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Chapter Fourteen. Finishing School.

Chapter 14 

Guy didn’t know what happened to Hemi when he left school; they lost contact. He assumed he’d have gone to work in the freezing works with his mum.

Guy did okay in the last few years at school. He enjoyed it more here, but he still wasn’t doing any schoolwork. Never did any homework, his mum never checked, he decided she wasn’t that interested. His dad never asked, he was too busy. So, Guy just went to school to eat his lunch and play footy and cricket. He spent the last years getting away with the minimum of work to avoid getting into trouble. He was still trouble, though. He was cheeky and mischievous, expending his intellect in tormenting the teachers without actually being abusive; he was ‘smart’. He got a reputation for being trouble, despite not actually causing trouble. One teacher approached him on one of the endless laps of the corridors the kids all walked at break time.

‘You’re Guy, aren’t you?’

The teacher was a little man, he had a sandy coloured beard to match his sandy coloured hair. His clothes were also sandy coloured, short sleeved shirt, walk shorts and walk socks and light brown shoes. It was like he had matched everything, why would he do that? Guy wondered. 

‘Yes sir’.

‘I know you; I shouldn’t know you because you aren’t in any of my classes’.

‘Congratulations, sir’.

‘See? That’s exactly what I’m talking about’.

‘What exactly are you talking about, sir?’

‘Don’t be smart with me, boy!’

‘I don’t see hiding one’s smartness under a bushel as being a successful plan to navigate one’s education, sir’.

The teacher shook his head and walked off, knowing he had no answer, not bothering to engage the clever boy, who wasn’t in his class. Guy had given up on the teachers as much as they had given up on him. He was a bright kid without a bright future, who’d slipped through the cracks. He was on his own.

Before and after school, Guy worked on the farm because his dad was still often away fencing to top up the meagre income from the small 300-acre block. Guy’s mum worked nine to five in town. Guy got home before she did. His sister was away at boarding school now, they’d got her a scholarship. She worked hard too, like Richard, but she was far cleverer than him. That’s what life was, until Guy finished school. He tormented the teachers, he played sport, he walked laps of the corridors, he rode the bus, and he worked on the farm. One day, late in the year, he was called to the deputy principal’s office, his mother was there. This came as a surprise to Guy. The deputy principal wore a three-piece suit, to show he wasn’t a regular teacher. He was tall and bald and wore bifocal spectacles. He carried himself as though he was going to be principal any day now. 

‘The school committee has agreed that you’re wasting your time at school and you’re a bad influence. We’re asking you to leave school.’

His mother burst into tears in the corner of the small room.

‘What if I don’t want to leave?’

He was finally struck by the harsh reality of the failure of his education.

‘Then you’ll be expelled. This way is better, you leave voluntarily’.

‘Doesn’t sound very voluntary to me’.

His mother pleaded, ‘Guy, please!’

‘Guess I’m leaving then?’

‘We’ll sort out a leaver’s report for you’.

The deputy principal stood and extended his hand. Guy shookit. Guy surprised himself by saying,

‘Sorry to have let you down, sir,’.

‘You’ve let yourself and your mother down, Guy’.

Guy nodded. He and his mother left the office, she was dabbing her eyes with a hanky.

‘I better drive, ay?’ Guy had his license; he’d had it for a year.

They drove for a while in silence, his mother sniffing in the passenger seat. 

‘Would it have killed you to pay attention at school? You’re one of the brightest kids there. You’ve ruined your education, what are you going to do now? What’s your father going to say?’

His mum wailed on like that for a while. Guy didn’t know what he was going to do next, he wasn’t really listening.When they got home, his mum said,

‘Well, you’d better go and tell your father what you’ve done.  I don’t want to see how that goes’.

‘Me neither’.

His dad was building some cattle yards on the back of the farm. Guy rode the farm bike up there. 

‘What are you doing home? Has school finished early?’

‘Has for me’.

‘What the hell does that mean?’

‘Aw, well, I got asked to leave, I’m finished at high school now’.

His dad was dressed in his usual outfit, sun hat, checked shirt with sleeves rolled up, work shorts, socks around his ankles and hobnail boots on his feet. He had a builder’s belt on and a hammer in his hand. He looked at Guy, Guy was expecting a good hiding. 

‘You’d better give me a hand with these yards then’, was all he said. 

‘Okay’.

That was it. Guy joined the army early the following year. He didn’t know what else to do. Something else he had never learned at school, was what people who didn’t got to uni, or have qualifications, could do for a living other than the freezing works. He really didn’t want to go to the freezing works, so he joined the army.

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