Must Try Harder

The commute was a nightmare. I got a seat but the man next to me made me wish I hadn’t – dreadful BO a burbling phlegm-filled sniff at every breath and he left me so little room I could only get half a buttock on the seat and had to prop myself up inelegantly with one leg thrust out halfway up the aisle. Chivalry died on the 17.42 to Sevenoaks.

I was thoroughly, unacceptably late. I arrived, sweaty, with my suit rucked up all over the place, hair plastered to my head, makeup running down to my chin. I don’t think this is what they meant when they talked about having it all; I’m struggling to cling on to any of it. The other mums don’t look like trainwrecks – well, apart from one shuffling in at the back, all panda eyes and out of breath. I wonder if she’d like to go for a stiff drink afterwards?

“Are there any problems at home?”

Jesus, not words any parent wants to hear – and especially from the sodding art teacher. I thought I’d see him first to ease myself in gently to what is probably going to be a very long evening of teacherly recrimination at my parenting (lack of).

Mr Harris produces a painting Henry has done. It’s…certainly striking, very apocalyptic and bears the words, ‘Kiss me, you are beautiful…these are truly the last days’. I think that’s from a song he had on in the car the other day. The whole thing’s a bit creepy for a 12 year old, I suppose, but actually I can’t help thinking it’s rather good!

“No, there are no problems,” I find myself saying, shakily indignant. And slightly squeaky. This elicits a condescending, disbelieving nod and I am dismissed to continue my tour of shame around the assembly hall.

Even Henry’s algebra is causing concern that I am nurturing a sociopath. English Literature is the worst report though. Apparently Henry wrote this term’s book review on ‘The Naked Lunch’. This is, says Mrs Williams, a Very Bad Thing. Well maybe, I suppose it’s got pretty adult content but isn’t it also quite precocious and advanced? Mrs W has no beef with this and, as I gather up my handbag and try to shuffle out of the wonky plastic chair with some semblance of dignity casually enquires whether I do much reading myself and have I read ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin?’

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Alex Jury

Alex Jury

Alex Jury is a retired cowgirl, now working as a copywriter in London. She loves working with words but misses all the lassoing.

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