Sophie’s head was deep in her book when her father came into the room. He stood in front of her with his closed hands outstretched.
She dragged her eyes up.
“A surprise for you,” he said. Guess which hand.”
She pointed. He opened his fingers to reveal a fat red worm wriggling on his palm. Sophie clenched her teeth to keep her scream inside.
Her father laughed. “Didn’t specify the surprise, did I?”
“Not as hilarious as your spider in my bed trick,” she deadpanned.
He laughed again, “Learn to take a joke, baby. Humour gets us through life.”
The teacher asked the class a question. He said there’d be a surprise for the child who answered it correctly. Sophie’s hand shot up. When she gave the correct answer the teacher called her to the front of the class.
“Bend down and touch your toes,” he said, swishing his ruler.
She stared at him, tears welling.
“Now don’t be a cry-baby,” he grinned. “Enjoy your surprise.”
The whole class exploded with laughter when he tapped her bum three times with his ruler. She dug her teeth into her lip so hard she drew blood.
She hid in the bike shed after school. She was surprised at how easy it was to break the classroom window with a brick and strike the match and light the ball of paper and throw it through the hole.
She was reading her book when her father came home from work. She heard him tell her mother about the fire.
“Arson,” he said. “Lucky the whole school didn’t burn down. They know who did it.”
Sophie stopped breathing.
“That little sod in Sophie’s class. Caught watching the flames. No surprises there. Parents as thick as pig shit.”
Sophie turned the page of her book.
Sandra Arnold lives in New Zealand. She is the author of five books and her flash fiction has been widely published and anthologised.
Image via Pixabay