The Speech Contest

A Brief Enounter


I walked out of the factory gate to go over to the convenience store for something to eat. As I stood by the kerb waiting for a break in traffic, I heard a voice beside me. A schoolgirl, maybe fourteen or fifteen, was standing next to me.


"Excuse me, can I ask you a favour?" she asked me somewhat timidly.


"What?" I replied.


"I have to compete in a speech contest very soon. Can I practice my speech on you?"

Intrigued, and amused, I said yes.


She pulled some sheets of paper from her pocket, and started her speech, which was about Alice In Wonderland'. She continued for about three minutes, and I stood there listening, wondering occasionally if anybody was watching us,and what they would think.

Just as quickly as she had started, she was finished. She then asked me what I thought.


"You should speak a little slower, but other than that it was alright." was all I could muster under the circumstances. She thanked me, pushed the papers back into her pocket, lifted her bag up on her shoulder and was on her way with a little bow.


I stood for a few minutes watching her walk away, trying to figure out what to make of what had just happened. In a wierd way it felt good to have helped her, and I was impressed by her gumption in approaching me. Amused and bemused, I crossed the road to the convenience store.


As it turned out someone was watching, and at a company drinking session a few weeks later one of my colleagues, who had seen the encounter, raised the subject. I explained what had transpired, and after a few joking accusations at me of trying to pick up schoolgirls, we had a laugh about the strange experiences I sometimes face as a foreigner in Japan.


I thought no more of it, but almost a year later, as a I was standing in almost the same spot waiting to cross to the convenience store, the same girl appeared at my side again. She asked if I remembered her, and while I didn't remember her face I presumed she was the girl who had approached me some months before. I asked about the contest, and she told me that not only had she won, but as a result she had been accepted by the high school she was hoping for, She said she was glad that she had bumped into me again, because she wanted to thank me for my help. I responded that I was happy for her, and with that she was gone, as quickly as she had appeared, again finishing with a polite little bow.


Again I watched her walk away, thinking about the brief encounter and how it may have affected her life. I realised it had also affected mine. I had helped someone, if only in a small way, and I felt good about it. In a way I felt proud of her, my first and only student.


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