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The Lesson

by BryanW 

Posted: 14 June 2014
Word Count: 900
Summary: For the 'Something to hold on to' Challenge.

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It was just going on and on and on. A hot afternoon and they were reading at about a zillionth of a mile an hour and they kept stopping ‘cos they couldn't pronounce the words, let alone understand the bleeding things. 

So I spoke. “Well, I wouldn't let no woman talk to me like that." 

The class did that kind of gasp thing. 

I was sat at the back. Some of them were looking at each other and I could hear a giggle. One or two turned round to look at me. Gawping.

So I carried on before Miss could think of what to say. "I mean are you saying that this Lady BigMac is telling him he's a wuss ‘cos he won’t do the deed and he's letting her and he's not given her a good slapping for speaking to him like that?”

They were looking at me and then at her. The stupid sods. All of them - and her, Miss Whatsit.

"No, David, not everyone beats up their wives and anyway, Macbeth is someone, like a lot of young men, I suppose, who needs to prove himself, and Lady Mac knows this and knows what to say to him, how to handle him. That's what women do with their husbands, David.”

She was speaking in that voice. The one that says you're stupid. Just a kid. You don’t know nothing. And anyway I’d never seen my mum with me dad - he’d buggered off just after I was born. So that's when my leg kicked out. There was a shriek from Gabby who was sitting on the chair in front. I guess I must have squashed her into her desk, but she was making a real meal of it. "Boo hoo, boo hoo. Get off, David." I hoped I hadn’t hurt her 'cos I liked her. Though she didn’t know. Or didn’t say she knew.

The class started kicking off, then.

And I was out of the classroom. I could hear Miss telling me to wait there. So I thought sod that for a lark. And I was in the corridor and my hands were thumping into the lockers. Metal. Thin, like Heinz Beans tins. The noise was great and I could tell I was making big dents. And teachers were coming out of their classrooms to see what was going on. “Stop!” David. Stop! Come here.” 

But I was down the stairs and out of the school. 

They were looking at me from the windows as I walked across the playground to the school gates. So I gave them the finger and laughed.


“It’s the last time. Why do I have to put up with it all? I don’t know why you’re like this. Always in trouble. It’s the last time I tell you I’m going to that school. I've told them. I've told them. Nothing I can do. You’re a law unto yourself. I've told them. For God’s sake why do I have to put up with you? It’s the last time … Etc.”
Now that’s my mum. She’s nothing if not repetitive. So I told her. “That’s your fate, ma. Or is it your destiny.” Miss got me all confused about that about that in the Macbeth lessons. Something to do with free will.


And there we were. Trudging into school. Four O’Clock. To meet the Principal, Mr. James. And who should be standing there as we walked through the school gates? Waiting for me. Gabby. ‘Oh I hope he doesn't exclude you, Dave.' And she gave me that look that said, like, 'I'm serious.'


The Principal’s office smelt of Mr Sheen. All shiny wood, gleaming trophies and photos of school teams. Kids all smiley and proud of the sodding place. I mean what is there to be proud about?  Then there are the rubbish paintings from the Year 7’s - here to make visitors go all slushy. 

My fingers felt under the seat and I squidged my bit of chewing gum there. I felt for the others, dry and stuck like those things you get on rocks at the seaside - six, seven, eight. All there - one for each of my visits over the last two terms. My final two terms at this crap place by the sound of what the Principal was booming out to my mum. 

“I’m sorry Mr James. I don't know what gets into him. He won't listen to me. I mean what can I do? I’m at my wits end.” She was blubbing. 

“So what do you have to say for yourself, David?” droned the Principal, “Think carefully. What you say now could change your whole future."

Well, there was nothing to say. I mean, was there?

"Come on, Dave. At least say you're sorry." Mum again, sniffing, her Kleenex all soggy in her clutching, shaking hand. 

She could be really embarrassing, my Mum. 

"I'm sorry, Mrs Smith. He's given no explanation. I think you already know the decision I must make. I have my staff and the other children to think about."

"But he used to be such a ... such a good boy," she gurgled. "I'm sure he can change. I'm sure he will be again.” Then her voice went all wobbly like and there was a long pause.

"Well, that's something to hold on to, I suppose,” he finally said.

