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The Love Song Of Ernest Conal

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The Suffering Of Ernest.

The concept of going to detention was a new thing for Ernest Conal , who in his eighteen years of being in education had never gotten one, mostly due to the sheer luck of never being caught doing anything stupid or just being able to hide behind someone larger than he was. And the fact that he was home schooled for the last five years also helped with the fact that he never got one. If he was being honest, he was slightly horrified about spending an hour in a room that was filled with probably larger and definitely scarier people from the parts of the school that he hadn’t dared cross due to the stories that he had heard from an anxious looking boy with thick and large glasses called Lucas as he quickly showed him around the school during the morning after being deposited in his maths classroom that morning by the headmistress. The concept of detention was definitely a new thing, especially when you get your detention on the first day of going to a brand new school.

It wasn’t as if Ernest was caught doing anything really stupid, and being honest in his mind, he believed that he was doing a rather good thing that ended up with him being put into detention. He was going to be writing a book, and like what all of the great writers say, he should be taking inspiration from the surroundings about him, the people about him and the events that happen around him for inspiration, and that might have been how he might have tried to stage a protest about the lack of unisex bathrooms in the school. Well there isn’t much point in going into that story as well basically everyone in the school knows how that story ended and it involved Ernest getting put into detention for the rest of the week and getting the nickname of ‘Bathroom Boy,’ that would probably last him for the rest of his high school career.

Ernest makes his way into the to the classroom that detention is meant to be held in using the hastily drawn map that Lucas had drawn for him with certain areas of the map being coloured red with the word ‘Danger,’ standing horribly out, as apparently if you go into those areas you are going to end up meeting instant death. It was probably an over exaggeration but Ernest wasn’t going to take any chances, especially after the bathroom incident as he was now a walking target.

When he gets to the classroom, it is almost empty apart from the desk that is being occupied with a bored looking teacher that is currently reading some dishy romance novel, judging by the fact that there is a long haired pirate on the boat and a swooning woman who is staring lovingly at his muscles. The only other occupant at the room is a boy who is slumped down over his desk with his hood of his coat pulled tightly over his head. The boy is probably the safer to talk to and there is the good chance that he might have not heard of the bathroom incident.

“Hey,” Ernest says, putting on his nicest smile that he can force on. The boy who is slumped on the table doesn’t move, but he cracks an eye open. “Hey.” Ernest says again.

“…hi.” The boy mumbles, pulling out his earphone and removing his hood. “What?”

“How does this thing work?” Ernest asks as he takes a look at the boy from his peripheral vision. The first thing that Ernest notices is the fact that the boy is covered in paint stains of different colours and that his nose looks as if he has been in a few fights in his time on the planet. Ernest takes a look at his eyes, as in one of his writing classes, the lecturer says that you should look at people’s eyes in order to see the real beauty in one person. It is a load of rubbish but Ernest does it anyway, mostly just to prove to himself the stupidity of what the lecturer said. It turns out that the lecturer had indeed said a lot of rubbish due to the fact that the boy’s eyes are brown and nothing else. Not the shades of brown that poets would wax about lyrically, where people’s eyes are apparently the colour of autumn or copper. The boy’s eyes are just brown and if Ernest had to be descriptive about it, he would say that they are the colour of mud.

“It is a desk.” The boy answers slowly, putting an earbud back in. “It stops things from falling onto the ground. You can also use it to write on.”

“Not the desk.” Ernest says, rolling his eyes. “The whole detention thing.”

“We sit here quietly for an hour and then it is time to go home.” The boy replies, shrugging, as he starts to pull up his hood. Ernest can tell that the boy has spent a lot of time in the room, so much time that the fear that you are mean to have when you get handed a pink slip has probably worn away after hours of time being sitting quietly for an hour.

“Is that it?” Ernest asks.

“They take away our phones as well.” The boy adds in looking completely confused. “But they don’t keep them, we get them back at the end.”

“Then what happens?”

“Have you ever been to a high school?” The boy asks. “The real kind and not the ones that have dance numbers in the lunch hall and have a nice happy ending to them, and the ones where we realise that we are not so different after all after a detention.”

