Fledgling

When I was the Director of Training and Technological Exchange for a French petroleum exploration company headquartered in Zhanjiang, Guangdong, one day, at my training center, a fledgeling bird, apparently venturing from its nest for the first time, had the misfortune of making its first landing on the balcony of the third floor of the building, just outside my classroom.

One of my younger students ran to the young bird, picked it up in his hands, and crushed the life out of it, laughing all the while. None of his classmates said anything to discourage him from that act of abominable cruelty. No one tried to stop him. This only took seconds, it seemed. Through the window of the classroom, from my desk, I witnessed the whole affair, but was unable to reach the student before he had killed the bird.

Enraged, I picked him up, and suspended him by the hem of his trousers three floors above the ground. He was crying like a baby. Again, no one said anything, and no one tried to stop me. I told him, as the class listened, that his life was no more or less valuable than that of the bird he had killed. I threatened to drop him on his head. It surely would have killed him. I did not care. As far as I was concerned, he deserved to die.

He peed himself. He shit himself. He lost all face. I lifted him to safety. Before he could regain the fullness of his consciousness, I told him that he was no longer welcome at my school. I told him to get his things and leave immediately. He complained that he needed to clean up. Approaching him with fury in my face, I refused to grant that courtesy or any other. I gave him thirty seconds to leave the school grounds, after which I would push his pathetic ass down the six flights of stairs. He ran. As he was leaving, I told him that he would not be coming back, and that I would do everything  within my power to ensure that he had no future in the petroleum industry, or in any other gainful industry. He was done. He had made the worst mistake of his life.

When he had left, I gathered the other students in the classroom. I told them that they, too, were guilty, because they had condoned that unconscionable act. Everyone in the classroom bowed his or her head. They knew that they were wrong. the stillness in the room confirmed it. They had seen how serious I was. They knew full well that I was not joking. I assured them that if anything like that ever happened again, I would not hesitate at all risk to myself to take an eye for an eye, a life for a life.

Several days later, that young man returned to the gate of my school with the leader of his work unit. He begged my forgiveness. His unit leader begged my forgiveness. I simply told him that I never wanted to see his loathsome face again. I never did.

The other students took my words to heart. After a couple of years of training and testing, I sent all of them, men and women, to study advanced petroleum sciences, economics, and law at graduate schools in France and in the United States. They all returned, degrees accomplished. There were 92 of them. Since then, I have come to know the families of many of them. They still call me 周老师.