"Henry? Please come up to the board and write down the definition for 'articulate.'"
Henry sighed. It was another day at the Intergalactic Space Academy for Language Learning and Exchange Programs or ISALLEP program.
The place looked nice, and Henry had wanted so badly to come here and learn the language that the humans called 'English', but if anyone had told him that he would have to actually participate,
he might have had second thoughts. He dragged his feet up to the board, accepting the piece of chalk from the teacher, a human female named Ms. Nichols.
He rolled the chalk between his fingers as he thought about the word on the board. Articulate definitely had something to do with hearing but he couldn't remember what it was.
The powdery chalk rolled off onto his fingers, staining them white, and he resisted the urge to wipe his hand on his suit.
He knew it would only make the suit white and then his matron would scold him.
"Well?" The teacher demanded. The class was getting impatient. It was the last class of the day before the two-day break.
The alarm would go off any minute, dismissing them all from their stations as they filed outside to meet their matrons.
A few of the human kids didn't even bother to disguise their impatience, as they gave loud sighs, whispering to their friends.
They were younger than Henry, but still smarter than him by a milestone.
Although Henry's kind wasn't capable of displaying emotion, he felt a burn in his cheeks and finally understood what his human friends meant by being 'embarrassed'.
He gave the chalk one last roll, then started writing. The soft squeak of the chalk got everyone to quiet down as they held their breath.
If Henry got this right, they would all be dismissed early, probably outside to the play area, but if he got this wrong, he risked them all sitting in another fifteen minutes of class.
Finally, he stopped writing, stopping to admire his handiwork. He had written the definition in both English and Mormodickian, the language of his people.
Compared to his Mormodocikian script, his English script looked absolutely horrible, barely readable even to Henry.
Ms. Nichols squinted as she read the definition of the board.
"To...reproduce?" She read of slowly.
There was a moment of disbelief, and then titters, escalating to loud laughs as she stepped back and the class got to read what was actually on there.
The human kids were the loudest and at that moment, Henry wished that he had never agreed to sign up for this class.
It was a stupid choice anyways; the people here were younger than him by at least eight years and he was one of the only fifteen intergalacticks (no one except the humans called them 'aliens,
' whatever that was). He watched as a group of intergalaticks in the back laughed, not bothering to disguise their amusement.
They probably didn't even know what articulate even meant, thought Henry.
"Alright, class, settle down!"The teacher struggled to have her voice heard over everyone else's. Fifteen seconds too late, but it was a valiant effort on her part.
When it was clear that no was going to settle down until the alarm rang, she sighed, turning to Henry.
"Have you been studying, Henry?"
No one called him Henry. At least, not in Mormodickian. Henry was his English counterpart. His real name was KTY-4562.
After arriving at English class, however, he had quickly learned that a name like his wouldn't fly. Ms.
Nichols had suggested something like Henry or Rob, but Rob sounded like a Mormodickian swear word and all his friends would have laughed at him if he introduced himself as "Rob.
" So he had picked Henry. But now he wished he hadn't. All the other Mormodickians had cooler names like, "Lacey," or "Ratchet," while he was stuck with plain Henry.
"No need to call me ma'am, Henry, I thought we've been over this."
"Sorry," Henry shifted uncomfortably.
Back home, his teachers had always insisted with the titles, "Sir," and, "ma'am," and he had thought that the teachers would be flattered by the respect he was showing.
However, all he did was make them uncomfortable and earn him the nickname, "Mr. Stiff."
"It's alright." Ms. Nichols softened a bit. " Henry, I have no way to say this, but you're going to have to stay after school for tutoring,"
"Tutoring?" Henry was stunned.
"Extra help," the teacher emphasized.
"Well..." the teacher hesitated. "You have not been doing well on the last few tests..."
"But they were hard!" Henry quickly protested. Immediately, he wished he could take it back. He had just proved the teacher's point-that he wasn't doing well.
"Henry...I'm so sorry, but you will be required to stay after school for this. Starting tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" Henry felt a bit dizzy. " Can't you give me another chance or something? I promise I'll do better..."
"Finals are coming up," Ms. Nichols replied, "and if you can't participate, you will drastically bring down the average of the rest of the class. Here, I'll show you..."
She pulled out some charts on her reader. Henry saw that when his score was added to the class average, the class average dropped by almost thirty points.
"Isn't there an alternative?" He asked weakly. "Some other way-?"
"There is," she agreed, "but that would mean you taking the test with the Junior class."
That was even worse. His younger sisters were in that class. He would never live it down if he took the test with them.
"No," he finally said, resorting, "I'll do the tutoring,"
"Good," Ms. Nichol's face showed approval. " After school in Cell 44, with Ms. Slenick. She speaks Mormodickian and English, so you can talk to her."
Henry went back to his seat. If he had studied last night, none of this would have happened, he realized that much.
At the same time, he knew that there were some other factors playing into this.
He had done the math in his head and if he had done it right, the average shouldn't have been brought down by nearly thirty points. Maybe five or ten, fifteen at most, but not thirty.
He watched as Ms. Nichols erased the board, wiping clean the proof of his mistakes.
He wondered if he would ever get a chance to do that too.