Ernest lets out a sigh as he makes his way to the desk that is in front of the boy, feeling defeated as he knows that this conversation is over and it was all in vain when he attempted to speak to the boy. Thankfully the classroom is starting to fill up, mostly with the sportier kids and a few popular ones. He notices that Murphy Berry who lives in the same street as him has taken a desk that is close enough to the window, so he can stare at it for an hour. Murphy nods his head in his direction before he moves his head, so he can stare at the squirrel that is in the nearest tree before slumping over in his desk and going to sleep within the space of two minutes. Ernest sits down and he pulls out some of his notebooks and a couple of pens so he can make an attempt at his English homework. He takes a quick look at the boy who is behind him and the only thing that he can see is the shit eating grin that is on the boy’s face.

Despite the fact that it has only been ten minutes and Ernest has looked at the page a few times and re-read the same sentence for twice as many times, he has no idea about what he is actually reading. He declares his homework to be a lost cause, not because he can’t do it but the fact the boy keeps kicking his chair. It was easier to ignore him for the first couple of times but after the seventh time, Ernest can definilty say that the boy is not doing accidently.

Ernest tries to go back to his homework, the moment that he puts his head down and looks at the desk, another kick is aimed for the back of his chair and a ball of paper hits him on the head. He turns around and the first thing that he sees is the smirk that is on the boy’s face and another ball of paper that is in his hand, that looks as if it is aimed for his head.

“What!” Ernest hisses as he sends his best glare, the boy doesn’t seem phased in the slightest and the only reaction that seems to happen is that the boys smirk just seems to grow wider.

“I was wondering if you were wanting a chat.” The boy smirks. “Detention gets a bit boring sometimes and it is a bit nice to have someone to chat to.”

“It is detention, what is there to talk about?” Ernest rolls his eyes as he goes back to his books. His peace only lasts a few seconds but the other ball of paper that was thrown at his head. He doesn’t really need to think to guess who is throwing the paper at his head. The paper bounces his head and it somehow manages to go into the paper bin that is by the teacher’s desk, despite everything that is happening, the teacher hasn’t looked up from her book even once. Either she hasn’t noticed or what is more likely, is that she simply doesn’t care. Ernest does his best to ignore the boy that is behind him and he forces himself not to turn around and glare at him, and it is proving to be difficult.

“What did you do?” The boy asks. “The thing that put you in here.”

Ernest turns around with a long suffering sigh and he looks at the boy. “Does this school not have a single unisex bathroom?”

“What?” The boy asks.

“There is at least two thousand students in this school, and the statistics for not having at least one of them be transgender or agender is really concerning if you think about it long enough.”

“So you used the girl’s bathroom then?” The boy asks slowly. “That is the strangest reason that I have heard about someone getting put into detention.”

“I did not walk into the girl’s bathroom.” Ernest hisses in a low voice, just so that the jocks who are sitting in the back of the room can’t hear them, it doesn’t work though as the one who is fiddling around with his pencil, looks up and he whispers something to his friend. The word ‘Lady Boy,’ gets whispered into the air. Ernest sighs and resists the urge to slam his head against the desk. When did protesting about the lack of unisex bathrooms mean that he walked into the girl’s bathroom? He didn’t do that, instead he nagged a teacher about it until they got uncomfortable enough to send him into the hell hole of detention.

“Sure you didn’t.” The boy says. “I would recommend that you don’t tell people that story when they ask about how you got landed in here. You might get a nasty nickname or two that is probably going to be in the year book.”

“Shouldn’t you be getting work done?”

“It is detention, I am not meant to be productive here. I can’t exactly fail it, can I?”

The teacher looks up from her book and gives the boy that is behind him a glare from the top of her glasses. “Rosco detention!” she calls out as she writes something down on a pink slip of paper. There is a murmur of hushed giggling that make its way around the room, that Ernest himself turns his lips to. Murphy sits up from his desk from his nap, clearly haven been woken by the shouting and the giggling, and he sends an apologetic look at the boy who is behind him for some bizarre reason.

The boy behind him quietens down for a few minutes and he waits until the bored looking teacher has left the room when an another equally bored teacher enters the room holding out a large coffee mug that is clearly empty, judging by the tired expression on the teachers’ expression. The two teachers exchange a long suffering sigh to another, before the two of them leave the room. Within seconds, the silence that was in the room breaks and madness starts to arise in the classroom.

