?

Please vote for the piece you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Jun 19, 2011.
  1. Pythonforger - The Prison Planet

    1 vote(s)
    5.9%
  2. Alexander Wallis - The Crystal of Light

    1 vote(s)
    5.9%
  3. nzric - The Recruitment Company

    12 vote(s)
    70.6%
  4. LaGs - The catch 22 virgin

    3 vote(s)
    17.6%
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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Voting Short Story Contest 94: Catch 22

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Jun 6, 2011.

    Voting Short Story Contest (92) Theme: Catch 22

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned. No more entries are allowed in this contest.

    Voting will end Sunday 19th June to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under or over the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone.
     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Pythonforger - The Prison Planet

    I cursed and swatted away the flies. This, all this, the blazing heat, the insects, the fact that I was even on Orbiter II was the fault of the Marshall. It was a recon job, this. Check on the bloody prisoners, I was told.

    Check on prisoners? On a prison planet? Nobody did that, except raw recruits. And even then they were given a shuttle, not forced to tramp through the jungle like this. They gave me reasons, of course, all bull. Even if they actually ran out of recruits to send(which I highly doubt), they wouldn't send a Kamikaze like me.

    I was meant to be on the front lines. That was practically my home. That's why I joined the Kamikazes, the Suicide Squad, in the first place. They sent us on impossible missions and we came back reporting mission accomplished. This was hardly a mission.

    It was the Marshall, as usual. The guy hated me ever since I proved to him that it was possible to hit all the targets within the time limit in boot camp. I sucked in a breath, counted to ten, then let it out. Who cared. A job is a job, I told myself.

    I gritted my teeth and swung my machete at the foliage in front, hacking it apart. I tried to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, but I couldn't, not with all the noise in the battle up behind.

    I pushed a bunch of vines out of the way and stepped into full view of the huge prison complex. And that's where I saw it. An alien. Probably some stray that wandered from the front lines. Nothing dangerous, though. The equivalent of a private, from the look of its armor. I was about to leave it when the catch-Catch 22-resounded in my head. The words I was taught the moment my foot stepped into the training camp.

    Any alien forces must be eliminated on sight, regardless of current mission.

    I didn't like that catch, but it certainly made sure a ton of aliens were killed with minimal losses, and turned the tables around in humanity's favor, so I guess it worked. Ah well. The gray steel of my rifle came up, and I pulled the trigger.

    A titanium bullet streaked through the air, punching through ET's head and instantly killing it. I holstered my rifle and was about to continue when an odd thought struck me. Why hadn't the guards killed the alien? They should have by now...

    My gaze flickered over to the guard post, but it was empty. What the hell was happening here? I ran over, my footsteps crunching on the rocky ground. Reaching the faded green of the guard post door, I threw it open.

    The corpse of the guard was lying on the floor, his head blown apart. Then it dawned on me:this wasn't some random alien stumbling into the complex. This was a full scale attack on it.

    I froze for a second, then darted to a barred window in the complex. I put my eye to it and peered through. What I saw there almost made me gasp in horror.

    Dozens of aliens were swarming the complex. Dead bodies were strewn all over the floor, both human and alien. Suddenly, an alien barked out something to his comrades, and they all gathered near a door the alien was beside.

    They broke through the door, and gunfire erupted through it. Plasma bursts were fired back. There were screams of pain, and finally a heavy silence settled over everything.

    I had enough. I slowly backed away and was about to run back to HQ and away from this whole damned planet when catch 22 got me again. Swearing under my breath, I crept toward the main entrance.

    I considered my action plan. I could go in guns blazing and hope that the aliens would be caught off guard and get slaughtered under the immense amount of gunfire or toss a couple of grenades in and pick them off slowly in the chaos that followed.

    The first had less chance to succeed, but the second required more skill. Being a Kamikaze, I chose option two. I was committed to my plan now, and my hand moved to my waist, without hesitation. I pulled out three high explosion grenades, pulled the pins simultaneously and blindly threw them in, flinging my wrist as hard as I could.

    There were triple explosions-or was it just one big explosion?-and a cacophony of shrieking voices sounded. I poked my head into the complex, and fired at several unlucky aliens, my rifle barrel moving with ease from one target to the next.

