by Caleb Wilson
One month after my fourteenth birthday, and a week before the start of the school summer recess, the deception that I had portrayed since entering High School came to light.
Our normal classroom for Biology was undergoing renovation. It had been flooded by the activation of the sprinkler system in that particular room, so we were assigned to the senior’s math room 3C. I had managed to acquire a seat by the window, and as was usual found myself gazing out on the wide expanse of parkland below me. From where I was seated I had a panoramic view of the school playing fields and beyond that the surrounding countryside. I was engrossed in watching some of the senior pupils out on the running track, and was not paying any attention to what Brindley, our teacher, was saying. I was suddenly made aware of my surroundings by my name being spoken rather loudly by said teacher. I looked across to where he was standing at the front of the class and stood saying, “Yes sir?”
“Would you mind answering my question, Hodson?”
I hadn’t the faintest idea what the question had been, and for the moment forgetting I was in Mr. Brindley’s biology class looked at the board and saw the maths problem on it. Reading it and making a quick mental calculation I gave him the answer to it.
He stared at me with a look of disbelief on his face then said, “What are you talking about boy?”
“I gave you the answer to the question on the board behind you sir, I assumed that was what you wanted,” I said rather sheepishly, now realizing that what I had said had nothing to do with what he’d asked, as my attention had been elsewhere.
He turned and looked at the problem on the board and studied it for a moment then slowly turned to stare at me again.
“Don’t move from there,” he said raising his arm and pointing at me. Then addressing the rest of the class, “You lot keep reading from the paragraph we were just discussing on page 117, and no noise! I’ll be right outside the classroom.”
He moved towards the door at the same time starting to dial on his mobile phone. Once outside the room I could see him walking up and down the corridor while he spoke on the phone. At the same time I was getting a lot of weird looks from the other pupils. After a couple of minutes he re-entered the room and addressed the class,
“Continue with your reading, I’ll be gone for a few minutes.” Looking at me he said, “Hodson follow me,” and led the way out of the room.
We walked along the passageway to the stairs and down to the ground floor, then continued to room 4B and entered. Inside, after taking my shoulder and guiding me around to stand in front of him, Brindley turned to the man in the room saying, “Mr. Jackson, meet Cobey Hodson.” Then excusing himself, he turned and left the room.
I was about to experience the second important change in my life.
The first most important change in my life had been at the age of ten when my Father died. Not only did I lose a parent, but I also lost a friend, my best mate, a confidant and my haven when mum was on the warpath.
I loved my mum, but my dad was something special. I loved him with an intensity that was frightening at times, and made him like a god in my eyes, which he was to me in my early years.
My father loved football, and his love of the game rubbed off onto me. So I could think of no better activity than to be in the park, kicking a ball around with him. Or to sit between his legs on a Saturday afternoon, resting against his body with his arms around me, watching the telly and waiting for the referee to blow his whistle.
I could feel the emotions coursing through his body, more so if one of the teams that were playing was the team he supported, Arsenal. The tension at times seemed to be unbearable if the opposing team had the upper hand, and I could sense the anxiety in my father. But there was nothing like the euphoria that coursed through him if Arsenal happened to score. The sheer joy and ecstasy that flooded his being seemed to crash right through me, and I hungrily fed off his emotions as he voiced his enthusiasm with a yell of triumph while at the same time squeezing me into his body.
The other times I needed him most was when I had entered my mother’s bad books. I would make a beeline for him, run to his side, jumping into his lap and he would at once envelop me in his arms. My mother would walk into the room, look at the two of us, raise her eyebrows and then with a “Huff” and a shrug of her shoulders, walk out again. When my mother had left my Father would then question me asking what I had done wrong. After listening to what I had to say he would chastise me in the most amiable manner, getting me to promise that I wouldn’t repeat whatever dastardly deed a boy of my age had been guilty of doing. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was a little charade my parents played to keep me in line.
And then my ideal world ended. One day he was dad, the next day he was no more. A massive heart attack took him away from us. It was the day that started me on my life of subterfuge. It was not intentional, it just happened.
I was, if not the brightest, then one of the brightest pupils in Junior School. The day my Father died I seemed to lose a lot of the normal interests in the life of a ten-year-old. My school reports went from glowing to average. My friendships with other pupils suffered, till they were more or less non-existent. I stuck to my mother for the first few months like glue, even sleeping in her bed. I was frightened that she also may be taken from me, leaving me alone.
