Mr Richards demanded it – perfect grammar. If you made a mistake in your work, you felt the sting of the ruler across your knuckles. It was barbaric and the children hated him. There was no kinship, happiness or giggles in his class. It was work from start to finish and the children counted every second.
‘Here are your assignments for the weekend. I want a 300 word essay by Monday. Each assignment is different so you cannot copy each other.’ His eyes moved from child to child, no-one dared breathe. He handed them out as they left his class, silently and in line. Once outside they started talking, the essay being the major topic of conversation.
‘I have plans this weekend, when am I going to do this?’ Carl complained to his mates.
‘We’re going camping.’
‘Trust Mr Richards to do his best to spoil our weekend.’
The children were frustrated and angry but none dared not do it.
Walking home Carl kicked stones along with his shoe. Friday’s were supposed to be fun and happy. Not for them. Suddenly a sharp wind picked up and whipped Carl’s assignment out of his hand.
‘Nooooo…’ he chased it down the street and cut through someone’s yard to catch it. He couldn’t. It landed in the muck surrounding Baileys Stream. Even if he could get to it, it was ruined. And he was terrified. He sat on the bank for ages watching the paper flap in the mud. What the hell do I do he thought.
Carl knew he had to ask Mr Richards for another topic. There was nothing on earth he wanted to do less but he would get zero on his paper on Monday if he didn’t. Mr Richards might not give him one but he had to try. With a heavy heart and dragging his feet he headed off to Mr Richards house.
Getting there way too quickly Carl felt his resolve crumble. If he could afford the zero he would never be here. Hiding behind a tree, he watched the house for a while. Mr Richards car was in the drive. The neat but overgrown exterior belied the horrible person living inside. Trying to look brave he headed across the street and up the drive but his finger hesitated at the doorbell. His pounding heart and sweaty palms amplified his fear.
Willing himself to push the button, he remained frozen begging his legs not to run away. He practiced what he would say over and over.
‘Mr Richards. I’m sorry but I lost… The wind took my paper…’ Breathing out he realized he just had to do it. He can’t kill me he thought to himself. Can he? Nah…
Just as he found the courage to push the button he heard music coming from inside the house. Dance music, pumping and full of base. Surely someone who likes music wouldn’t kill little boys that rang their doorbell?
Carl decided to investigate. Creeping round the house he kept to the ample and neatly trimmed bushes. It was coming from the basement. Boom, boom. He could hear someone moving around too, it had to be Mr Richards. Lying on his stomach in the dust, Carl peeped through the crack in the black curtains. His jaw dropped and he stared for a while.
Finally he stood and crept away, a huge smile on his face. Whistling he went home and had an enjoyable and relaxed weekend. NO essay.
Monday morning came and Mr Richards collected the essays as they walked in the door. Everyone handed him a paper. Carl’s was small and folded in half. Mr Richards glanced at him ‘300 words Carl?’ Carl nodded and smiled, making his way to his desk.
‘Read from Chapter 2 to 7 for a spot quiz at the end of the period. I am going over your essays and there better NOT be a single grammar error or its detention!’ Mr Richards glared at the children, but not a moan escaped from any of them.
Carl watched Mr Richards go through the papers, his red pen marking and swirling as he butchered the words. He got to Carl’s, opened it, read it and paled. He glanced up at Carl, fear apparent in his eyes. Marking an A+ in red in the top corner, his shaking hands went to the next essay.
Carl had written “I know what goes on in youre basement. Pink highheel shoes, fishnet stockings, and a blue garter go with your lacy nightie. I want full marks for this and every essay unless you want everyone to know!’
Carl passed with flying colors.