    More aliens burst out of doorways. ****. This was bad. Really bad. I tried to dive for cover, but they spotted me and surrounded me. I held the trigger down and rolled backward, but a volley of plasma shots prevented me from going very far.

    That left one thing, really. To do what I was born to do-charge. So I ducked my head, raised my gun and ran straight in. The aliens weren't expecting this, and screeched, startled, as I fired and fired and fired again at the seemingly endless wave of them.

    I made an instant decision, and swung my rifle up, cracking its butt against an alien's jaw. I fired in that direction, and that portion of their rapidly closing circle opened up, leaving me to sprint out of it and into an adjacent room. I

    It was the Guards' Lounge. Good, I thought with satisfaction. That meant the door would be metal. I slammed it closed and grabbed a nearby chair, locking it against the handle. Breathing a sigh of relief, I backpedaled, my gun still pointed at the door, and grabbed a nearby bottle of painkillers.

    As I swallowed the bright yellow pills, I realized that catch 22 was what got me into this situation. I also realized I had killed an incredible number of aliens in the process. Shrugging my shoulders, I crouched down, preparing for battle as plasma bursts sounded on the door.
     
  3. Gannon
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    Alexander Wallis - The Crystal of Light

    The nearby fire crackled as I heard my friend Throinir delicately placing more wood to the fire. I'll never understand Elves, they always try and be perfect, why can't he just toss the wood in there? It wouldn't make a difference. My thoughts were cut short when I heard him call me over for our dinner. I carefully rose out of my bedroll, my wounds playing a big factor in that. My ribs were bruised beyond healing, so close to being broken, and my arm was just put back into socket. I was sore and my hamstring was pulled, so I limped grudgingly over to the fire and sat on a log. Throinir was readying both of our bowls, it was stew, it smelled like the best thing ever invented right now. To be honest he could have had some aging crackers and I would have been content, but oh no, not an Elf. We ate in silence, my thoughts were elsewhere besides what was happening now. The battle was...atrocious. So many bodies, so much blood. We had started this journey with five Humans and five Elves, now it was one each. Frey Arete and Throinir, Elves didn't have last names, odd. Our quest was to travel to a nearby Valley that had been blocked by bandits, we had easily dispensed the bandits and said a quick prayer to the Gods, but no sooner than that arrows started flying. Instantly three men dropped, not even dead, but blood rushing out of their mouth and wound. Then this horrible green creatures were upon us, feasting on the wounded BUT alive men. Their cries of pure torture and pain had pierced my ears, but I couldn't help unless I wanted to end up like them. I quickly drew my blade as did my fellows and began to fight. They already out numbered us by the hundreds, but we had proper training. More and more just kept coming until our numbers were dwindled, it was me and two Elves. I called to retreat, and we ran off. They were right on us shooting arrows, they had actually got me in the arm and lower back. I pulled my hamstring running, but I had to escape. The scent of fresh blood was still in the air, MY fresh blood. After running for nearly an hour I was slowing down drastically. I couldn't run anymore, my wounds were too much. One of the Elves saw that, he had turned to me. "Frey, you must live. You are the only one of us that can activate the crystal of light. Go!" As he finished he jumped in front of me and started hacking away with his blade, I watched them swarm him, But Throinir had grabbed me and began running again. Crystal of Light, what the hell was that? He looked at Throinir as they ran, he showed no emotion. After a long time of running they had finally settled down and made camp, that is where I am currently. I looked up at Throinir, he was staring blankly into the fire. "What is the Crystal of Light, I thought we were here to kill Bandits." Throinir remained staring at the fire but spoke, "We thought it better not to tell you, less you would get nervous or scared, or since you're Human..power hungry." I grew angry, "You didn't tell me that I had to practically save the world because I might turn on you?! My friend I knew you since before this journey and I thought you trusted me, I was obviously wrong." Throinir remained engulfed in the sight of the fire, "Frey..my friend, if we had told you, then we would have had to say the words 'Crystal of Light' which would attract the Dark Ones, we couldn't risk it. I am sorry," He seemed truly sorry, "I need to take a walk" I tried to get up but images started flashing in my head. Pictures of the Dark Ones grinning with their crooked and sharp teeth protruding their mouth, and they were staring him down, and one of them was licking his blade and he was standing over Throinir. I tried to awake from this trance, dream, I didn't what it was. It was horrible, all of a sudden a flash of light burst from where I was standing in the dream, and I awoke. Throinir was standing over me, "Are you alright?" I smiled at him, "Fine my friend, but can you take me to my tent?" Throinir smiled genuinely and carried me over there and placed me in. "Tomorrow is when it all happens, be ready." I just stared at him, "I will be."

