Jack was a sick kid.
Here, sick does not stand for someone who has a sadistic bent of mind or has thoughts so vile, that the society doesn’t see fit to interact with him. It means that he was one of those frail kids who are mostly on some sort of pills to cure one ailment, while the other ailment is secretly sneaking up on them, dragging them back to sickness, not breaking the ‘vicious cycle of sick kids’. In fact, he was so sick that his pill popping in school got him a nickname; Tablet.
For the longest time, Jack tried to get rid of the name, tried to fight it. He ran past kids in corridors, bumped into them at the canteen. It was not only his classmates anymore. Somehow, the name had leaked out of his classroom and slushing across the school corridors, soaked the entire school into a jeering, teasing frenzy. Tablet Tablet Tablet. In the dark corner behind the school building. Tablet tablet. In the last cubicle of the washroom, scrawled across the back of the door.
This was before a single day changed his life.
Jack the introvert spent a lot of time on his computer. He had been following the date for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 750 launch, just the way an expectant kid waits for Christmas. And then finally, whump! The day was there. It was the tenth of August, 2011, the LIVE Webcast of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 750 launch. Jack watched it like it was the last programme before Doomsday.
As the webcast slowly went on, the circuits inside Jack were going through a change that he wasn’t personally aware of. All the negativity was suddenly fizzling out like it never existed. He had been running a slight temperature, being the ‘sick boy’ that he was, but that was slowly turning into history, with every single second passing on screen. It was as if, the webcast was like a placebo not only for his illness; it was the answer that he was looking for, all his life. He never noticed his father enter the room and stand behind him. He never noticed him smiling and giving an almost invisible nod to himself. He never saw the satisfaction playing on his face, having finally found a way out for his son. All he saw was the dreamy image of the tablet in the webcast. He slept a peaceful sleep. Jack the tablet was soon going to spring a surprise not only to the people around him but also to himself, as he would soon find out.
The next morning was going to be the best morning he had had in a long time. The sun shone in through his window and he half opened an eye to look. Time for school. He raised his hand to the dresser beside his bed to get his glasses. Strangely, his hand touched something sleek and rectangular. Something he hadn’t expected. Something which Couldn’t have been there. When he opened his eyes, he held up the rectangular thing.
As he settled into his seat in computer class in the last period, he fished out the Samsung tablet and connected it to the wi fi. The kids around him took their notes in the laptops that they carried, eyeing him with furtive glances, exchanging words which Jack no longer cared about. There was a smile playing on his lips. As he sent in the assignment of the day, executed on his sleek new device, he saw the teacher give him a strange look and saying nothing. As the day closed, he heard a mean voice in the back hissing “tablet”... he turned back slightly and curling the right side of his lip in a knowing grin replied “exactly”...
As school got over, he was sitting right outside his school gates, browsing through his favourite e-books that he had recently transferred to the device. “Hey, fancy!” he heard a voice croon right near him, and his heart splashed right into his stomach. “Um...sorry, I only know your name as, uh , tablet”, she fumbled sheepishly. Jack was feeling large hearted, so he replied ‘Its Jack. You are Jenn right? Football star Ned’s girlfriend?’
“Was!” she said rolling her eyes “he thinks he owns me or something, so I got rid of that jerk. You mind coming along for a coffee?” she said.
Jack’s heart, which was finally returning to its original position, fell right back with a louder splash this time. “Sure” he said and got up to dust the backside of his pants. As he tried to stuff back the tab, he heard “Can I see it?” from her. ‘Umhmm’ he replied handing it to her, as they walked to the cafe, not hand-in-hand. Not yet.
Afternoon soon stretched into late evening, as they chattered their hearts out. She was a huge reader, the last thing that he expected. He showed her his e-book collection, going from one title to another. Jenn continued squealing with happiness as she handled the tab, her fingers flowing smoothly over the amazing touch screen. In the meantime, he had somehow managed to quickly text his dad about not worrying, that he Just might be late. Eventually, it was time to leave the place as the sun had already dipped below the horizon, and the first stars were coming out.
“Lets hit Ollie’s!” she sang, her eyes twinkling like the prettiest diamonds Jack had ever seen. Jack wasn’t a pub hopper, so he tried to chicken out, “no not happening! I gotta get home, its too late anyways...my dad...”
