All Hail The King by Luke Raynsford
Teddy was in trouble. He sat, slumped in his chair, arms folded as Mr Wallace ranted and raved at all his misgivings.
“Boy, your brain isn’t working today,” Mr Wallace declared, sitting behind his desk. He held his coffee mug just below his lip before taking a sip. “I am concerned about the lack of thought in your behaviour.”
Recess had arrived, and Teddy knew that he wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon. The other students had left, and he sat lonesome in the classroom as the echo of laughter filtered through the hallways.
“But, Mr Wallace, you must understand,” Teddy said with desperation leaking from his voice. He looked at the clock hanging crookedly upon the wall; the second hand crawled and Teddy watched his free time slip away.
“Oh, I understand perfectly, my boy.” Mr Wallace proposed. He nodded his head confidently. “I understand more than you can imagine.”
“But, I didn’t do anything wrong!” Teddy tried to defend himself. A grimace had appeared on his face full of desperation.
“Teddy,” Mr Wallace paused. “The guilty must admit their guilt eventually. If not to others, at least to themselves.”
Guilty? Such a harsh word for a sweet boy like Teddy. This was not how he saw his day unfolding.
Teddy knew that nothing he could say would shift Mr Wallace’s mind. His recess was gone. The students would return at 11:15. Mr Wallace creaked out of the chair, taking his coffee mug with him, and walked towards the door.
“Mr Wallace, I am really hungry.” Teddy begged. “Surely, I can have a short break.”
“Old Ted, you just get comfortable in that chair of yours.” He smirked and looked at the clock. “You’re gonna be there awhile.”
As the door shut, silence stirred in the room. An uncomfortable silence. A strange silence that Teddy had created – at least according to Mr Wallace.
Teddy crawled out of his seat and walked over to the door. He opened it steadily and looked down the hallway. A light draught skipped into the room and pressed against Teddy’s face.
I can smell the freedom, Teddy thought to himself. The corridor was empty and dark, but a shaft of light peered from the edges of the hallway and Teddy knew this is where freedom lived. I could just walk away now. I could walk away now and deal with his wrath later.
Deep down, Teddy knew this wasn’t an option.
Detention was Mr Wallace’s favourite pastime. He would hand it out for the sheer boredom – just a way to pass the time.
Deep down, Teddy knew he couldn’t walk away.
There were rumours that teachers had an ongoing competition about how many detentions could be assigned. It was said that they had charts and graphs and statistics posted on a whiteboard just out of sight in the staffroom. Each Friday, they would tally up the numbers and the winner would have first pick of the lost items of that week.
There were rules of course. You couldn’t just hand out detention to the entire classroom, just because. You had to have a reason and the reason had to be linked to the school rules. If a student was calling out, or interrupting others, that would be considered a violation.
Pretty straight forward, right?
Teacher were always toying with the grey areas of detention. The slightest mutter would be considered an interruption. Coughing too loudly or too often and you were suddenly the scum of the classroom. A coughing fit was considered a lack of control.
“Die quietly, my boy!” Mr Wallace once yelled at Oliver. “You need to sort your life out and have some self-control.”
Of course, this was all rumour, and nothing was ever verified. Another student, David, his mum was a teacher at the school and students would always hassle him for information.
Unfortunately, he knew about as much as they did – which was next to nothing at all.
This wasn’t Teddy’s first detention and he knew it would be his last. It was impossible to evade Mr Wallace’s wrath.
Teddy returned to his chair. He looked at the clock.
Teddy groaned and lent back in his chair. He thought about his friends playing outside and all the fun that he was missing out on. He saw them walking down the corridor, dodging hefty bags, the profanity from the older students and the general search for escapism from the classroom.
Every second counts.