    The sun rose over the mountains and the chilly air sent goosebumps down my skin as I awoke. I got dressed in my armor as fast as I could, it was cold and nearly froze to my skin. I walked outside to see Throinir already in his armor, and his bowl was empty, there mine sat beside him. I ate as fast as I could, my stomach would thank me for it. As I finished Throinir had mounted his steed, so I put up my dish, as Throinir had already packed the rest of our things, and mounted my horse. Me and Morno had bonded since our start of the journey, Morno was a trustful horse and fast. He had more than saved me enough times. As Throinir and I were headed down into the Valley I saw a large crystal shining red, that must be the Crystal of Light tainted by the Dark Ones. I looked at Throinir and he nodded, we both burst down into the Valley and drew our blades. I will destroy Darkness and Light shall prevail. As we approached I quickly dismounted, but as I did hundreds of Dark Ones poured in from the side of the Valley, like they were waiting. Me and Throinir ignored them and rushed for the Crystal. Throinir reached in his satchel and pulled out a wrapped object, It must be the shard of the crystal that will purify it. I grabbed it delicately and unwrapped it, I approached the Crystal but before I could place the piece on it Throinir stopped me. "Wait! Frey, in order for this to work, so the shard won't just be corrupt once it touches the Crystal, it must have a soul in order to power it. A sacrifice, And I must be that soul!" He looked like it was no argument, but we were best friends. I couldn't throw that away, we had been through a lot together, but Throinir was looking deep in his eyes, "You must kill me. Since we're already up here it will absorb my soul, please hurry!" My brain was rattled, I couldn't. But I found my hand already gripping my blade, No! I will not! As I was fighting myself I looked up at Throinir and a blade sticking through his chest, my dream! And as he fell, there stood a Dark One licking his blade standing over him. "NO! I banish you Darkness, Light shall prevail!" I plunged the shard into the Crystal and an Earthquake seemed to happen, I fell over. Then before anything else, a great flash of light blinded me and I went unconscious. I had no dreams, not visions just black, but I did have my thoughts. I had destroyed Darkness and Light would be the only power, but then I had a thought. Darkness existed only because Light existed, If I destroyed Darkness than Light would become both. Had I destroyed Darkness or started an even more Evil power. "What have I done?"
     
  4. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    nzric - The Recruitment Company

    The underside of the old office desk was pock-marked with Rorschach blots of old chewing gum stains and Toby ducked further as he felt his hair catch on something sticky. He reached further around the back of the old hard-drive with the monitor cable and screwed it tightly into the plug, hearing the dull static “thunk” above him as the monitor came back to life.

    Backing out gingerly through the dust balls and assorted refuse of paperclips & spent staples, Toby stood up, trying to smooth the creases in his white dress shirt. His navy blue tie, a grey swipe of dust along one edge, hung limply over one shoulder and he straightened it with one hand, the other shaking the air in mock triumph as he glanced around the assessment room. Out of the four other applicants, two starched and suited grad students stared at him dully from their own computers, a middle aged, slightly overweight office manager type looked up at him with obvious distaste, drumming her fingers on the stocking of one knee where her floral dress rode up. The other applicant in the assessment room was a young power-suited girl with her black hair in a tight bun. She had her back to Toby and completely ignored him, still in the frantic throes of her typing test.

    “Toby Davidson?” a pert voice asked from behind him. Toby turned to the front of the room with one fist still in the air, but he put it down quickly and self-consciously brushed at the creases at the front of his shirt.

    The Recruiter tapped her clipboard with a pen the same russet shade as her long nails, standing in the wide office doorway with a pose that was clear she was used to being looked at. Toby guessed she was about five years older than him, somewhere in her mid-twenties but the tailored grey suit and slightly heavy make-up made her seem older.

    “Uh.. yeah… that’s me,” Toby said, for a moment completely losing the composure he had held for the last twenty minutes since he had arrived.

