Volume 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 impediments.

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 indulge him.

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 today.”

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. Richler.”

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 that?”

“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 said.

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 earlier.