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The Awkward Moment
by Jack Brown

In the last year and a half, whenever his classmates talked about their fathers, Kipling has always said, “My father works in a state-owned factory. He has a good job.”

One afternoon Kipling went to attend a birthday party in a hotel. When the party was over, it was rather dark. Worse still, there was no bus stop along that street, so one had to walk a long way before one could get to the nearest bus stop. He and his two classmates stood there for a moment, not knowing what to do. Suddenly, one of them found a man-drawn cart in front of the hotel, so they made their way towards it.

“To the nearest bus stop!” said Kipling as soon as they got in. Soon they started to talk and laugh in the cart.

“I say, Kipling, didn’t your father work in a state-owned factory? Why has he changed his job?”

Whenever people talked about his father, Kipling’s eyes brightened up and he did his best to persuade his classmates that his father had a good job. Anyhow, that day he got a little angry when he heard they had discussed his father. He didn’t say a single word, but a few seconds later, he said to the man, “A little quicker!”

At last they got to the bus stop and they jumped off the cart. “This is on me!” said Kipling the moment they got down, as if he could have lost the chance to pay the man. “How much is it?”

“3 Dollars, sir!” said a hoarse voice, which was very familiar to Kipling. The instant the man looked up Kipling froze so much that he kept still for quite a time.

“Oh, da... dad!” he couldn’t help shouting out.

“What’s the matter?” One of his classmates was very astonished.

Kipling realized that his two classmates were standing beside him, and his face turned bright red. All of sudden, the notes slipped from his hand down on the ground.

“You recognized the wrong man,” said the man as he bent down to pick up the money. “I am not your father.” With those words the man pulled his cart off into the darkness.

“That surprised us a lot. Why didn’t you recognize your father?” One of his classmates laughed.

Kipling glanced at him.

On the bus Kipling looked out of the window up into the sky. “Oh, dad! I haven’t seen you for a long time! You have become much older, with your beard so long, your hair in such a mess and your eyes terribly red. I haven't seen you since you started to work in that state-owned factory. However, mother often tells me that your factory is far away from our home. You have had to go to work before daybreak and return late at night. In fact, you have hidden from me, and the truth is that you drag a cart for money.”

Kipling hated himself, his ignorance and his disgraceful vanity... He had to accept a father who, in order to support the family, dragged a cart from morning till night.

He rose from his seat, saying to his two classmates, “The man who took us to the bus stop in a man-drawn cart is my father.”