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Comments by other Members

crowspark at 08:00 on 15 June 2014  Report this post
A well told story, Bryan, with good details, particularly the count of chewing gum under the seat to give back story!

I like the way you show the frustration in both the lesson and how things happen outside of voluntary control - like the kick that injures the girl he likes but the ending tends to ask more questions rather than close off the story.  Also the release he felt hitting the metal cabinets.

I felt the ending came a little suddenly and wanted something more by way of insight, are there stronger links between the David and Macbeth stories and what male role models has David been exposed to?

A good read - thanks.


TassieDevil at 08:54 on 15 June 2014  Report this post
Great story, Bryan. So much depth with a refreshingly different view of the classroom than my own teaching recollections. I loved the inevitability of it all and that there are paths that people must follow .... just because. Like Bill I was expecting a different conclusion or tie back to Macbeth but you gave us the only realistic ending that you could and that only adds to the sadness. Thanks,

BryanW at 09:21 on 15 June 2014  Report this post
Thanks Bill and Alan
Yes, you're absolutely right. There were going to be three laughing girls saying he couldn't be expelled unless ... something or other, he was going to betray his best friend, he was going to attack the head and then he was going to be stepped in blood so far that ... returning were as tedious as go o'er. And Gabby was going to encourage him, but then was going to go a bit mad!
However -  it all became a bit much.
And anyway, as you pointed out, Shakespeare had already done a similar story!


blob at 10:13 on 15 June 2014  Report this post
The MC has a strong voice and found that the two middle parts broke it up a bit - I think you could chop them - they don't really add much to the story.  Agree with the others about making the Shakespeare tie-in stronger

Cornelia at 11:05 on 15 June 2014  Report this post
I liked this very much. It had an authentic feel with the voice and the details. Speaking as an ex-teacher, though,  I think the school seemed to lack any pastoral referral system, so that aspect was unreal.

The Macbeth theme was good , especially where David made the remark about fate/destiny to his mother; the story would benefit from a more thorouhg  examination and a clearer link between Shakespeare's play (my favourite) and David's siuation. I thought this was going to happen after the misogynistic episode at the start, that  reminded me of  Julie Walters playing  a hairdresser taking an OU course, and exclaining.   'What a  cow!' about Lady Macbeth.

It  did seem about to link  with the mc's attitude towards his mum,  and the whole question of domestic violance and/or absent fathers but it was a bit too undeveloped. I hope you can do more work on this as it seems very promising.


BryanW at 11:32 on 15 June 2014  Report this post
Thanks, Sheila.
Like Macbeth, my ambition overreached itself. Plus - with all the football that I feel obliged to watch at the moment, I didn't give it any time. However,  the development of the Macbeth parallel - particularly the sense of wasted potential in David - might be something worth going back to and developing in a longer story. And it would be interesting to keep it all in the first person.
I, too, have been a teacher and I sense the shifting of problem kids, particularly so they don't figure in your results statistics, is becoming more business-like. However, an honourable young deputy head of year could become a sort of Banquo figure who could try to help and who David would betray ...
Thanks again,

LMJT at 12:50 on 15 June 2014  Report this post
What a fantastic piece of writing, Bryan.

I really enjoyed this. You have captured the voice and attitude of a teenage boy really well. I liked the pace that things moved on and the details like the baked bean tin style lockers. I also liked the hinted relationship between the MC and Gabby.

Have you read The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer? This reminded me of that book with a strong adolescent MC. 

I think the two sections in the middle work well and, actually, I think you could try shifting the times around with this story. Starting in the principles office and going backwards maybe. Just a thought. Might work welll with David's chaotic state of mind. 

There's a lot to build on here if you wanted to expand.

This was a really readable piece of writing and, as others have said, very authentic.

Thanks for the read.


euclid at 13:08 on 15 June 2014  Report this post
I never read Macbeth, so can't comment on that aspect of the story, but I thought the voice was strong and quite authentic. I was a little unsure about the boy's age. In some parts he sounded younger, some times older. I was surprised when someone said he was a teenager.

The ending wasn't, of course. An ending, I mean. I assume you ran out of time.

Anyway, well done. You did a lot better than me this week! I have golf and international rugby to watch as well as football.


Bazz at 14:19 on 15 June 2014  Report this post
Hi Bryan, great story filled with strong authentic details. I also think the ending was too abrupt, but given more time this should be a very striking story.

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