While everyone is pulling out their phones that they have hidden in their pockets and they are starting to complain to their fellow prisoners about the teachers that had the rudeness to put them in detention, as the football that broke the window just ‘slipped out of their hand,’ and it was totally unfair to put someone in detention for it, Ernest continues to go back to his notepad and he begins to scribble down the tale of a man who was unfairly punished by the authorities as he cared about the common man, (a slightly autobiographical tale, if Ernest had to say so himself.) He manages to drone out the noise and he continues writing. The boy that is behind him, or Mr Rosco as he was called, has managed to quieten down and he is more occupied playing with his music player, and he doesn’t cause anymore disruptions until he coughs loudly in Ernest’s direction and Ernest is forced to look up, as to be honest, it would be rather rude if he didn’t.

“Yes.” Ernest asks with a long suffering sigh as he ignored his open notebook to talking to Rosco who was currently fiddling around with the cable of his headphones. “What are you wanting? I have a busy schedule ahead of me and you are preventing me from doing so.”

Rosco smiled but he didn’t look up from his headphones, and for some bizarre reason Ernest felt the urge to punch the smile off his face as to be frank, it was becoming slightly irritating the more he saw it . “I take it that you are new here.”

“What is it to you?” Ernest says briskly.

“Nothing.” Rosco shrugs, finally looking up from his headphones. “Just haven’t seen you around before, especially not in detention.”

“If you care so much, I am new here.” Ernest replies.

Rosco lets out a low whistle and he lets out a breath of a chuckle in his sigh. “Oh look at you, Mr bad Boy, getting detention on your first day. You better tell the girls that story and you will get any lady that you want for the year.”

“Women. Aren’t. Fucking. Pokémon.” Ernest grits out through his teeth, shooting Rosco his best glare that can make people with clipboards walk away from him when he encounters them in the street, when they are asking him for at least five minutes of his time as they talk about heart disease and how a five pound donation is going to help the charity.

Just as he has spoken the teacher has walked back into the room with a rather large coffee mug in her hand, the room goes silent and the words that he has said echo around the classroom. Before Ernest can even open his mouth to explain about why he has just said something, but before he can think of the words to prove his innocence, a pink slip is put on his desk, and the sound of Rosco snorting in laugher echoes in his ears.

The bell rings and the room starts to filter out and as Ernest stands up to put on his coat, Rosco brushes behind him and whispers in his ear. “I guess that I will see you tomorrow Conal.” Before Ernest can even turn around to ask Rosco on how he knows his name, he has gone and Ernest is standing in the room by himself, wondering if his life has turned into a story for someone to laugh at, as he has to spend another five days in detention. Brilliant.

“Two detentions on your first day of school, I guess that is impressive for you Mr Conal.” Murphy says as Ernest walks out of the classroom. “I guess that is an all time school record.”

Murphy is hopping around on the floor boards, looking as if he is trying to practice a complicated dance move on the floor, and he is somehow managing to avoid the larger more athletic people who are walking among the hallways. From what Ernest can remember from his childhood, Murphy still seems like a nice kid but still jumpy, but he reckons that he is never going to get grow out of, and he still has the habit of wearing clothes that are at least three sizes too big for him and don’t match, especially with the blue Hushpuppies with bright yellow laces that he is currently wearing, that are clearly not school uniform and they are miles away from the standard black polished shoes. .

“I don’t think that I should be proud of it though.” Ernest sighs as he throws his messenger bag over his shoulder and starts to make his way along the corridor, with Murphy trailing on behind him. “I get to spend another hour with Rosco, and I am not partiulary looking forward to it. Hopefully he won’t have any more detentions after tomorrow.”

“He isn’t that bad.” Murphy says. “Annoying but you get used to him, he likes art.”

“Because liking art makes someone a nice person.” Ernest sighs. “I have read enough books to know that is a lie, and the only people who are redeemed by liking art are characters who have a tragic past, and I don’t have the time for it.”

“Are you still going on about writing the best book in the world?” Murphy asks with a look of amusement on his face. “I thought that you would have given up on that by now.”

“Why would I do that?” Ernest asks.

“People grow up.” Murphy shrugs. “Goals, needs and wants change.”