I had just entered High School when my mother bought me my first computer. It was like a whole new world opening up for me, and with which I started to advance my studies in the confines of my room. I knew that if I revealed the true level of my IQ, I would then be at the mercy of the authorities. So at school I deliberately kept my grades at a satisfactory level, not giving teachers cause for concern or making them think that I had any academic potential, and so it continued for the next three years. Then because of my daydreaming it all went wrong.
“Take a seat,” Mr. Jackson said indicating a desk in front of where he was standing.
Doing as he asked I sat and looked up at him, waiting for the inevitable question, which I knew would be about the maths problem on the board in room 3C.
“So Hodson,” Mr. Jackson began as he went over to his desk and sat down, “How were you able to solve a problem meant for ‘A’ level students, and without having to use pen and paper? From what Mr. Brindley has told me you were able to solve it mentally in a matter of moments.”
“I just guessed it sir,” hoping that he would believe me, but knowing that there wasn’t the faintest possibility that he would.
“Yes, and pigs can fly. Now tell me the truth. Why were you able to solve the problem?”
I stared at Mr. Jackson and looking at his expectant face decided to tell the truth.
“Umm, I’ve done quite a few ‘A’ level subjects on my computer Mathematics included. I’d been staring out of the window looking out over the fields when Mr. Brindley called my name and asked me to answer his question. I had no idea what the question was. I forgot we were in biology, and seeing the problem on the board, thought he was referring to it and quickly worked it out mentally and gave him the answer.” I stopped and looked at Jackson, waiting to hear what he would say and do.
“Who helped you study at home?”
“No one sir I got all I needed off the internet.”
“Which subjects did you study at ‘A’ level?” he enquired.
“Umm, Maths, Physics, Chemistry- only the theory- and English History. I’ve also started on the B.Sc. University degree in Maths and Physics.”
Mr. Jackson sat staring at me for a few seconds, then smiling left his desk and came over to where I was sitting. Lowering himself onto the edge of my desk and still with a grin on his face said, “You’ve made my day Cobey to hear what you’ve accomplished on your own. Now what we’ll do for the rest of the week is to test you on those subjects, if you don’t mind.”
“Okay sir, when would you like to start?”
“After the first break, I’ll give you a note to take to Mr. Brindley excusing you from any further classes. Then after the break, will you meet me back in this room?”
“Yes sir.” And I waited while he jotted down a note.
The rest of the week went as usual, with me taking mock exams meant for sixth form students in the subjects that I had mentioned to Mr. Jackson. On Friday after the lunch break I made my way to room 4B and entered to see Mr. Jackson and my mother inside standing together talking.
“Mum!” I exclaimed on seeing her, “What are you doing here?”
“Take a seat, Cobey,” Mr. Jackson said. “All will be revealed shortly.
I took my normal seat and frowned looking across at my mother wondering what was going on.
“Cobey?” and my attention was immediately drawn to Mr. Jackson who had moved to his desk, “I’ve asked your mother here to inform you both about the results of your tests that you’ve been taking this week, and I’m pleased to say that you’ve excelled in every paper. Today is the last day of term before we close for the summer recess. I would like you to start school with the seniors next term. Most of the pupils will be three to four years older than you are, but I’m sure you’ll be able to fit in. I want you to study with them so you can qualify to sit for your ‘A’-levels next year in the spring. If you pass, which I’m sure you will, you’ll still be a bit young to go to university as your 15th birthday isn’t till June, but that will be up to you and your mother to decide.”
I sat motionless for a moment letting what Jackson had said sink in, and realised my days of meandering through school had just come to an end. I looked over to my mum who smiled at me but at the same time she had a concerned look on her face.
I got to my feet and walked over to Mr. Jackson saying, “See you in the seniors’ next term sir,” then waited by the door for my mother to make her goodbyes to Jackson before leaving the school together.
A week before the start of the new term I received my class schedules and on the 7th of September I walked through the gates of Parklands High School to continue my education with the seniors. After Assembly in the auditorium I made my way to my locker and then ironically to Class 3C where this all began. As I opened the door to enter the room I was stopped by a hand on my shoulder and a voice saying, “Where d’you think you’re going?”