    “Well hiya Toby! my name is Katie and I am your Recruitment Consultant,” the Recruiter put out her hand and gave a wide, professional smile that didn’t reach her eyes. As Toby shook her hand she tucked the clipboard under her arm with her left hand, took a practiced step to the side and cupped his elbow gently in her hand, keeping hold of his right hand and leading Toby in a quick pace back past the buffed metal Reception desk. Corporate Aikido, he thought to himself.

    “Wait.. hold on,” Toby started, already halfway down a long corridor to the side of Reception, “I haven’t finished the computer test yet.”

    “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that!” she replied, steering him in a ninety-degree angle and into a small booth just big enough for the two red swivel chairs and a PC on a semi-circular table.

    She took her clipboard from under her arm with a flourish. “Well Toby, would you like to have some water before we start?” she asked, clicking her pen quickly with a tempo that matched her quick speech.

    “No, it’s okay, thanks” he replied.

    She gave him another predatory smile and began scribbling something on the clipboard. “Oh, are you absolutely sure you don’t want some water? It’s really no trouble at all.”

    Toby felt his face getting redder. He arched his neck but she kept the clipboard facing away from him. “Well, um, okay then.”

    “Right,” she said, turning a page over on the clipboard and making a few pen scratches. She swivelled on one high heel and came back within seconds with a tall glass of water, clipboard under her arm.

    She put the glass in front of him, leaning forward slightly as she did it and hooking the base of the door with one heel. It swung closed gently and she sat at the chair with the monitor and keyboard. Unsheathing the clipboard again and holding it at a forty-five degree angle from his vision, she started jotting down more notes.

    After a minute, Toby tried to break the silence. “Thanks for seeing me… Katie. I’m not sure if you have seen my resume but I saw a few jobs your agency was advertising and..”

    “Is Toby your real name?” she interrupted absently.

    “Well yeah, of course,” he answered.

    “Middle name?”

    “uh, Andrew.”

    “Andrew…” she looked up at him, “that’s good… could be a bit stronger than Toby don’t you think… Andrew Davidson. You haven’t considered..”

    “What, changing my name? Well, no.. I..”

    “No problem, just asking,” she smiled again and waved her pen dismissively. “Right. Ok then. We have the results of your computer test and I have to say it’s a good start.”

    “I didn’t do the test,” Toby said. “Like I said, I finished the typing test but then the computer crashed.”

    “Yes. Absolutely. Annoying wasn’t it?”

    Toby shrugged.

    “Anyway. Sixty words per minute typing… very good… and a B minus on the computer crash. Good use of initiative to ask Reception… crawling under the dusty desk, good, good.. checking power connections.. good use of initiative. Do you want to see the video?”

    “You mean the crash was part of the test?”

    She looked up from his notes with a smirk, “not too quick on the mark though…”

    “Hey, that’s out of line,” Toby said defensively.

    “Now Toby, it’s just a quick way for us to find out how you act in a work situation. We already know your demographic can use the normal office software packages, but the test is how much initiative and enthusiasm you show in a work environment. Right now we’ve got one of the other applicants fixing a broken printer in the assessment room, and another is adding an app to our Receptionist’s cellphone.”

    Toby settled himself down and the Recruiter pulled two stapled documents from the back of the clipboard, sliding one across the table to him. It was two pages of neatly formatted text and diamond-tipped bullet points. At the top of the page was his name in bold sans serif – ‘Toby Andrew Davidson’. “So, on to your application,” she began, “this is your CV, we put all our applicant CVs into the agency format. Take a look through.”

    The CV was in a standard template format but it read easily. Toby scanned the document – BSc Erendon University, three years as part-time Office Administrator at his uncle’s kitchenware franchise, ‘Davidson Kitchenware-house’ – he skipped to the next page.

    “Looks like my CV got mixed up with another one,” he started, “I never worked as Junior Teller at ‘Cheepo Kitchen World’.”

    “No, that’s yours. This is your notional CV. Check the dates.”

    The Cheepo job was dated ‘August 2011 to June 2012.’ Following this was a stint from ‘June 2012 to March 2016’ as a Warehouse Junior Assistant at Stan’s Bargain Kitchen Emporium. In the ‘Qualifications’ section under his BSc was a Certificate of Participation in a half-day “Stan’s Sales Winnership Workshop’ in August 2014.

