier. Byron stopped clapping. I had the victory. I could’ve kept clapping for a long time after, but the whole school was looking at me, so I suddenly stopped.

“Congrats, champ.” Byron didn’t seem to care that he lost. “I owe you an ice cream.”The principal stood up to announce the new record.

“24 minutes and 46 seconds, thanks to our newest student, Tarryn Jacobs, who’s Bundarra’s new champion of applause!”A few people clapped, but most of them were too sore to bother. The principal knew my name. She knew my name, and I didn’t know hers.

“What’s her name?” I whispered to Byron.

“That’s Mrs Brickmann, the principal.”I’d heard that name before, but I couldn’t remember where. Mrs Brickmann had already left, and a man had taken her place.

“And that’s Mr Honnerly, the dep.” Byron added.

Mr Honnerly began to speak.

“Each year group should now proceed to their year areas, where they will be led to their new form classes. All new stupi… ah, students other than Year 8’s, please report to me when everyone gets moving. Year 9’s will be packing up the gymnasium, so please stay seated, Year Nines. Year 12’s may quietly move off.”At that word, everyone around me stood up and shuffled towards the closest exits.

“I guess I’ll cya around,” said Byron. “I’ll find you at lunch for the ice cream.”“Oh, don’t worry about that.”“I never break my word, and you deserve it anyway.” He started walking away. “Cya.”“Cya.”The Year 11’s in front of me stood up and left after the Year 12’s. I walked up to the front of the assembly, where Mr Honnerly stood, surrounded by about 15 new students.

“If’ you’re in Year 12, walk over to Mrs Rippley – she’ll show you to the Year 12 year area. Year 11’s go to Mr Newman, and Year 10’s see Miss Lee. Year 9’s stay here.”At this moment, the Year 10’s began to leave the gym. I walked over to Miss Lee. She had black hair, and wore a blue and green summer dress. When I reached her, there were no other new students in Year 10 besides me.

“Hi. You’re in Year 10?” she asked.

“Yes.”“Follow the crowd that just left, they’ll lead you to your year area.”Most of the group had left so I had to run to catch up. I wondered why Mr Honnerly couldn’t have just told me to follow the group instead of making me walk all the way to Miss Lee, than all the way back and out of the gymnasium.

When I got out of the gym, the year group had split up and went away in different directions. I followed a group of girls, losing them twice, but they led me to the right place.

The Quadrangle.