The rugby ball whistles past Jam’s head like a bullet; oblivious to the action, he ponders over today’s art class – his favourite. ‘You are crap’ announces Steve; a baleful, portly, bully with a lust for victimizing and belittling – to feed his insecurities. Jam reinvigorates and sprints after the muddy oval ball; he doesn’t make it far though, skidding in a deep patch of mud – he ends up flat on his backside. Lying on his weak, undeveloped back; the alluring sight of crisp blue sky – turns into pointing and ferocious giggling. A narcissistic PE teacher with a deep hatred for ‘un-sporty’ kids (and adults) joins in and laughs scornfully. ‘Get up you little fairy!’ Mr Mack screams in a sardonic tone, before flexing his chest like a dominant primate.
Jam springs up like a reawakened, mud-encrusted zombie; ‘play properly you fairy’ Mr Mack exclaims from his elephantine mouth. Jam makes a desultory run towards the action; the ball is in his sight, and he advances on an opposing player, aiming for a tackle. Before reaching his target – a chunky obstacle (Steve’s foot) abruptly stops him and once again he finds himself in the deep, dark mud. Feeling like an injured decrepit he pulls himself up and hobbles towards the sniggering, well-fed bully. Jam shoves him, but he remains as still as a sturdy statue; ‘you’re on my team asshole!’ Jam screams; ‘sir sir’ retorts Steve, like a querulous toddler. Within a second – a piercing whistle imbues itself into the disputing kids’ ears; shaking them to attention like a military inspection. ‘Get off the pitch Jam!’ Mr Mack shrieks; Jam’s head lowers towards the grass, and he scurries off rather indignant.
Jam is nearly thirteen and feels different; he can’t quite put his finger on it – he almost feels like he doesn’t belong in school. A little on the recalcitrant side; authority is not his best friend. He hates facts, figures, and orders being barked at him; he would rather develop his creative side in art class; much to the amusement he receives at home and school.
After rugby practise and a monumental ear-bashing; Jam makes his way to the art studio – he is early, but he doesn’t mind. A gust of icy wind whips up some papers as Ms Eabes, his art teacher opens the door. ‘Come and sit-down young Jam’, she announces in her soothing voice; Jam gives her a nervous smile and complies. The studio is warm, with an old fashioned, retro feel to it; classic cars, brick phones, and funky architecture align the bumpy white wall montages, immediately making Jam relax. ‘Tell me about your day’ she asks – ‘you look a little flustered’. Jam proceeds to tell her about the rugby, the bullying, and the ear-bashing – she sits down and empathizes with him. When Jam has finished telling her about his day; she counters with some words of her own.
‘You may not become a rugby player, but you may become an artist. You may not become a musician, but you may write about one. You may not construct million-pound business deals, but you may construct million-pound mansions. You may not win at fighting battles, but you may win at fighting someone’s mental battle. Everyone is different and has much-needed skills to offer. The world is a gigantic, fascinating place we are still figuring out; why not believe in yourself and make the most of your brief time on it. Do whatever makes you happy, never let negativity or adversity gain the upper hand. You will face mental walls and challenges but smash them down with indomitable spirit and never stop moving forward. Always treat others how you would like to be treated, and never judge people’
The wise words absorb into Jam’s brain like a sponge, and he spends the entire art class producing some of his best work. After class, Jam heads out of the art studio and walks towards the school gate; the day is over. Passing a classroom on his right, he hears sobbing and turns his head as he stops. Immediately in front of Jam, wailing like a new-born is Steve; being attended to by a teacher, nursing his lip as blood and tears drip onto his white shirt. ‘Got what was coming to him’ whispers past Jam’s ear, as a few kids head for the gates of freedom.
Outside the gates, ensuring war does not break out, loiters a few stoutly teachers, deep in conversation. Standing by himself flexing – is the well avoided Mr Mack. He spots Jam and can’t resist shouting – ‘tuck that shirt in fairy!’; he duly obliges. As Jam smiles, he thinks to himself – I will never turn out like him.
A.T Hawthorn – 20.7.19