Teddy took his pen and began to tap it on the desk. At first, he just drummed the pen on the table, as if stamping on the ground.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
Slow beats absent of melody. He then he broke into a rhythmless fill, using his right-hand now to add some deeper sounds to his beat. His ring and middle finger drilled into the tabletop as if sending a message through Morse code. To an outsider it was just an irregular and lifeless banging on the table, but for Teddy he could hear the orchestra in his head. He could hear something else and that’s all he focused on.
And then the music stopped, and the boredom returned.
How long will I be hear for? He thought to himself. You would get less for murder, his father would always say. He never really knew what that meant.
Teddy was always getting into trouble. It just seemed to follow him – or he followed it. Some of his escapades were just a symptom of too much energy. He couldn’t sit still!
“Look where you’re going!”
“Teddy! Not again. What are you doing?”
Sometimes he resented the sound of his own name. It was almost like teachers yelled at him out of impulse rather than necessity.
Somehow, he caught the brunt of every sin.
Somehow, he could not escape the law.
During his early years in primary school, he often found himself sitting on The Log.
The Log was a punishment. Running on concrete? Go to The Log. Walking past litter? Go to The Log. Messing about while playing soccer? Go to The Log.
Sometimes, teachers wouldn’t even tell you to go. They would point or tilt with their head, shooing you like a fly to your prison cell. Regardless of the crime, the punishment was all the same.
During once such incident, Teddy was in art class working on a ceramic model. He had decided to create a small devil, with the horns and trident and everything. He would dream about it. Wonder about how to smooth out particular sections of the clay. Even as he sat there looking at jumbled numbers and fractions or listing of verbs, the thought of that clay devil never escaped him.
One morning, he was holding the head of his devil, rounding out the bumps of its facial expression. He realised that he needed a scraper, just to bring out the expression of the eyes. It wouldn’t need much, just a touch up.
As he walked past the teacher’s desk, a kind man named Mr Parkinson, he accidently bumped his coffee mug that was, admittedly, a little too close to the edge of the table. The mug slipped and fell to the tiles and broke into a thousand pieces.
This was Mr Parkinson’s favourite mug. A gift from his wife. A woman who had passed away the previous year.
The room went silent. The clatter of utensils and tools and the cheery echo of laughter and enjoyment of craft died.
All eyes were on Teddy.
Mr Parkinson didn’t say a word. When the sound of the mug breaking echoed through the classroom, his eyes darted towards Teddy. In that moment, he didn’t say a word. But the students could feel the trauma in his eyes and the heartbreak creeping through his body.
Teddy spent a lot of time on The Log for that one.
But now Teddy was in high school. The Log was too childlike for a punishment – basically the equivalent of the naughty corner. No, that wouldn’t do at all. Teachers had to have another punishment. Instead of watching your friends play while sitting on the dreaded Log, you would be kept away from everybody. You were left to your own imagination, wondering what others were doing. With nothing to occupy your mind, the student would discover insanity.
After a while, Teddy found himself lying on the desk. He stared at the rotating fan making slow rotations. At first, he counted them, thinking this might be a suitable way to pass the time.
Teddy rolled his head towards the clock.
He walked over to the bookshelf and looked at all of Mr Wallace’s books. There were a variety of books – odd, as Mr Wallace wasn’t the biggest reader in the classroom by a long shot. There were adventure stories and horror stories and those old Victorian stories that used obscure language that no one really understood – least of all, Teddy.
“Get a book, children!” Mr Wallace would yell as the students entered the classroom after recess. This would begin roughly twenty to thirty minutes of silent reading of absolute silence.
A pencil rolling off the desk was nothing short of a freight train slicing through an intersection.
Every head would be buried in a book. All except one. Avoiding the prying eyes of Mr Wallace, Teddy would use this time to draw little sketches on the inside of his notebooks. If he had to read, it was a comic or a picture book. The less words, the better, he thought. The teacher, of course, was far too distracted to discover Teddy’s sneaky little habit. Mr Wallace had his head buried in marking, handing out failures as if it was going out of fashion.
Teddy picked up one of the books. It read, Invasion of the Widdle Snatchers. He opened the book and flipped through the pages, darting his eyes across the lines and lines of writing.