“I don’t plan on anything changing, and I know that it won’t.” Ernest says, as he knows that it is going to be true. He had initially decided that he was going to be writing the best book in the whole entire world at a young age, and twelve years later the goal wasn’t going to change and it had showed no direction of even going to change in the slightest. Ernest was positive that he was going to get the great novel that was inside of him in paper one day, and then he was sure that he was going that he would think of something else to his life, or he was going to end up doing a Syliva Plath. From when he turned sixteen, Ernest was fully convinced that he was going to end up having the same life such that all of the great people had. That basically meant, by twenty seven or if he was pushing it, thirty years of age, he was going to be found dead or he was going to be put into rehab. After much consideration, Ernest had decided that the first option was probably going to be a lot better than being forced to stare at blank walls all day and being forced to wear one of those hospital gowns with no back to them and being forced to talk about his feelings. The first option was definitely a lot better.

“You know that it is impossible.” Murphy chuckled. “I would hope that you would even know that.”

“I already know that my goal in life isn’t going to change.” Ernest briskly replied, making his way into the car park. “Are you wanting a lift home?” Ernest asks in the hopes that it would get Murphy to drop the subject of life goal, as it was only five o’clock at night and Ernest wasn’t wanting to have an existential crisis at this time of the night as it was far too early, and existential crises were to be saved for three in the morning when attempting to fall asleep after a long day of doing nothing and mindlessly surfing the internet for conspiracy theories.

Murphy only made a non-committal noise, but regardless of that , he slipped into the passenger seat and he and had already put on his seatbelt, and he had begun fiddling around with the radio and changing to radio station that only played Broadway classics . Ernest went into the car and started up the ignition and wordlessly drove back to his home, stopping only to drop Murphy off at the beginning of the road where his house was.

As Murphy made his way down the road and Ernest had started to drive back to his place, he began to wonder about what story that he had landed himself during that day and if it was going to end in a happy ending or a sad ending. Well with the fact that he had managed to land in two detentions on the first day of school, Ernest was positive that his story was going to end up in disaster, and things were going to end up becoming more horrific as he had to spend another hour in detention. Hopefully Rosco would have decided that he was going to be sensible and leave him alone. Even Ernest was sure that it wasn’t going to happen. Murphy’s words managed to echo around his head and Ernest almost stopped the car several times in the attempt to push the thoughts out of his head, about things in his life changing, even if it was the dream that he had since that he was a child.

There was a reason Ernest didn’t consider Murphy to be a friend and it was the fact that every time that he spoke to Murphy, Murphy always made him think about the bigger picture that life was and that was never a good thing.

Ernest believes in the separation of church and state. He believes in the idea of equality for all. He believes in the power of speech. He believes that even ordinary people can make the biggest difference. He is horrified that Darwin High doesn’t’ have a recycling system and the amount of food wastage that happens in the school. He also is starting to believe that Rosco doesn’t believe in anything.

He is in detention once more, and the boy behind him is still being incredibly annoying and it just seems like that he is doing his best to piss off, and they have only been in the room for ten minutes- and that has to be a record.

This time Rosco is sitting in the chair that is in front of him and when Ernest walked into the room, he even waved at him and pointed at the free chair that was behind him, as if he has been waiting for him to turn up to detention all day, and he looks somewhat happy. In a normal world, Ernest would have picked the chair that was furthest away from the boy, but also in a normal world, he wouldn’t be in detention and he would be able to work on his novel in the comfort in his own home, but however this wasn’t a normal world, as Ernest was beginning to realise. Unfortunately Darwin High - the hell hole that Ernest had been forced into, was not the mecca of kindness and friendship that John Hughes movies had portrayed high school to be, and this included detentions where he didn’t end up with a bunch of other kids from different popularity groups and through time and maybe a dance party in the library realise that they are not so different after all. Ernest sits at the desk that is selected by him, and he tries to do the best to ignore Rosco who has been annoying him even more. For the last few times in detention, Ernest has been bombarded with questions from Rosco who has managed to end up in detention every day this week for some reason, and when Ernest asks him how he got put in detention, Rosco only laughs at him. For the last few days Rosco has been asking questions and they have been getting more and more stupid as the days pass.

