14, Number 80, August/September 2011 The English Lounge by Matthew Clarke
My name is Matt Clarke and I’m a
twenty-year-old student at York
University. I’ve written a few stories
but I have never been published or
submitted any stories. I’m going to
include a somewhat fictionalized
account of something that happened
to me in high school.
“Damn you Mordecai Richler,” I said
and I got up from my desk and left the
classroom. My class had been doing
silent reading. The book I chose had
been Barney’s Version. It was my
second time reading the book and I
was becoming upset when the story
was more humorous than any other
book that I’d ever read. My joy had
been overcome by jealousy when I
realized that I’d never be such a good
writer. My teacher asked, “Where are
you going?” as I was leaving but I
kept walking and paid her no
attention. My fury was deafening.
When I exited the classroom I saw a
teacher walking through the hall
toward me. I could immediately tell
that he was going to say something to
me. I figured I looked pretty
conspicuous. He asked me, “Why are
you not in class?”
I asked him, “Oh, do you get paid to
wander the halls?”
This caught him off his guard and I
ignored him when he told me to go to
the office. I knew that I was already in
trouble so I just walked to the nearest
exit at a casual pace. I tried to avoid
looking like a fugitive. My exit from
school was otherwise successful and I
left the grounds without any other
It was nearing lunch hour and I felt
very strange being out of school
during this time. I was well adapted to
the routine of listening to someone tell
me things and sitting on small plastic
chairs for consecutive hours. After ten
years it was second nature. I was
uncertain of what to do with my
freedom. I didn’t want to go back to
school because the sadist viceprincipal
was probably eagerly
awaiting my return. I didn’t want to
I had some money in my pocket so I
went to browse the second-hand store
to see if they had any good video
games. They had a deal on handheld
systems that was so cheap that it
would been expensive not to buy it. I
got to choose two games out of their
wide array of exciting titles that
people had sold to the store. They came free with the purchase of the
refurbished handheld system. When I
left the store I came out with the
feeling of great satisfaction that comes
with spending large sums of money.
My mind soon resumed worrying
about school though. It seemed that
returning to school was inevitable and
the sooner I went back, the less
trouble I would face. So I started to
walk there while I played my new
handheld video games, which was a
difficult feat. As I neared the school
there were students leaving from
every door and I knew it must be
lunch time. I decided I’d talk to my
teacher alone in order to avoid being
embarrassed before my whole class
the next day.
She wasn’t in her classroom so I went
to the office to see where I could find
her. The receptionist told me that I
should try the English lounge. I
thanked her and left.
I found the lounge near my English
classroom and I knocked on the door.
A teacher whom I didn’t recognize
answered and I asked if Ms. Wright
was there. She said she would check.
From what I could see through the
open door, the room was rather small
and I thought she must know if Ms.
Wright was there. She was probably
just checking to see if Ms. Wright
wanted to talk to me. Sure enough she
had located Ms. Wright and I was
beckoned into the room. The lounge
was amazingly cluttered. It was
overrun with books and the whole
English faculty. It was very strange
that so many people could occupy
such a small place.
Teachers glanced at me over their
books or laptops. Their conversations
simmered as I walked towards Ms.
Wright and I thought maybe she had
told some of them about my outburst.
I felt that I was an intruder.
“Mr. Best,” she said as I approached.
There were no extra chairs for me to
sit in so I stood before her while we
spoke. She seemed relaxed. I felt
extremely uncomfortable. I was a
spectacle for the whole English
department. Their eyes were not all on
me but there were no longer any
conversations or pages flipping.
“Hi,” I said.
“You left your book in my classroom
She handed me my book and I
thanked her. I forgot I had left it there
until she told me and I felt slightly
more comfortable holding onto it
while we talked.
“It seems as though,” she said, and
paused for a few seconds, “You hold
a great resentment towards Mr.
I felt like she had been planning the
conversation since I left her class.
“What makes you say that?” I asked.
“You shouted ‘Damn you Mordecai
Richler’ while the class was reading.”
“I don’t think I shouted it,” I said.
“Perhaps it seemed like shouting
because the class was relatively
quiet, but I don’t think I shouted.”
“Okay, perhaps you didn’t shout.
You yelled or bellowed or hollered it
out. Regardless, why did you say
“Well, I really don’t think that I
yelled or bellowed or hollered it
out,” I said.
“Mr. Best, why did you say that?”
“Please Ms. Wright, call me Roger,”
I knew I shouldn’t have said that as
soon as the words escaped my mouth.
Ms. Wright smiled in such a manner
that I knew she wished me nothing but
the most painful of deaths. I thought I
heard a muffled chuckle from across
the English lounge.
“Anyways, I said damn you Mordecai
Richler because his writing is so damn
good and funny that every sentence is
an expression of literary superiority.
How am I ever going to find
something so good to read ever again,
much less write something that good?
I won’t, so damn the guy,” I said. “I
really like Mordecai Richler though,
and I’ve read this book a couple times
already. I think you should have it.”
She laughed at me. “Why thank you
Mr. Best, but perhaps your gift would
be better suited to the principal. You
might be able to avert the detentions
you receive for skipping class today
and for being so rude to Mr. Balchin.”
I turned to see a friendly wave from
the teacher I spoke to in the hall