The lovely thing about Deviant is that behind the images are real people. I spotted this image by someone called Darkothe – it looked like a wonderful old university building and I contacted the author. Apparently it is indeed an old building at the University of Washington.

Anyway, I saw this image and came up with the following semi-flash. This one is only short – 3 minutes plus some spiel.

I’m fed up with this place. It might only be a month, but I want out now.

“I can’t have my students going around saying things like that. I think we ought to meet your parents.”

The dreaded parents. The first point in the process. But I have nothing to lose.

“No, we won’t. I’m eighteen. I’m an adult. My parents are nothing to do with it. If you want to speak to anyone, you speak to me.”

A pause. I call his bluff. And pull it off.

For good measure, I add. “In fact, I withhold my consent for you to even disclose details about my education to my parents.”

He’s taken aback. He’s used to being the Commandant. Staff don’t talk to him like this, and especially not pupils.

I’m out on a wing. I’m playing this for all it’s worth because I don’t want grief from my parents. Things are bad enough at home as it is.

Unwittingly, I have hit the nail on the head. He can take all manner of action, but none of it without involving me. And I’m in the mood to fight this fucker.

Fortunately, Mr Lloyd is a pragmatist. He wouldn’t be running a 1,000-pupil school if he wasn’t a good people-person. He simmers down.

“Let’s stop for the day, shall we? I think we’ve become too excited. Let’s all think about this overnight, then talk again when we’re calmer.” He attempts to lighten the meeting further. “How’s your revision going?”

I’ve been revising hard, but I’ve no clue whether I’m destined to sink or swim. “Good, thanks.” I read the signs immediately. When he changes the subject, the matter is closed.

“Let’s hope you sail through these exams.” There is a menace in his voice, which doesn’t register yet.

I wouldn’t mind. School is done. I will attend again only to sit the exams.

And then it hits me. People who pass fly the coop. People who fail normally re-sit. At the school’s discretion. Now I understand his meaning. I understand that I have one shot at these exams, at least in this place.

I’m worried, of course. This man can make trouble for me if he wishes. But he knows we’re near the end, too. His easiest route out is for me to pass the exams and fuck off for good.

My nerves are palpable as I approach the office. I honestly have no idea. I give my name and the secretary fishes an envelope. My fate is sealed inside. My palms are sweating. Around me, I note ex-schoolfriends. Most are happy, a few are not. Steve… someone is consoling him.

The moment of truth. Like ripping a plaster, I demolish the envelope in a single movement. It takes time to absorb the result.

“How did you do?”

I hadn’t noticed him creep up on me. Lloyd. Smarmy git. This is his day. The day he can crow about how good this place is. He smiles. He’s all PR. But I remember. His eyes betray him, too.

“I’m going to Oxford.”

The reason I said semi-flash at the top is that this is also semi-autobiographical.

Dramatised, of course. The biggest inaccuracy is that I never went to Oxford. These were my 18yo exams and I was still a dunce at that point. By the skin of my teeth, I scraped into another red-brick university, but didn’t really start to get smart until about age 20.

In the UK, the 18yo exams are by far the toughest. Not only are they pretty difficult, but there is so much riding on them. We do earlier exams, at 16yo, but they were more a test of comprehension than anything specific. As long as you had a vague notion of what was going on… And the exams at uni were pre-ordained. Inevitable. People will drop out of uni, but nobody fails. The 18yo exams really were make-or-break.

Oh and had I failed, I’m sure I would have found somewhere to re-sit, but it would not have been at that school. This was my last time on the premises, I walked in and out without really speaking to anybody and did not glance back. No regrets.


  1. Sounds very familiar with allowances for the different educational systems. In my opinion 18 year olds are dealing with too many issues transitioning to adult life to have that much make or break responsibility thrust on them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think there’s certainly a danger that the opportunity could have been and gone and flown by, before anyone knows what happened.
      That whole 18yo thing is a fertile area for stories, because there are two vastly different perceptions going on. The adult sees a child, the child sees an adult.


  2. That’s really tough. I remember my maths exam I sat there for the mandatory 30 minutes then left. Failed of course. Now I work as an accountant

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was lucky I suppose that the academic subjects I took were straightforwardly easy. Maths was my best subject btw 🙂 It was just all the other stuff going on at that age.
      But even on my degree course (physics) I veered towards the theoretical (i.e. maths) side. Quantum Mechanics etc. where everything is a probability.

      Liked by 1 person

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