“Just this time. I promise it would be fun” her voice like the most beautiful melody Jack’s ears would catch. This was turning more difficult that he imagined. ‘Sure’ he said relenting, now headed to a pub, for the first time in his life.
Ollie’s turned out better than he had expected. Since they had checked in early evening, the place was just warming up. Few scattered high school kids occupied a few stools while others were occupied with people he would rather not want to have anything to do with.
The minutes of his Blockbuster Life Movie sped past him. He couldn’t believe that he, Jack the tablet, could actually have so much of fun in a single day, let alone a lifetime. He had his tab snug inside his backpack. Two beers down, his body felt light, like a kite. He was at peace. But then, just like every Blockbuster, it was time for the twist.
A heavy hand landed on his shoulder and a voice boomed behind him ‘Someone let Jack out of the box today hmm?’ A few stray voices sniggered. He did not need telling it was Ned, the football star, the one who had received atleast six detentions in the last year itself, out of which atleast four were for beating up guys. That, ofcourse, was the official count.
Jenn looked behind him and said “I wouldn’t do that if I were you Ned”, motioning Jack secretly to move. Ned came and stood leaning on their table, going red in the face only slightly before hitting back at her “Tablet? Seriously? You must be seriously out of your mind!” A few more laughs followed. Jack signalled the guy at the bar for the cheque.
“I am not. I can prove it to you that Jack here is more intelligent than all of you guys combined” she said colouring visibly. In fact, he can take money off you to clear the bill here, right this moment!” she said. A loud roar of laugh went up from his cronies, and Jack suddenly started wishing he could melt into the sofa he was sitting on.
Ned silenced the laughing hyenas behind him with a raised arm. He then turned towards Jack. His next words were like a death knell. He whispered, his face level with Jack, breathing right into his face,
“Sure. What do you have on your mind Jack?”
Jack’s mind raced like it was one of those hulking supercomputers he had googled so many times on the internet. He slowly slid his hand, out of Ned’s sight into his side, where the tab now lay, and closed his fingers around his new best friend, the Samsung Tab. Right then, a moment of inspiration struck him. He spoke
“Alright Ned, here’s what we do. I ask you a question. If you answer it, I will give you five bucks. But in case you don’t, you would have to give me fifty bucks. Deal?” He fervently hoped his head wouldn’t turn into a mashed potato.
‘Sure tablet, bring it on. But if I or my friends answer it, you are gonna give me much more than five bucks’ Ned retorted, steaming a little. People around the pub were starting to look now. Jack gave a slight nod.
Jack’s mind raced as thought about every question he had ever read. His mind went into a tizzy. Before he knew what he was saying, he blurted,
“What goes up a mountain on four legs and comes down on three?”
Ned’s face looked like someone had knocked the wind out of him. His cronies slowly started backing up, half step at a time, knocking they were soon going to be hauled up for the answer. But Ned did no such thing. Instead he screamed, “That’s bullshit” and swung his right arm at Jack’s face. Jack closed his eyes for impact. The punch never came. When he opened his eyes, Jenn was holding his hand and he looked like he had seen a ghost. Jenn spoke
“Why don’t you stop behaving like an animal for once, and put down the money if you don’t know the answer?” Jenn glowered. Jack made a mental note of taking tips on bravado from her later.
Ned, knowing that he was stuck square, fished into his pocket and came out with the fifty. The cheque was there as well. He boomed ‘I don’t know the answer.’
Jack fished into his pocket and slung his bag. When his hand came out, he had his palm balled up around something. Holding the Samsung tab in one hand, he said ‘I would take the tab now, gentle men.’ No one said anything. He picked up the fifty and gave it to the waiter. The waiter quickly gave him the change and disappeared from the scene. A big hand belonging to an equally big Ned, blocked his way.
“I don’t know the answer” he said through gritted teeth, his face a big tomato, on the verge of exploding.
Ned calmly took his hand and closed it around the object that he had been holding. Ned opened it to discover a fiver.
‘Neither do I!’ Jack screamed behind him, as he heard laughter coming from Ned’s friends, and his efforts at quietening them down. A few strangers smiled at him. His right hand was inside his pocket, fiddling with the change that had come back from the waiter. He felt fingers close around his left. The most delicate and beautiful fingers that he could ever imagine holding. Life was good. As he walked out, a single thought crossed his mind,
‘I took care of the tab. Or maybe, the Tab took care of me...”