Must Do Better
Little Eddie O'Sullivan sat nervously outside the headmaster's office. His eyes were still puffy from tears; tears of embarassment, tears because he wasn't used to being in trouble.
Beside him, though, was Stevie Staunton. He knew all about the headmaster's office. He was no stranger to the sting of the birch, Stevie. In fact, he'd made the long walk up the corridor a few too many times lately; the head was talking expulsion, or so it was whispered in the staff room.
Little Eddie looked up at Stevie. "What you looking at, squirt?" drawled Stevie. "Ahhh, nuttin," Eddie stuttered, looking away. He swung his legs (which didn't quite reach the floor), faking nonchalance.
With a creak which chilled the soul of even the hairiest sixth-year, the door of the headmaster's office opened. He looked at the two boys in turn. Stevie he treated to a disdainful growl; Eddie a mournful shaking of the head.
He beckoned them both inside. "I expected this of him," he said to Eddie when they were all seated, jerking a thumb in Stevie's direction. "But you, Eddie? We had such hopes for you." He leaned forward, lowering his voice. "The reputation of the school! It's taken a few blows lately, what with this.....character!" The thumb jerked again.
"I am here y'know, in fairness," Stevie protested. "I'll come to you in a minute," the head snapped.
"I'm sorry sir, it was shocking. Horrible stuff. I just didn't get my ducks in a row. But we move on."
"Well I'll be the judge of that, I think," the head said with eyebrow raised. "I haven't seen so many unforced errors in our great uniform since....". His eyes drifted towards Stevie. "Well, indeed. The lack of composure, the poor decision-making, the shoddy line outs....really, very disappointing I must say."
"I've a lot of work to do this week, sir, but make no mistake, no stone will be unturned in putting things right." Eddie fixed the head with a determined look. He was a good lad, the head knew that. In all probability this was a one-off; the end-of-term report card would be time enough to judge young O'Sullivan.
"I fear that you may have been the subject of a.....negative influence, Mr. O'Sullivan," the head eventually pronounced, his eyes shifting to the slouched presence in the other chair, who was considering the produce of his nasal passage with the interest of an philatelist examining an original Penny Black.
"I'm not sure what you mean, sir," little Eddie chirped.
"I think you know very well what I mean. The lack of cohesion, the failure to capitalise on a good start, the absence of leadership. Oh this is vintage Staunton all right!" The head by now had turned his attention to Stevie, who ceased the study of his snot upon the mention of his name.
"I get blamed for everything in this place!" Stevie exclaimed, his face reddening.
"Yes it rather seems that you do, Staunton!" the head responded in kind. "Oh don't give me your backchat; I don't want hear about the positives, how your results have improved. They couldn't have gotten any worse! No, the janitor saw you Staunton, on Saturday night, up to your old tricks. Picking the wrong team with total disrespect for everyone else at this great institution, the abject substitutions, the failure hold on to possession; you've let yourself down, but most of all you've let this school down."
The head glanced at little Eddie: "O'Sullivan, get back to class!"
"Yes sir, thanks sir," said Eddie, scuttling away like a frightened mouse.
"I don't care if you expel me," Stevie sneered.
"Oh don't worry, when I'm finished with you, you'll be dreaming of expulsion!" the head roared.
He then reached into his drawer, where he kept his instrument of discipline.
"Dreaming!" he cackled, as Stevie shifted uneasily in his chair.