    “You see,” Katie began, answering his unspoken question, “nowadays employers only want to hire someone with prior full-time experience, but as a recent graduate you don’t have that experience and you can’t get it unless an employer offers you a job. It’s a classic Catch-22 situation.”

    “Okay,” Toby said, “so this is supposed to be what kind of job I’d want?”

    Katie’s expression brightened and she lifted her copy of the document to make a short note on the clipboard underneath. “You’re right, this shows the potential career development a person like you could have if they were given a chance with the right employer.”

    He flushed. “If this is supposed to be the kind of job I’d want to work in it’s aiming pretty low, don’t you think? This job with my uncle was just to get me through my studies. I’m not going to spend the next five years in the back room of an appliance warehouse.”

    “Of course you have your hopes and dreams of the perfect job out of university, but the reality is often a lot different,” She looked at him steadily. “And there’s nothing wrong with a good days work for a good days pay. Anyway, these are just notional jobs at notional companies. The main thing is employers want to see a narrative of your career progression.”

    She slid the slimline keyboard to face her and tapped in her name and password. Toby saw his file come up on the screen, his personal and work details in grey and white text boxes.

    “We can correct this to make it more accurate. The CV you are holding is just a sample based on the CV you sent us and the demographics of your age, gender, ethnic background, that kind of thing,” Katie continued as she scrolled through the screen, “we can really refine it if we get your other details. Are you ok with that?”

    “Well, I guess” Toby said, unsure.

    “So it’s ok for us to ask your University for access to your academic records?”

    “Sure, but I already said in my CV that I have a B plus average.”

    “That’s great,” Katie smiled and ticked a checkbox on the screen, “it’s just much more accurate though if we get the actual records. Don’t worry, the information is all online so it’ll take no time at all, we just need your consent to link our system to the university database. Now, how about your credit background? That’s good to show an employer you’re trustworthy.”

    “Well…” Toby started.

    “Great, ok then,” she continued typing. “Now, how about tax records, credit card, medical summary, criminal background check and no-fly list, phone and internet records, your social media accounts, internet forum history, blog account keywords, online purchases, club memberships, video rentals, power, water and electricity billing, home rental agency details and home, personal and pet insurance?”

    “I’m not sure I’m really comfortable with this” Toby said.

    “You’re right, I’ll cut out pet insurance – I always think that’s just excessive” she said. Before Toby could interrupt she tapped a green “Submit” button on the screen and the computer hummed busily. In seconds the screen refreshed with another neatly formatted resume, his name again at the top.

    “Great, let’s see what we’ve got,” Katie scrolled down the page. “I see it’s put you down as starting a Post-Graduate Certificate in 2013. That’s good. Working as a ‘Marketing Assistant’ then as ‘Branding Consultant’ in the city by 2013 too. Wow! Go you!”

    The screen was still in the crisp agency format but this resume had a lot more detail. It listed time in different roles at each company, the predicted salary and his strengths and weaknesses for each area of work. Toby still felt uneasy but curiosity got the better of him. He always wanted to get into marketing and graphic design but at this stage it was just a hobby he was tinkering with on his blog. It was strange but slightly gratifying to see the computer thought he had potential.

    His salary wasn’t huge but it seemed like a fairly good living. Katie scrolled to the next page. It listed some of the accounts he was supposed to work on, including – he was pleased to see – some major consumer brands. The listing for the first employer read “Reason for leaving: Ref.192” and Katie stopped scrolling, but not before Toby read the title of the next employer in September 2013 – ‘Davidson Kitchenware-house’.

    “Oh, that’s not good” Katie said, facing him and studying him intently.

    “What’s not good? And why is my uncle’s business listed as the next employer? I thought this was saying I work in the city?”

    “It’s a 192.” Katie took her pen out and wrote ‘192’ in large letters at the base of the clipboard notes, then closed the folder.

    “And…?”

    “The computer says you work on teams for some big clients for the next few years. The boss gives you a chance to account manage a major client as a trial – a good opportunity to prove yourself.”

    “So why isn’t that good?”

    “Well, it doesn’t work out. The contract goes bad – could be a lack of creativity or it could be you just don’t have the selling ability… Anyway, you lose the account, the client pulls out a lot of money from the company.”

