‘Iam not here to reprimand you,’ the principal told Jason. “Please come
Jason, hesitantly, took a step into Mr. Miller’s
“Come in, come in.”
Another hesitant step and Jason was
standing in the middle of the room.
“Sit down.” The principal was seated
in his chair, and he pointed to the other chair across his desk, the one meant
for children who are summoned to the principal’s office.
Jason sat down.
He tried not to look nervous.
“Do you know why you’re here, Jason?” Jason
shook his head.
The principal pulled out two sheets of printed paper. “Do
you recognize this?” Jason nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“This,” Mr. Miller laid
out the papers on the desk in front of him, “is your response to a homework
assignment Mrs. Graham gave you last week, is that correct?” “Yes,
“It was due back yesterday, and you handed it on time, didn’t you?”
“Now, Mrs. Graham taught you what a metaphor is. And the
assignment was,” he said, as he was skimming over the pages Jason had written,
“to write a short story that was, in essence, a metaphor. Correct?” “Yes,
“Let’s go over what you wrote, shall we?” Mr. Miller started going
over the lines with his finger very quickly. “You wrote,” he said, as his finger
kept gliding past more lines, “about something called an imagination
“And it served people who had different
“Yes, sir, Mr. Miller.” Jason’s heart started
beating a bit too fast.
“Now let’s see,” his finger stopped on one
“There were sick people coming in, who were sick because they were
allergic to imagination.”
“What does that mean?” Mr.
Miller grew angry and veered off his own point. “I don’t understand what that
means. How can someone be allergic to imagination?” Jason shook his head, to say
he doesn’t know, but did not answer.
“Well, never mind.” Mr. Miller moved
his finger elsewhere on the page. “Here you talk about someone who took too many
imagination pills.” He looked up at Jason. “Took too many imagination pills? I
don’t understand. Why would someone need more imagination than they already
have? I don’t understand.”
Jason shrugged his shoulders and did not
“Anyway, here there is someone who is hallucinating because he
has poison running through in his imagination.” He raised his eyes at Jason
again, “Poison in his imagination? I don’t understand. What does that even
mean?” “Uh... sometimes...” Jason said, his voice shaking. “I mean, I saw on TV,
Mr. Miller, a hospital show where someone had poison in his blood and he almost
died from it.”
Mr. Miller kept staring at Jason.
“So... uh... So I
thought maybe this man has poison in his imagination, and he needs to go to the
Mr. Miller continued to stare at Jason. When it became clear
to him that Jason had finished talking and would say nothing more, he shook his
head. “I don’t understand. What does that mean? I don’t understand.”
Jason just made a face and did not give a response, he shook his own head. “I
don’t think you understood the assignment, Jason.
And there is a reason
Mrs. Graham gave me your assignment.” He leaned back in his chair.
understand that a metaphor is when you say one thing, but you mean something
else?” Jason nodded. “When you write about one thing, but it represents
Jason nodded again.
“You say you understand,
Jason, but I don’t think you do. A metaphor is when one thing represents
something else. What can an imagination hospital represent? What can a man who
is allergic to imagination represent? I don’t understand. A man allergic to
imagination? What is that? I really do not understand, Jason.
And a man
who takes imagination pills because he feels he needs more imagination? Wanting
more imagination? Feeling your imagination is not enough? What is that? What can
that possibly represent? I don’t understand. I don’t.” He frowned. “Or the man
who had poison in his imagination. I don’t understand, Jason. I really don’t. Or
this,” he leaned forward and pointed to another place on the page, “You wrote
about a kid who died from an overactive imagination.”
“What can that possibly represent? Who can possibly die from an
overactive imagination, Jason?” Jason didn’t answer.
Who, Jason? I don’t understand.”
WHEN JASON STILL did not answer, Mr.
Miller took a deep breath. “Anyway. Neither I nor Mrs. Graham understood
what you wrote. Which means that you did not understand the
Nor do you understand what a metaphor is.” He took another
deep breath. “But more than that, personally I think that what you wrote is very
Jason’s eyes went up. “What? Dangerous? Why?” Mr. Miller bent
his neck, as if trying to appease a pain in the neck’s muscles. “I don’t want to
go into that. Let’s just say that you should stop writing about imagination, and
instead start using your imagination. All right? Never write about imagination
again. Am I clear?” Jason was confused, but understood what was being asked of
him. “Yes, sir.”
“Good. Now,” Mr. Miller put the two pieces of paper one
on top of the other. “Since you didn’t complete your assignment, Mrs. Graham and
I require you to do it again, and this time to do it right.” Mr. Miller took the
two pieces of paper, and put them in one of his desk’s drawers.
a week. That will be all.”
