The greatest respect that can be paid to anyone is let them assume responsibility.

It was Christmas holiday. John sat in the sofa in front of the television. He was taking a break before he was to sit for the coming mock examination in February. Seldom could the television interest him.. As a matter of fact, John regarded watching television as a habit other than anything. He had meticulously adopted himself to a regular and industrious life-style that do little with television and all sort of entertainment since the Summer holiday. However, the programme did capture him. The programme was a review of the year events, a matter of cut and paste and inviting some experts to say a few words. He had a natural disdain for such sort of programmes. In the programme, Mr. Tung was delivering his first policy address. Of course, John could not call it our policy address free from foreign influence as some narrow-minded nationalists or opportunists would say. He had never approved of the honest elderly, Mr. Tung. He was mean to criticize Tung as an aged man of no trade and that his only card to play was to build up a reliable, honest and diligent image. But Tung's word, another dishonoured cheque it might be, " I believe the greatest respect that could be paid to anyone is let them assume responsibility!" echoed in his mind. When the programme came to the fatal avian-influenza, his mind was still on the speech. The few words meant too much to him. John would not call himself sentimental. Unlike most other men, however, he would turn his experience and inner feelings into words when there came something of extreme gravity or pleasure. He turned his diary to the page with a day marked the 7th of August, 1996. It was not difficult at all for it was a loose page.

The 7th of August must be very familiar to those who have sat for the HKCEE 1996. It was the day that the candidates had been

waiting for impatiently and at the same time wished would not have come so soon... It was the day the public examination result was announced.

7th of August, 96

Anger is the word I would put for today. The result finally came, it angered me! Never had the slightest idea of such a result flashed in my mind. The only time I was frustrated was that I have skipped lines for the first three questions in Chemistry. Pessimistically, I assumed the three answers failed to score at all and I evaluated I would manage to get a D(8) consequently... However, everything failed to meet my expectation. My trump card, English, was completely out of control. I could not accept the grade. For those subjects that were supposed to be marginally B, they all turned out to be C. I deserved grade B but I am deprived of them! Whom could I possibly complain to ? I like to curse. "Is that you, God ?" That was a blow to me, a really serious one. What could be worse than that? I was lost, completely lost. There was no way out. When I looked around, took in a deep breath, trying to divert my attention, what I felt was that the earth was misted, unexplored. My heart slowed down as if it did not pump. My vision was simply the diffraction of light and things like that as Physics, which I don't care a damn, would tell you. The coffin nail was hammered when mum said, " I have told you, son, you should have worked harder." She was meant to support me. When I was depressed, she said no words to comfort but to blame me. She did not put herself in my case. She went on with the attack, " I have told you, you ought to study the Past Paper for every tiny scrap and detail ." She was not only scolding me. She was giving a lecture in front of all my friends and classmates. " That explains why you get A(1) in Commerce. It's in every sense correct for me to send you to tutorial class." I was really cross with her. She gave all the merits to the tutors but it was my efforts indeed. If tutors were praised for the work of the students, they should be responsible for the many failures as well. It hurt. Last night, she committed a similar mistake. She took the duplicates of my Identification Card and my school results since Form 1. I told her it would be of no use and said, " Just put them back, I won't need it! ". She shook her head and said," Just in case, my dear son... You have assumed too much." I know very well she was doing in my

best interests, but I would not appreciate it. It simply implied she did not trust me. The HKCEE is a blow, but it is not the worst. Failure in exam was nothing compared with failure in being trusted by his own family member. I could not forgive her. It is unpardonable...

* * *

John took a deep breath to hold his rolling tears. " You simply did not trust me, mum." he murmured. " John, don't just stay in your study. Come and help me to tidy the table." His mother complained when the dinner was about to be served. John did not say a word and went to help. After all, her mother had spent her most splendid years to bring him up. After dinner, with the table tidied and the dish washed, he returned to his study as his schedule strictly required of him. But he declined to pick up any reference books. He knew only too well that he could not concentrate on his study. He continued to read through his "diary" I did not talk to my mother for her words. There was no point to talk to her, she would not understand. And even if she tried to understand, she simply misunderstood and quoted my words out of context. I had my lips sealed on the way home. It was not until sunset that I spoke again. My friend rang me for a conversation. He began by suggesting, "I assume you must be promoted to Form 6 in your own school and take the stream of your own choice. That's why I feel free to tell you my result." He was very excited. When it was my turn, I did not conceal anything from my close old friend. He was swift to give me examples of extreme, perhaps exaggerated, cases to console me. It would not help. All I concern was my own result. I reassured him I was all right for a matter as little as the HKCEE would never be my ultimate goal. I brought our conservation to others' results. I was surprised to realize the difference in number of distinctions between two band one boys' schools, his and mine, in the HKCEE. When it was my turn to reveal my school's overall result to him, I said I was not at liberty to disclose anything. I explained I was trying to imitate the bureaucratic approach in the government. We both laughed.

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