“Hyun Sook” by Grace Ncube

Mrs. Cardenas called on him over and over again,

“Hyun Sook! If you cannot stay awake during class lectures I will have to count you as absent or make you stay for detention.”

She droned on and on about the conics section. Algebra II, second semester of senior year. Why did he have to take this class?

“That’s it Hyun Sook, you have detention at 3pm today.”

“But I cannot stay for detention” Hyun Sook wiped his sleepy eyes and tried to cover the tiny puddle of drool that his nap had left upon his carved up school desk.

“Why not?” Mrs. Cardenas insisted.

“I have Hakwon at 3:30.” He had her this time.

“What is that? And when does it end?” Her question was met by a shrug of his shoulders. “Come, talk to me outside Hyun Sook.”

“OOOOOH!” The 30 senior year students in the class jeered.

“Quiet!” Mrs. Cardenas was angry, frustrated. But the class feared her. They hated extra homework. And on a Friday before a weekend they knew she would give them double if they further misbehaved. Mrs. Cardenas put down her smart-marker and walked to the back of the classroom and out the open door. Hyun Sook followed as he pulled up his oversized jeans and donned his beenie.

        They whispered outside on the stairs for a few seconds until Hyun Sook trotted back into the room. He reached into his flattened backpack and with two fingers he pulled out the only papers inside, multiple Korean notebooks with Korean handwriting, loose papers in Korean, slim, skinny paperback books, slightly fanned, with balanced chemical equations on the front and Greek symbols on the other covers. The classmates nearest him stared and looked at his foreign books and noted that these books must be used for his “Hakwon” classes. Those around him understood.

        As they walked back into the class, Mrs. Cardenas loudly whispered: “8:30?! You are in classes until 8:30 each night?”

        Hyun Sook re entered the classroom. The combination of the tile floor with the sudden movement of the legs of his desked resulted in a screech as he settled in.

        “8:30?” Mrs. Cardenas was still in shock.


        Hyun Sook covered his tired eyes with his beenie, crossed his arms, and lay his forehead back down onto his wrists. He quickly began to dream. He did not hear Mrs. Cardenas calling his name to awaken him. She was not calling on him.