    “How can a computer say that?” he answered, “that’s stupid. It can’t make that kind of guess about how I’d act.”

    “Toby, this computer is pretty accurate. You can’t agree on all the good things it says but ignore the bad stuff. Statistically, it’s saying there’s a high probability you just don’t have it in you.”

    “Well run it again” Tony demanded “Another one of those notional jobs. Those must be just freak results.”

    “Sorry Toby, it doesn’t work that way,” Katie said. “This is a profile based on the sum of all your records. There’s only one profile.” She closed down the computer and started to stand up. “Now, Toby, I’m sorry but I don’t think we have the right kind of jobs for you.”

    “This is insane,” Toby said. “That job isn’t even real. You can’t base a judgement about how an imaginary me might work in an imaginary job.”

    “Notional, not imaginary,” she corrected. “And Tony, if we didn’t use the notional information, what else could we use? You don’t have any experience.”

    Tony stood up as she opened the door. “Well, I’m leaving anyway,” he said, trying to be firm. “If your business works like this I don’t know if I even want to apply to your agency!”

    “Now that’s the spirit Toby!” Katie answered and patted him on the shoulder as she marched him back to reception.

    “I mean it,” Toby said half-heartedly, “once somewhere gives me a chance to work, I’ll show you what my potential is.” They walked past reception and into the entryway where an elevator was waiting, doors open.

    “I know, it seems unfair,” Katie said as he stepped into the lift. “No hard feelings, huh?” She reached out her hand and Tony shook it.

    “You’re missing a good opportunity to give me a job,” he said. “I don’t care what the computer says, I’ve got a lot I could offer.”

    “I know you do,” Katie smiled warmly and stepped back from the lift. “There’s a lot of jobs out there and I’m sure there’s one that’ll be perfect for you. Have you ever considered kitchenware?”

    Tony felt the blood rush to his face and he went to answer, but he was too late. The doors slid shut and he felt the short drop as the elevator started the descent to the ground floor.
     
  5. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    LaGs - The catch 22 virgin

    Every window in the classroom is lying ajar, but the heat is stifling me and making me sweat. It’s a late afternoon, and there are only two more periods of class to go.

    This school uniform has no aeration whatsoever. It’s like it’s designed to annoy me. The tie, which the authorities strictly make sure is done right up to the collar, is choking me slightly and making me uncomfortable. My shirt is the kind that absorbs the slightest hint of moisture and I’m worried that I have sweat patches under my arms.

    I check. I do. I keep my arms down.

    “Right so what I want you to do is complete questions one to five for your homework, and make sure you read pages 35 to 47 for tomorrow. Then for Friday you have that assessment to complete in your good homework book, and make sure that you have the date written down and the title underlined in red ink. IN RED INK, now make sure you do, or you’ll lose marks if you don’t.”

    She says this every time as if we’re a group of monkeys that can be trained through repetition of the same thing.

    “Okay everybody write that down in your homework diaries, c’mon do it now and hurry up, we still have some more work to get through”.

    I get up to put some paper in the bin looking around me as everybody does as they’re told in unison. The girls seem to be a lot more studious, while the boys lazily lag behind as they look through their schoolbags.

    The girls in my class are really pretty, like exceptionally so, and I love it on warm days like this they wear their knee length socks and I can just sit all day looking at their legs.

    Nobody ever notices me really. Heading back to my seat one or two people glance up for a second and then back down again as if I weren’t there. Sometimes I feel like I have lots to say, but never end up saying it. The girls look at me as if I’m some kind of weirdo who should be avoided at all costs.

    “Right, so can anybody tell me some of the reasons why the 1916 Easter rising was a failure? And I want to you to be specific, I want names, I want places…”

    My mind drifts…as it has a consistent tendency to do…to things unrelated to what the teacher is talking about. Legs. Yes legs, I love legs.

    It occurs to me that I’ve never really had a proper conversation with any girl in my class, never mind a girl in the same year as me. This gets me down a bit. I always try and force myself not to think about this, but sometimes I can’t help it. I’m well into my teenage years yet I’ve never had any kind of sexual relations with someone, even though I’d love to. I can barely even muster the courage to talk to a girl, never mind initiate anything sexual.

