The Wallpaper Story

-…and it’s a hard life, Jim, you know that, right? When they all grabhold of you and say “do this” and “don’t you do that” and then they goon like “okay, old man, you are no good at all, do what we do and you’ll be fine”, and you know what? They never let you be the one you are, no way, man. So when you start …-Allan!

-…so when you start doing whatever you want, man, you are gone, I tell you. You must be a doggone fool to put up a fight and …

-Allan! I know you are there! Whom on Earth are you talking to?

-…try to do something on your own. What?

-Hurry up or you’ll be too late for school!

-Coming! …and you can’t be TOO late, you are either late or not yet, right?

He grabbed his bag, waved to Jim and the others and clattered downstairs.

His mother was moving up and down the kitchen shuffling things into the still unoccupied places (when everything was stuck into something and out of sight, she called it “order”). When Allan was heading for the door, she pulled her head out of the fridge for a moment to give him a quick look. “And don’t forget to kiss your Mommy good-bye!”

– she muttered chucking some chips leftovers into the drinks department. She even dived out of the fridge for that kiss, but just a second before the front door banged behind Allan. “Teens, – she thought, – it’s a hard time. For parents too.” She tried to remember what it was like to be sixteen. “Must have been tough for me too,- she mused,- though I never forgot to say “Good morning” to my parents, I think.” But the clock told her there wasn’t enough time for thoughts and she obeyed, closing the fridge, putting lipstick in her handbag and finally closing the door behind her. She was off to work.

Miss Hobbler never really liked day-dreamers. And Allan never actually liked Miss Hobbler, and history too. He always tried to cover his desk with the book, pretending to read, and then he drew or scribbled stuff that came to his mind. Today the class was struggling hard with sleep and the new topic on a world war in Miss Hobbler’s presentation. The sleep was obviously taking over and Miss Hobbler wasn’t the least reason for that: slowly and monotonously, with the rhythm that reminded you of an old crazy clock, she was pacing up and down the classroom, book in hand, quoting dictators and naming casualties without peeping in. When she approached Somme, Allan gave in- turned his head to the window and began staring out. The blue school bus was driving away, leaving the yard on its own. “The blue bus…is calling us”, – the music echoed in his head and the mind clearly responded: “Driver, where are you taking us? Driver, you…”

There it goes! This moment was not at all rare for Allan, but each time it came so unexpected and so new, and who knows where from! But he didn’t care about it. He grabbed the pen in a second, as if trying not to let the moment go, and started writing, quickly, greedily, feeling a special sensation all over his body:

the blue bus’s calling us driver, where are you taking us? into the middle of nowhere just around that three-eyed corner to watch the dust whirl&dance in the stony wheels of this universe your round wheels never go straight roads.

and after the dawn comes the sunrise rise on me oh me no my not i

my soul rests dirty in the dusty dusks RElease her outtah LEttAh me let uS BE nowhere round wheels never run straight roads

Driver, I have to go-Left-right, left-right, stop. She was standing right in front of him- her casualties list in hand, holy fire in her eyes. “Will you be so kind as to repeat what I have just said, Mister Nolan?”- and as she hammered these words into his head the spell softly slipped away. Allan stopped writing, his hand wet, breathing hard, as a runner after a marathon. He didn’t even look at Miss Hobbler, but stared blankly at the paper in front of him. His mind was slowly returning back into normal, his eyes were getting used to seeing what there was around- and- to discover he was writing on a book page! Half-awaken he raised his eyes to meet Miss Hobbler’s look. He didn’t really like what he saw. “Day-dreaming again”,- she said triumphantly, as a scientist who finally discovered a dangerous virus that had been escaping successfully so far. Then her eyes fell on the notes in the book. Miss Hobbler’s eyebrows sprang high to the locks on her forehead, but after a moment’s hesitation she took to acting. In the next second Allan saw his book in her hands. “The blue bus’s calling us. Driver, where are you taking us?…What is it, Mister Nolan?”- there was a note of irritation in her voice. Dead silence was the answer. Allan, who by that time was back on Earth and in the classroom again, was staring at the woman in front of him in surprise. “Nothing. Just my notes, Miss Hobbler. I was just writing.” He couldn’t think of a better answer at the moment and had to make up something on the way. And that was a true answer anyway, he thought, at least one of the lot. But before he could say more, she held his book high, as if making a public speech, and went on reading aloud, pronouncing every single word with threatening distinctness. By the end of this speech the class grew even more silent, so one could hear a crib drop. The world wars were forgotten.

“Mister Nolan, I repeat, what on Earth is this?”

“It’s poetry”, – came the voice from the back desk, but everybody was silent, so the voice didn’t dare to continue.

Miss Hobbler paid no attention to the comment. She was busy burning a hole in Allan’s face, and he could certainly feel the effect because his face started burning, his ears first, then his cheeks and finally his whole face turned into a huge glowing beetroot. “Loser”, – he said to himself, but it didn’t help. Again.

“Mister Nolan, I am happy to inform you that since this moment I consider myself highly responsible for keeping your, hmm, poetic records, so to say. I will start from taking these to the principal and he will decide whether they are worth the Nobel Prize or not. Your fate will be decided today, so please, come to the principal’s office after classes tomorrow. I was about to bring in your case a long time ago, and I don’t see any reason to put it off any more.” Her speech complete, she marched back to her table and flung Allan’s book on it. Allan didn’t say a word, but he felt that the book was hurt.

The rest of the class he spent studying…the palms of his hands. The order was restored and Miss Hobbler went on with her job until – at last! – the bell of Liberty tolled. At this sound she quickly drew the war topic from wherever it was to the conclusion and hurried to leave the class, Allan’s book in hand. The students were glad to do the same.

“So you write poems?”- came the voice from his back and Allan turned to see Stacy, the girl from his History class and a school beauty rolled in one.-“Can you write one for me?