He stopped and tried to read a couple of lines from the book, but he soon grew tired and put it back on the shelf.
It sounded interesting. Aliens from some far away galaxy – such a cliché.
Teddy wasn’t a reader. He was a runner. An athlete. He was not someone who spent his days reading books. He strived outdoors. And now he was stuck inside a classroom he loathed, because of a teacher who despised him.
Perhaps if he didn’t look at the clock than time might go faster. He tried this method. He sat with his eyes closed and tried to think happy thoughts. He imagined himself frolicking through the fields with his friends, kicking the soccer ball and playing pranks on others. He saw the ball flying through the air and bouncing off Mr Wallace’s balding, fat head. He heard the laughter, music to his ears as he ran away and that god-awful, deceitful, smelly old man chased after him.
This was his dream and he was king.
What had he really done? What was he truly guilty off? A misunderstanding. That was all. Just a little misunderstanding blown way out of proportion.
Surely there were some sort of child protection laws where teachers had to let students out for a short, teeny tiny break. In one of those stupid books, or any book for that matter, there must be a law saying “yes, you must let students out for their recess regardless of any stupid little thing they may have done.” Why must he be subjected to cruel, outdate punishments? Cast out of society.
You know what? I am going to stand up to Mr Wallace. I will tell him what I really think. It will be a little revolution. Yes! I will defy his authority. I will make a mockery of his heinous crimes. I will show him that he, of all people, cannot treat children, little old children, in such a way.
I will probably be punished again. Yes. No more recess for the end of school. Years and years of punishment. But it will be worth it. I will sacrifice myself for the greater good.
Yes, the greater good. I do like the sound of that.
Teddy began to develop a plan. He grabbed a scrap piece of paper and began to draw, sketch out his vision for a new utopia.
His illustrations were detailed. He drew himself, triumphant, standing on a desk – a stern arm pointed across at a balding, tall figure. He highlighted the fumes pouring from Mr Wallace; long strands of odour rising from his neck and armpits.
Children bowed towards Teddy like the king he was. They kissed his feet and they celebrated their savour. The martyr that they needed.
He drew speech bubbles above the other students. They cried Teddy! Teddy! Teddy! Teddy! as he sacrificed himself. He wrote all of the nasty, putrid things that he would say to Mr Wallace.
Teddy dropped the pencil and looked at his magnus opus. He stared deep into his vision and thought of the glory that he would experience.
Oh yes, they will bow down to me. They will treat me like a king. Like the king you are, he said to himself.
The classroom door opened. Mr Wallace’s shadow had returned. He cast a look across at Teddy. Time to shine, Teddy thought. For a moment they stared at one another. An intense energy hung in the air.
Mr Wallace ignored Teddy for a moment as he walked past him and stacked some papers on the desk.
“Are you ready to admit your guilt?”
Teddy said nothing, looking down at his desk. The words were creeping up out of his throat – all those putrid words that he was dying to use. But something was missing. Teddy needed an audience.
The other students appeared outside and began to line up. His recess was almost over.
“I knew you would never admit it. I knew it would come to this.”
Mr Wallace opened the door and bellowed “GET IN HERE!” and the students trotted through the doorway.
Teddy remained at his desk as the other students walked in. He nodded, wanting to appear unperturbed by his punishment.
This is my moment. This will define who I am. They will know who Teddy is.
After the students had returned to their desks, Mr Wallace handed out some worksheets. Teddy took a quick glance. Algebra. He groaned to himself. The other students quickly got to work, as Mr Wallace returned to his desk, casting an invisible shadow over the students as he walked by.
Do it! Stand on the desk! Defy your teacher! Tell him what you really think! It is now or never!
Teddy looked at the page. He saw numbers, but after a short time they began to blur.
He could feel his mind wandering and the boredom returning.
Teddy picked up his pen and looked around the room.
All hail the king.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
And all eyes were on Teddy.