HiLobrow is proud to present the twenty-sixth installment of Robert Waldron’s novel The School on the Fens. New installments will appear each Saturday for thirty-eight weeks. CLICK HERE to read all installments published thus far.
Mary led us into Farrell’s office. The mark book and Tim’s papers were stashed in my briefcase. We sat in silence. Ed looked calm and relieved now that Tim’s college applications could be sent out.
Farrell arrived and tossed his keys onto his desk.
“To what do I owe the honor of your presence?”
“We’re here to discuss Tim O’Donnell’s grade,” I said.
“I’m adamant,” he said, sitting down and folding his hands. “The grade remains a failure unless you can prove otherwise.” He looked at me and a faint smile appeared, as if to say, had you cooperated concerning Nexus, this is one of those thorny issues that could have easily been resolved.
I opened my case to remove the mark book, handed it to Ed who passed it to Farrell.
“You’ll notice next to Timothy’s name an A,” Ed said calmly without a smidgen of gloating. “And we have Tim’s essays and tests to verify the grade.”
“Where did you find it?” Farrell asked.
I said, “Mr. Thompson sometimes used his wife’s car when his was in the repair shop. She never thought of looking in her trunk for the grade book.”
“May I now change Tim’s grade?” Ed asked.
Farrell hesitated, and then, as if he were bestowing a favor upon a commoner, he said, “You may.”
We stood to leave, but Farrell ordered us to remain seated.
“Mr. Horgan, I understand you frequently remain after school.”
“I’m tutoring some students,” Ed said, puzzled. “I also sponsor the Reading Club which meets after school every Wednesday.”
“You tutor Timothy O’Donnell?”
“Why after school?”
Perplexed by the questions, Ed looked at me for guidance. I nodded for him to answer. He said, “It’s the only time my students can come.”
“I’ve received a complaint that you spend too much time with O’Donnell.”
“That’s for me to know.”
“I don’t deal with faceless accusers,” Ed said, angered by Farrell’s implication, “and if anyone has anything to say, let them say it to me.”
“Explain why you spend so much time with O’Donnell?”
“I’m helping him with his writing; furthermore, it’s no one’s business.”
“In my school it’s my business, and if you’re spending a lot of time with a student, I want to know the reason why.”
“I’ve already told you, we’re working on his writing. Tim wants to be a writer.”
The headmaster stood, signaling an end to the meeting. Ed remained seated, lost in thought. Farrell was furious at what he considered an act of disrespect.
“Ed?” I said. Ed looked at me and slowly stood.
Farrell unbuttoned his coat and put his hands on his hips.
“Mr. Horgan, I’m extremely displeased by your behavior.”
Ed stepped closer to Farrell, “I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“You’ve been shooting your mouth off, like that little performance of yours in the hall.”
“I have a constitutional right to—”
“Enough! We’ve a saying around here — new teachers should be seen and not heard.”
Ed’s pale face was now crimson; he was about to continue when Farrell said, “You may leave, Mr. Horgan.”
Ed stared at Farrell. Unable to meet his gaze, Farrell turned his back to him.
“Why are you doing this?” Ed asked.
Farrell swung around in a rage.
Ed walked to the door, quietly closing it behind him.
A long silence ensued.
“He is not Classical School material,” Farrell finally said.
Rell’s eyes were filled with fear — and hatred. Ed’s days at Classical were surely numbered.
Unless I did something.
ORIGINAL FICTION from HILOBROW: James Parker’s swearing-animal fable The Ballad of Cocky The Fox, later published in limited-edition paperback by HiLoBooks; plus: a newsletter, The Sniffer, by Patrick Cates, and further stories: “The Cockarillion”) | Karinne Keithley Syers’s hollow-earth adventure Linda, later published in limited-edition paperback; plus: ukulele music, and a “Floating Appendix”) | Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention, published by Red Lemonade | Robert Waldron’s high-school campus roman à clef The School on the Fens | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD by Stephen Burt | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | EPIC WINS: GOTHAMIAD by Chad Parmenter | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”