Wednesday 24 October 2007

Sleeping with Seamus

A piece in an occasional series of pieces not taken by Sunday Miscellany.

I had that dream again. You know the one. Everyone has it from time to time. No, not the naked one, but the one where the man at the front of the room says the seven most spine-chilling words in the English language. And there’s nothing you can do. It’s too late.

Exams. They bear no resemblance to real life outside of school and yet they are the be-all and end-all of the whole educational conveyor belt. Fail and you plummet, screaming off the end. Do well and the world’s your oyster, or, as my mother said, the world’s your lobster. I had never seen a lobster in real life so I had no idea if they were worth all the toil and brainache.

“The world’s my lobster. The world’s my lobster.” Each word a beat on the pedal downstroke as I biked to school. The weather that morning was truly dreadful for the first day of exams; it was hot and sunny. The smell of cut grass mingled with diesel from the corporation lawnmower on the playing fields. I checked my watch, the leather strap an unfamiliar restriction on my sweaty wrist. I still had plenty of time.

I slung my bike in the hedge and climbed over the gate. The field had been in full sunlight for hours and the grass was warm to the touch. I lay down and reached inside my bag to pull out my poetry textbook. It fell open at a poem by Seamus Heaney called ‘Follower’. The mower droned beyond the goalposts around the far corner of the pitch. I read the poem out loud, rounding the vowels and emphasising the rhythm as my teacher did.

I shut my eyes and imagined the picture he painted, rustic and earthy and a long way from where I was. I took a polo mint out of my pocket and sucked it to try and quell my jumpy stomach. The Weetabix I hadn’t wanted lay heavy. I hadn’t felt hungry but I had been too tired from a restless night to argue with my mother who knew best. I breathed in and out, slowly and deeply. The sun was hot on the back of my knees. I brushed a fly off my arm and made a pillow of soft grass cuttings. The tension in my shoulders eased a little. I moved my head slowly from side to side before resting it on the ground.

Then I was behind the horse-plough, following my father’s striding boots, the furrows stretching endlessly away. I strained to keep up. My legs were aching, my knees weakening. The slap of his reins resonated in my ears. I slipped in his muddy bootprint and woke up.

The lawnmower skimmed past my open book, showering me with cuttings and headed away again. Startled, I leapt to my feet, checking my watch. Only five minutes lost.
I said a silent prayer of thanks for waking and climbed back over the gate. As I straddled my bike, I prayed again that Seamus would come up on the paper. I lobstered up the hill to the hall full of desks and the man waiting to say those seven words, “You may now turn over your paper.”


Michelle Dalton said...

I really liked that (The world's my lobster! :D). Damn I feel so bad at writing, now :(

Unknown said...

love-the worlds my lobster,diferent somehow,more lyrical. it captured me,and i felt i could hear it read aloud. more pieces in this style and you can write your own book . - all really good though,very interesting.

i have written a piece for the first time. i loveit and wanted to send it to s.m. then got scared ,fearing ridicule - would you read it for me?

Emerging Writer said...

Hi Kimberley, I'd suggest you find a supportive writing group and share it with them. Or you could post on website