By Alfie Hardman
It was a few years ago when I was still as school. I had my History of Art exam the next day but it was a miracle I had made it this far without drowning in fresco examples. My teacher was a smug little man with greasy black hair that was slicked back in the 1950s style I would say. It made his white skin seem even more blotchy, constantly in harmony with the white walls of the studio we would attempt to learn in.
That night he had summoned me to his office. I honestly thought I was in for some sort of pep talk. I remember thinking this a little weird. Outside of getting the projector to work Mr Young’s seemed to inject little energy wherever he went, we were only a small class of eight of which he only seemed to actually acknowledge two of us.
I entered and he asked me to have a seat in a rather formal way. This is not going to be pep talk. He asked me how my exams were going. Fine. He pretends he wants to know about my summer plans. Yeah, looking forward to it. He then even asks how my mum is although he seems to register how stilted this small talk is with a twitch of his nose. There’s a pause while he adjusts his bulky specs.
“Now Alfie… You’ve worked hard this year, obviously this is a new subject for you and I feel you almost put everything into it.”
“…Thank you sir.”
“I mean you should pray Cubism doesn’t come up but … anyway, the reason I asked you to my office is…”
He coughs so politely I think its the least natural thing I’ve ever seem.
“You don’t have to sit this exam tomorrow.”
“I’ve cleared it with the school. They also think it would be for the best, unless you’d like to take it of course.”
I remember feeling dumbfounded. Why would the man thats lectured me for just under a year want me to dip out the night before the final big boy, the two hour (three with my extra time) slog? I don’t actually remember considering his proposal, I think the consequences from home would have been too catastrophic.
I recall mumbling something in a slight shock then leaving. Walking back home I turned over what had just happened in my head. I recognised the fact that we were only eight in the class and that even if one of us completely stacked it tomorrow the overall average would plummet. I then realised that this was probably the only thing many of my teachers really cared about, I could imagine them bragging about theirs over stale cake and nine sugared teas.
Mr Young could not give a shit about our futures, he only really cared about his average and whether his crappy course would be scraped next year. I don’t think we gave him much to brag about but I did manage to squeeze that C+.