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School Health
by Ping Yi

“Boy you are thirty-eight per cent
overweight,” tuts the visiting nurse
“You need more exercise!”
I chew over Missy’s advice,
digesting my rice from recess
and half-dollar chicken wing.
Will the morrow bring curry puffs, or
mum’s sticky Teochew dumplings?
I shrug off the nagging,
doctor’s letter for asthma readied
to ward off gymnastics today.
“Boy your spine is not straight,”
another year, another nurse
dishing out cyclostyled wisdom,
pressing my back on the icy wall
capturing my asymmetries. I flinch,
goose pimples racing across skin.
Dismissed, I sling satchel on
right shoulder, four hardcovers
from library crammed in
off to race fellow bookworms.
“So many cavities boy!” new Missy
sighs. But not my fault that
your mass teeth-brushing round
the quadrangle, choreographed
spitting in drains, has flopped.
Sent to dental central, under the drill
my gag reflex kicks in.
Dentist storms off to change, while
the janitor deploys sand bucket and
antiseptic. My treatment cancelled,
mum sighs the whole drive home,
and I decide not to eat
my White Rabbit milk candy.
“Boy you are a hundred degrees
short-sighted, you need spectacles!”
I burst into tears, disconsolate
my future over. Was it my torch
under blanket, reading till dawn?
What do I tell mum? I see fine!
Dad’s optician tsks but does not
sigh, oscillating his pen light
into my retinas. Recalcitrant,
I forget my glasses the first time
my parents take me to see
big-screen kungfu; from my chair
I cannot tell if Jackie Chan is
fighting Ming vampire eunuchs, or
Shaolin monks are spitting in formation
in their quadrangle.