Kyle, Chris and Eric
couldn’t stop laughing when Jason told them what happened.
The break was
still not over. So as soon as Jason had walked out of the principal’s office,
they had practically pushed him into class.
Then they had seated him on
an empty chair, and had asked him what it was all about. They were the cool kids, so they never actually cared about Jason. But now they
Jason told them what Mr. Miller had said, and as soon as he did,
Kyle – because he was their leader – started laughing. Then Chris and Eric
“That is so funny!” Kyle said, still
“Funny,” Eric said, also laughing.
“Very funny,” Chris
said, even though he’d stopped laughing.
“Mr. Miller wouldn’t know
imagination if it kicked him in the face,” Kyle said.
whatsoever,” Eric said.
“Like, he can’t even think for himself!” Chris
said and then chortled.
Kyle stood up, excited, “He’s so square, his only
thought is what someone else already said!” “No imagination,” Eric stood up,
too. “Only repeats what someone else already said.”
Chris got up to his feet.
“Nothing original. Only repeats what someone
else already said. Idiot!” All three of them chortled. And as he was watching
them, Jason, who was just sitting there surrounded by the three big, cool guys,
suddenly had another idea for another disease in his imagination
“We have lots and lots of imagination,” Kyle pointed in the
“Plenty!” “Bucketfuls! We have bucketfuls of imagination!” The new
disease in the imagination hospital, Jason decided, would be called “Imagined
Imagination Syndrome.” “What is that?” a worried mother would ask the doctor who
had just diagnosed her child with Imagined Imagination Syndrome.
my dear lady,” the doctor would say, “is when a person imagines that he has
imagination, even though he has none at all.” The mother would be shocked that
her child is sick, so the doctor would continue, “The first symptom of Imagined
Imagination Syndrome is the use of the word ‘lots.’ You see, my dear lady, he
tells us that he can think up lots of things with his imagination, but he never
“We’re young,” Kyle was saying, “and we can imagine
anything we want.”
“Lots of stuff,” Eric snapped his fingers with
“Tons of stuff,” Chris also snapped his fingers.
head, Jason was still imagining the story about the doctor and the mother in the
imagination hospital. The doctor would say, “The second symptom, my dear lady,
is that people who have been infected with this disease always travel in packs.
That way no one tells them they’re wrong and everyone agrees with them that they
have imagination.” The mother would then nod, and say, “Ah. My boy does have
friends, and they all act like him. So I never thought anything was wrong with
him.” “You should bring them in,” the doctor would say. “They probably also have
Imagined Imagination Syndrome.”
“We can imagine anything,” Kyle was
saying, “Like... hospitals... and imagination diseases... and you know what
else? Witches! And... whatever.”
“Yeah. Whatever. We can think up
whatever we want.”
“Anything. If I just close my eyes, I can think of
anything!” “And the third and most important symptom,” the doctor would say, “is
that victims of this disease always borrow imagination from other people and
think it’s their own. It’s most worrying.”
The mother would nod, “Most
“I really like stories about dragons and witches and knights
and... quests,” Kyle said.
“Those stories are the best!” “The way they
fight the dragons! And the way they fight for their honor! And the way they
always win!” “But wait a second,” the mother in the imagination hospital would
say. “If my child has no imagination, how is it that he imagines that he does
have imagination?” “Ah,” the doctor would say, “that is one of the mysteries
that science has not yet cracked. Not everything is known about Imagined
Imagination Syndrome, which is why it is so hard to cure. But we’ll do our best
for your child, my dear lady. He is in the best of care.”
heading out the door, with Chris and Eric behind him. “Mr. Miller is so square
he would never ever understand people like us,” Kyle was saying. “His
imagination is closed off! Not like ours! We’re free!” “Anything is possible in
our minds!” “Anything!” Chris agreed. “My brain is exploding with original
thoughts!” And with that, they were out of the class and out of Jason’s
Jason looked around and sighed. And that’s the end of the
“Jason looked around and sighed,” Ethan said. “And that’s the end
of the story.”
Then Ethan raised his eyes from the paper on which his
assignment was written and looked at the class. Everyone was staring at him.
They seemed to like his story. Then he looked at Ms.
Ordway, who was
standing leaning against the wall, near the windows.
She shook her head
and said, “I don’t understand.
What does it mean? I don’t understand what
Guy Hasson is an Israeli science fiction author. His
books Hatchling and Life: the Game were published in Israel by Bitan Publishers.
His next book, Secret Thoughts, is due out in the US in 2011. His short stories
have appeared in six languages. Two of his short stories have won the
Israeli Geffen Award for Best Short Story of 2003 and 2005.