    “Ryan….RYAN?”

    I lift my head up.

    “Wha?”

    There is a strong disrespectful tinge to the way I said this, even though it was unintentional.

    “Don’t say WHA…you say yes miss”.

    “Yes miss”.

    Other people in the class love it when there’s conflict or tension between the teacher and a student. It’s even better when the student reacts, as he often gets a grilling and the conflict provides ample opportunity for sniggers.

    “Well? Have you any reasons?”

    I flush with embarrassment, my pale face unable to hide the redness when this happens. I’ve forgotten the question.

    “Emm….Uhhh…Miss what was the question again?”

    Loud sniggers and a few outbursts of laughter occur. I’m more annoyed that some of the girls in the class are laughing at me. Why wasn’t I paying attention?

    “This just isn’t acceptable Ryan.” She lets out an exaggerated sigh, a sigh that says she’s fed up dealing with idiots all day long. She repeats the question, begrudgingly.

    I think for a few seconds.

    “Em…”

    My mind is a bloody blank even though I KNOW I know the answer, I just can’t think of it. Eyes are boring into me from all over.

    “Uh…”

    Say something for God’s sake.

    “Em because…because the British were just too powerful?”

    A slight look of disappointment on the teacher’s face.

    “Well…yes, but, I was looking for more specific answers, and that’s just a bit too general…”

    She moves away from me.

    I’m sitting stewing in my chair, not trying to show any outward frustration, but I almost feel like steam is going to come out from under my shirt collar. When attention is on me, it seems like I freeze, I hide deep within myself until people go away. People think I’m a loser.

    Girls think I’m a loser.

    The class has moved on and I’ve faded into the background again.

    I’m day dreaming again.

    Most of the people my age have already lost their virginity. I’m 16, halfway towards 17. I hear about all the other lads in my class, and about their sexual escapades in graphic detail. The popular ones who always get all the action, the ones who play on the school football team. But I never really had any talent for that sort of thing. I was always average.

    I’m thinking about the subject that I try not to think about. It’s almost like an obsession.

    Why will girls never go out with me? Is it because I’m ugly?

    Every morning I look at myself in the mirror and I ask this question. I get varying answers. Some days I give myself a 6 out of 10, which isn’t bad, so I think to myself what is the other reason? And I already know the answer.

    Girls don’t like a guy without confidence, this elusive concept, this dirty word that has plagued me my whole teenage life.

    I have read about this ‘confidence’, what it means and how to build it. But it’s not like a brick wall where I can get all the materials and just carry out the building process. I have tried, but it seems nothing I do will ever make it better.

    The bell rings, and there is a frantic clambering for schoolbags as people throw away their things in a hurried fashion, like they can’t wait to get to the next class. But of course it’s just because they have a few minutes where they can talk crap to their friends, joke around and be happy.

    I’m walking to the next class like everyone else, although a bit drifted away from the larger groups as I was slower in putting my things away.

    I just can’t stop thinking about it, and it’s making me whiny and miserable. And I bet it shows markedly, to people who know me and to my immediate family. But no one has ever brought the subject up to me. I wonder does anybody suspect that this is what I normally think about?

    Maybe I need to be more assertive. The current situation is only compounding my virginity. I need a new approach, I need to act more confident in order to go out with girls and by extension lose my virginity.

    But I’m reluctant, I’m scared. To gain confidence I need to lose my virginity, but to lose my virginity I need to be confident.

    I suppose you could say it’s a kind of self-imposed vicious cycle, but it’s how I feel.

    The rest of the day drags on as I seem to be looking at the clock every five minutes. Afterwards I’m waiting on the bus, constantly checking my watch as I look forward to going home where I don’t have to engage in the petty peer pressures that are applied to me in school.

    Home Is more relaxing. I don’t feel as if I have to impress anybody, or do things I wouldn’t normally do. When evening comes and the light starts to fade, I’m preparing myself to repeat another day of school. The after that, I’ll repeat that for five days for another year a least, a journey which has so far been a long and arduous one.

    Tomorrow I will try to be different, change my personality to be more confident and more assertive. Maybe I will try to talk to a girl, maybe she will go out with me.

    But I’m guessing my lack of confidence will push her away meaning the chances are I will always be a virgin.
     
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