A short extract from a novel for children (F.A.T.R.A.S, Merlin Library: Malta, forthcoming 2008) by Clare Azzopardi

Translated from the Maltese by Albert Gatt

The F.A.R.T.S Foundation didn't employ anybody any more, except for Saver and Klawdjo. Ever since they had taken over, they'd had only a single meeting. A rather short one, in fact, which shouldn't even have taken place in the Long Room. But Saver had insisted. It was a meeting in which Saver had declared that he was now the Boss and that his brother was Secretary. It lasted exactly thirty seconds:

Today, Monday the Second of January, I, Saver De Molish, do declare myself the new Boss of the Foundation for the Attractive Restoration of Tomorrow's Schools (F.A.R.T.S), which from today will be renamed the Foundation for the Artful Ruin of Tomorrow's Schools (F.A.R.T.S). I also do declare that my younger brother, Klawdjo De Molish, is my new Secretary.

That was all. They had signed a couple of papers, trooped out of the room and had never returned.. "But this time", muttered Klawdjo, his left eye twitching, "things are looking serious." He drew the curtains at all the windows and gave the long table a light dusting. He also dusted a couple of chairs. They only needed two, though there were twenty chairs in the room. The really big one at the head of the table was for Saver, the slightly smaller one at the other end of the table was for Klawdjo himself. Klawdjo prepared two glasses and filled two jugs with water, one jug and one glass at Saver's end of the table, the other at his. Then he picked up the vase of plastic flowers that were standing on a windowsill and placed it in the middle of the table. At precisely that moment, Saver walked in. "Exactly fifteen minutes have passed," he said. "We shall begin. I'll talk. You write." "Right, yes, of course," replied Klawdjo, his left eye twitching rather more than usual.

"I saw an advert on the internet today. The school that was named after our own father needs a Mathematics teacher, somebody who's young and has all the qualifications to teach Mathematics. Somebody who's kind and gentle and loves children. The Department of Education is going bananas, the Headmaster's tearing out his hair, all the children are heartbroken. All because they've lost their teacher. Klawdjo, are you following?

- Yes, yes, of course I'm following.

- Let's see, how far have you got?

- I saw an advert today ...

- Only that far?

- Well, you speak so fast! You know I like to take things slowly Saver!

- Look, forget it. Stop writing. Just listen to what I have to tell you.

- Fine by me. I'll stop writing. Whatever you say.

- Right, as I was saying ... what was I saying? See, you've interrupted me.

- You were saying that all the children are heartbroken.

- Right, yes. Now I remember. They need a Maths teacher, and I have decided to seize this opportunity.

- You're going to seize the Maths teacher?

- No, no, no. You idiot! You daft, ignorant ... I am going to seize the opportunity to become a Maths teacher.

- Who, you?

- Yes, me! Who else? You? Mr Head-Up-In-The-Clouds!

- But you've always hated doing sums!

- So what?

- Your grade in Mathematics was always a nice round zero!

- Well, so was yours!

- Yes, but I'm not the one who's suddenly made up his mind to become a Maths teacher!

- Well, neither am I.

- But you just said you were going to apply to become a Maths teacher.

- Well, do you want to know why?

- Well, yes. Wouldn't you like to know why?

- Of course I'd like to know! What do you think I am? Are you aware that we've had practically nothing to do in the last four years? Are you aware that the F.A.R.T.S Foundation, ever since I took over as Boss and you became Secretary, has failed to do what it aims to do?

- Yes, yes, I know!

- So I have to do something about it, don't I? Otherwise nobody will. You certainly won't. I'm the only person here who can apply to become a Maths teacher, aren't I? You're just floating about in the clouds! What am I going to do about you? You tell me that.



With grateful thanks to Inizjamed Malta


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