This rather improbable short story emerged from an exercise I did by creating a conflict between two characters, where one has to persuade the other to do something which both know is morally wrong. It’s from a book called “Back to Creative Writing School”, and I had a lot of fun with this one.
Euan Cope was livid. The headmaster had just told him that his application for Head of the English department had been unsuccessful and now he had to go and teach 4B. Anger was burning hot inside him as he threw open the door to the classroom, slamming it behind him and trapping his long scarf in the process. The members of 4B sniggered and called out, “Sir…sir…you’ve shut your scarf in the door!”
Scowling at them, the usually quiet and unexciting Mr. Cope seemed to be in a bad mood. Telling them to be quiet and open their copies of Twelfth Night, he barked out instructions on which passage they were to read and discuss, assigning character parts to some of the more articulate students. Joella Howells spat her chewing gum into her hand and reluctantly started to read the part she’d been allocated. “Olivia,” explained Euan, “is a wealthy and virtuous woman, so you’ll just have to use your imagination a bit here, won’t you?” Joella had no idea what he was going on about but she pictured Olivia as looking a bit like Taylor Swift.
While 4B continued to murder Shakespeare, Euan began to plot his revenge for the head’s dismissal of his job application. He had to get on or get out of this poxy teaching job which he loathed in varying degrees, depending on what stage of the academic year it was. Right now it was exam time and most of the members of 4B were headed in the direction marked fail.
The bell rang for the end of the lesson. 4B gathered up their bags, and left the room in a noisy and disorderly gaggle. Joella was amongst the last to leave, sashaying past Euan in a cloud of cheap perfume as she admired her fingernails, painted like talons sporting turquoise blood.
“Joella – a word please,” Euan said. She reluctantly hung back, slouching against the wall. He closed the door. “You have an English exam coming up and as one of the brighter members of 4B you stand a small chance of passing it.”
So what? she thought. Who cares? But then she remembered what her mum had promised her if she did well in her exams – a day out at a spa, money to buy new clothes and, if she did really well, eyelash extensions.
He must have read her thoughts as he continued, “Is there a good reason for trying to pass I wonder? I know your parents are keen for you to do well because I discussed this with them at the open evening last week. You see…” Euan hesitated, then continued, “I can find a way to help you get a pass, but it will involve a bit of cooperation from you.”
Joella groaned. Hard work. That was it, it always was. She could hardly believe she was hearing right when Euan continued, “I want you to do something for me.”
“Oh no sir……Oh my god…..you’re not a….a…pervert are you?”
Joella gasped and struggled to find words. “I’m not gonna do anything like that,” she blurted out, “not with a teacher….not with you….Oh my god! Yuk. You dirty old man!” With a look of disgust and horror on her face she turned towards the door.
“No, wait,” said Euan, flustered and colouring up, “it’s nothing like that. Nothing like that at all. I promise you it’s not and I’m sorry…….” then in a rush he continued, “I want you to slash the tyres on the head’s car.”
Joella slowly turned towards him with a look of confused disbelief on her face. “You what sir? You’re kidding me. You’re not serious….are you?”
“I am serious Joella. I want you to go to the head’s house when it’s dark and slash all four tyres on his car. He leaves it in the drive every night. He’s got a garage but the car won’t fit into it because that’s where he keeps his model railway. You didn’t know that, did you? He plays with toy trains. Please keep that to yourself by the way. If you slash his tyres I will guarantee you get a pass in the English exam I’ve been trying to prepare you and the other philistines in 4B for over the past year.”
Joella thought over what he’d said. Although she could barely take in this sudden change in someone she’d always considered to be a pretty boring, dull teacher, she felt strangely thrilled and excited at the idea of doing as he asked. She wasn’t above nicking the odd lipstick or pair of earrings when she went out shopping in town at the weekend and it always gave her a thrill and a buzz. As well as that, her pride had been badly dented last week when her boyfriend had dumped her by text. She’d been wanting to go round to his house ever since and thump him one, but hadn’t summonsed up enough courage to do so.
If she did slash the tyres, she reasoned with herself, it would be as good as thumping that shit of an ex-boyfriend. Better in fact. She’d get a pass in the exam, her mum would stump up with all the rewards she’d promised – the allure of the eyelash extensions was strong – and she could vent her feelings about how her ex had treated her.
There was a long pause, then “OK, Sir,” she said, “I’ll do it.”
Euan smiled. “Tonight then?” he asked. Joella agreed, turning again towards the door. “I need his address,” she said, “and you must, like, promise not to tell my mum or anyone else, right?”
Euan felt his heart fluttering with excitement. “As if I would. You’ll get your pass, but only when I’ve heard for sure that the deed’s been done.” He scribbled the address down on a scrap of paper and handed it to her. “Thank you Joella.” He pressed one finger against his lips in a “sshhh” gesture, opened the door and swung off down the corridor towards the staff room.
She stared after him, one word ringing in her head with the question she’d forgotten to ask him.
But what the f*** she thought, I’ll do it, deciding there and then to drop into the Lashology studio on her way home.