aka THE FORMATIVE YEARS
edited by Calico
I am taking a furtive pull on a fag behind the rears, when…
[What do you mean – open to misinterpretation? They still speak English in the former colonies, even in 2008 – surely? I beg your pardon? Oh, very well – I’ll make a fresh start.]
I have slipped away to a quiet spot behind the school lavatories for a quick smoke, when that ghastly second-form oik, Cholmendley Minor, comes haring around the corner.
“Heyes,” he pants, “…Heyes…the Head Beak wants to see you.”
After reminding the frightful little tick I could have him serving three weeks’ detention in the school maggot pit for failing to stand on one leg and remove his cap when speaking to a prefect, I stroll across the verdant cricket pitch…
[Huh? Oh, yes, you’re right.]
I stroll across the verdant BASEBALL pitch of St. Priapus’ All-American School for the sons of All-American Gentlefolk, here in All-American Massachusetts, to the Headmaster’s study.
As I do so, my meltingly dark and expressive eyes are drawn irresistibly to the numerous trees lining the avenue of this illustrious seat of learning. How my sensitive – and tautly muscled – breast swells, as I admire their beauty and inhale the heady scent of their lush, luxuriant foliage.
“Ah!” I muse to myself, in my deep and ineffably masculine baritone, “…how can poets ever hope to extol the full – leafy – wondrousness of you? You – Acacia – so beloved of our friend the honey-bee; and you shady Acer; and you honest Apple – who the noble All-American hero Johnny Appleseed spread from state to state in our wondrous land of opportunity; and you sturdy Ash; and you frailer Aspen – shivering in the slightest breeze; and you noble Beech…”
A FEW MINUTES LATER
“…And you Holly, how we fete you in the festive season; and you thorny Hawthorne…”
A FEW MORE MINUTES LATER
“…And you, dear Mulberry, how can I forget that thou are celebrated in song …Here we go…”
MAYBE FIFTEEN OR SO MINUTES LATER
“ And you Yew … that’s you – ‘why’ ‘oh’ ‘yew’ – followed by yew – ‘Why’ ‘Eee’ ‘Double…”
“Heyes!” bellows the Headmaster from his mullioned window, “Stop drooling over that piece of wood and get in here!”
“Well, Heyes,” says the Headmaster, steepling his hands and gazing at me from beneath his mortar board, “At the end of term you’ll be leaving St. Priapus and heading for …”
“The ‘Varsity, Sir. Cambridge,” I supply.
“That’s right – the All-American University of Harvard in Cambridge. And, you’ll be reading?”
“All-American Arboricultural Appreciation and Hewing, Sir.”
He shakes his head slowly, as he gazes at me wide-eyed, clearly awestruck by the wisdom of my choice.
“And – after that Heyes? You are from an excellently-connected and wealthy family, well-bred, good-looking, intelligent, a fine public speaker and have had one of the finest – and most expensive educations – available to a young man. Any profession you care to choose is open to you. Politics; the law; medicine; academia. Which is it to be? Have you decided?”
I nod, eagerly, setting the richly gleaming tresses of my hair dancing in the sunlight. “Oh yes, Sir! More than anything in the world I would like to become a poverty-stricken farmer, scratching a living in the unorganised territories – where white men are, as yet, forbidden to settle, tilling the unforgiving earth and struggling against a myriad of natural disasters. My heart soars at the thought of unremitting, repetitive, back-breaking toil for little or no reward. I yearn to travel to the land West of the mighty Missouri, where glorious Cottonwoods abound! To say nothing of Burr Oaks, Verbenas and twining…”
“Have you thought this through, Heyes?” he interrupts, just as I am getting into my fluent – and admirably well-modulated – stride.
“Indeed I have, Sir!” I enthuse, dimpling delightfully, as a smile lifts my healthily flushed, youthful cheeks. “It is my Manifest Destiny!”
He stares at me – no doubt in dumbfounded admiration of my worthy ambition – then gestures that I may leave.
As my elegantly tapered fingers turn the door handle, the Headmaster mutters under his breath, “Doofus!”
I nod and stride gracefully away, my handsome head held high, to tell Doofers Major – a boy with dreadfully flat vowels in Old Chuffy Herrington’s house – that the Headmaster would like to see him.