A Conversation Over Jelly Shots

This is a short story written in response to Dinesh Allirajah’s short story The Sun, One Saturday

It dropped to special measures and I think that’s what set it off – it was the beginning of the end, if you like. This was it, two schools merged and year by year, my fellow classmates were shipped off to the other site, leaving only around 100 students left by July 2014. Half of them were year 11s, a third of that barely attained GCSEs and only three people actually achieved A grades. It had powered through expulsion after expulsion, the constant collapsing of decaying walls, a fire that tore away half the IT department, five aspiring head teachers (all who failed at their jobs) and four very awkward name changes, and that was all in just five years. I think it’s safe to say that the school was clinging to life with its communal history, its ability to glue together a sense of community and selflessness, its conversation starters and ice breakers rather than its educational standards.

It is located in the heart of Cotmanhay, which is a small area in my hometown. The closure of the school only added to the rapid decline of intelligence in my area. “Uni? You’re going uni? Aren’t you from Cotmanhay though?” Why yes, yes I am. Does that mean that I should conform to the already constructed path that it has set out for me? First, the premature departure of school, perhaps 15. Then, it is to the dole office I go. Jobseekers. Oh how I do love free money, doesn’t everyone? Then, after a few years of lying about a disability, I’m actually forced to go into work, so I drag my feet into town and hand out my poorly written CV at only a handful of places, because nobody has time to be working at Maccies. It is the yellow brick road, but far, far away from OZ, and it’s probably trampled with so much shit, piss and chewing gum the yellow has faded to a dire beige. This is Cotmanhay.

So it is as I am sat here right now, enjoying the company of my sister’s friends, that I realise how much of an intelligent figure I must seem to them. We had just been to my sister’s 21st birthday party and after it all got rowdy and kicked off outside the pub, the most of us retired to my house, where we sat, crushing and vacuuming jelly shots to the back of our throats. One boy, with blood dripping from his knuckles and onto our carpet after having a brawl with my uncle, turned to me and said “You’re gonna do summet with your life. You’re gonna be someone one day. As if someone from Copmanay as actually gone to uni. Good on ya mate.” I turn to look at the other friends, all of which were either nodding in agreement, sparking up fags or too pissed to give a shit.

“Everyone has things their proud of. Just because mine is educational doesn’t mean yours doesn’t matter. Everyone has things they strive to achieve.” I feel as if I had just discovered the meaning of life, as if I have just transformed the jelly shot in my hand into an actual goblet of wine. The boy turns his head to his friends once more and says “See what a mean?”

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