I turned to face a boy who towered over my 5ft 5in height by a good ten inches or more. Looking up at him I asked, “Are you a teacher?”
He frowned and with a questioning look said, “No.”
“Then it’s none of your business where I’m going,” I responded, shrugged his hand off my shoulder and made my way into the classroom.
I noticed that there were two empty desks at the back of the class and took one. The boy who’d accosted me at the door took a desk two down from me. I had a few enquiring glances from the other pupils until one of them asked, “Are you in the right class kid?”
“If this is ‘A’ level maths then yes, is this where you’re supposed to be?”
Before he could respond to my little dig at him the teacher walked into the classroom saying, “Good morning everyone. For those of you who don’t know me the name is Mr. Sapsford,” he made his way to his desk and picked up the register.
“Andrews,” he called out and there was a response, “here sir” and Mr. Sapsford continued calling the register. When he called my name I responded in the same manner as the others, only now there was a pause.
“Umm, Hodson would you mind standing up?”
I rose to my feet and he said, “Ah yes now I see you, would you please move to this empty desk in the front where you can be more visible?”
I picked up my belongings and made my way towards the front. As I passed the boy who’d stopped me at the door, he stuck his foot out tripping me. I heard the roars of laughter in the class as I let go of my books, which scattered on the floor and had to use my hands to break my fall. I got off my knees picked up my books and stood facing the teacher.
He smiled and said, “Come on sit over here,” he indicated the empty desk.
I ignored him and walked straight to the door, as I was opening it Sapsford shouted, “Where do you think you’re going?”
Turning to face him, “Home,” I said, “Because you decided to do nothing about what took place just now, you’ve given that boy and a few others license to do as they please to me while in this class.” I opened the door and left.
As I made my way towards the stairway I accessed my mobile phone and called my mother. When she answered I asked her to come and pick me up from the school. I knew if I tried to leave on my own that the school authorities would try to stop me, but if my mother was present they would have no alternative but to let me go. I was halfway down the stairway when I heard footsteps following me. Stopping to look around to see whom it was, I saw the boy who had tripped me coming down the stairs.
Reaching me he stopped and said, “Come on back to the classroom, if you don’t and carry on home you’ll drop us all in the shit!”
“Who is us?” I asked.
“Umm, Sapsford and myself,” he responded hesitantly.
“Did he send you to fetch me back?”
“I think I’ll carry on home, I’ve already taken a disliking to you and Sapsford, and don’t want any part of the two of you!”
“You little piece of SHIT,” he yelled, “Piss Off then!”
I stared at him for a moment waiting for him to calm down then said, “That’s the difference between you and me, I’m a piece of shit and know it. And because I know it, I can work to improve and better myself not to be a piece of shit! You, on the other hand are a piece of shit and don’t know it, and because you don’t know it you’ll be a piece of shit for the rest of your life!” While he stood there open mouthed, I turned my back on him and continued my way down the stairs and to my locker.
Retrieving my belongings from my locker I then headed down the corridor to the school entrance, then outside. I made for the school gates and as I neared them I saw my mother’s car pull up outside. I quickly exited the school and climbed into the car greeting my mother at the same time.
As I buckled myself in she accessed her mobile and dialled a number. After a moment I heard her say. “Can I speak to Mr. Henshaw please, it’s Mrs. Hodson speaking.”
My mother waited a moment before she spoke again.
“Mr. Henshaw I just phoned to let you know my son Cobey is with me in my car and we’re on our way home. I thought I’d let you know so that you wouldn’t be concerned as to his whereabouts.”
“I’ll speak to you later today after I’ve talked with my son. Goodbye Mr. Henshaw.” And my mother put her phone away and drove off.
When we arrived home my mother parked the car and without a word made for the front door with me hot on her heels. I knew what she was going to do; it was always the same when something important had to be discussed between us. I dumped my school bag in the hallway and kicked off my shoes then followed her into the kitchen. I took a seat at the table while she put the kettle on. As the water heated she took out two cups and saucers, put tea bags into the cups and added sugar. The moment the kettle boiled she added the water then a dash of milk into each cup and brought them over to where I sat.
Putting a cup in front of me she took a seat opposite, looked at me knitting her eyebrows, “What happened at school?” she asked.