(Tuesday : “Hey Ernest, what is the difference between the House of Lords and a bunch of old guys in a retirement home?” )

(Wednesday: “How long is it going to be until we have world war three? I just need to know, just so I can pack my zombie fighting bag.” )

( Thursday: “Why do we need to have the monarchy, do you care to share your feelings about it?”)

Ernest gives up on the day of the fourth detention, and he simply cannot be bother to answer more of Rosco’s questions that only seem to get more idiotic as the time passes and there is only so much he can put up with. There is only one more day of detention and Ernest just wants to have one where he can actually get his work done and not get things thrown at his head. He goes into his bag and he pulls out a copy of Animal Farm that the class has been given to read for English, and he throws it on the boy’s desk.

“If you have nothing else to do, read that and stop bothering me.” Ernest says as he turns around and he continues to look at his politics textbook and he begins to scribble down facts about the German parliament down in his notebook. “It has been four days and you must have ran out of stupid questions to ask me.”

While he is doing his work, it is silent and it almost frightens Ernest, and he keeps having to look up from his book to make sure that Rosco isn’t going to throw something at his head or is thinking of another stupid question to ask him and Ernest prays to any god that is out there, that it isn’t going to be a question about a zombie fighting battle plan for when the world turns to shit and there is going to be a free for all when the zombie’s kill most of the population and there is going to be a fight to the death with all of the remaining people left on the planet for supplies. However to his surprise, Rosco is reading the book that Ernest has given to him, and he actually looks like he is reading it and not just pretending to do while he texts. With a sigh of relief Ernest goes back to his work and he is undisturbed by Rosco and he can attend to the German parliament with the attention that it deserves.

The rest of the hour passes rather quickly and when the bell rings, it almost comes to a surprise for Ernest, as he almost jumps out of his seat with fright when the bell rings unexpectedly. Ernest stands up and he puts on his blazer and he holds his hand expectedly for the book that Rosco is still reading, and he coughs slightly.

“Give me a second, I just need to finish the chapter.” Rosco says, turning a page of his book.

“You are actually reading my book?” Ernest asks in a tone of surprise, as the concept of someone reading Orwell is a strange thing for him. Even though he did see the boy reading his book, it was still somewhat of a surprise to see him actually reading the book, Ernest was somewhat convinced that Rosco reading was a ruse that kept him quiet for the last forty-five minutes.

“Why do you sound so surprised?” Rosco asks looks up from his book. “Did you not think that I could read or something? I can read books without pictures…well this one has them now.” He pulls out a pen the was using as a marker and he twirls it among his ink stained fingers, with a sly smile on his face.

Ernest rips the book from the boy’s hand and he starts rapidly flipping through the pages of the book looking for any pictures that have been drawn in, making sure to look for any bad language or pictures of penises that have been drawn in, as if the teacher saw those, he would be getting another detention and he certainly was not planning to spend another hour in there. However there is nothing in the book and Rosco is laughing as he runs a hand through his unruly hair. Ernest gives him his best glare but it has no effect on him in the slightest, as Rosco continues to keep on laughing even louder.

“Don’t look at me like that Conal.” Rosco croaks out, holding his sides as he continues to howl with laughs, making the teacher in the room look at him with a look of confusion before she saunters out of the room with her newest dishy novel with a Roman solider on the cover instead of a pirate this time. “Can you not understand a joke? The book is fine and I haven’t done anything to it, apparat from getting some political knowledge from pigs.”

“So you see the danger of how lies and deceit can corrupt society so much that eventually the people who are effected by them don’t know what it truth and what is fiction?” Ernest asks in the hopes that maybe Rosco has learned enough from a few chapters of Animal Farm, just so that he won’t be forced to answer any more questions about politics if he ever ends up in a detention once more, and he doesn’t intend in doing so.

“I learned that pigs are bastards and they shouldn’t be in charge of society.” Rosco says as he throws the book the desk and he saunters out of the room, leaving Ernest to only bash his head to the wall to a Simple Minds song and he is hoping that he will be able to forget the last conversation that he just had with Rosco and he will never encounter the boy again, however that was impossible as he had four more detentions to go through first.

“One more detention.” Ernest says to himself in between bashing his head against the wall. “Think about the best seller that you are going to write after this week, it is going to be brilliant, and you are going to be able to pay for that therapy that you are going to need.”

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