Tag Archives: teenager

2218. The chemist

Have you heard of the communist tyrant responsible for millions of deaths?  He was a chemist and at some stage, after lurking anonymously in the background of power, was able to poison three quarters of the population. No one knew who he was but it was believed that the person was still alive and perhaps living in luxury.

Which brings me to a simpler scene: an ordinary chemistry class at school. Young Harry has asked his chemistry teacher a simple question. Ms Braxton was a tyrannical chemistry teacher. She was to be feared. Not one of her pupils learnt Chemistry out of love; they learnt it out of fear. Ms Braxton had been teaching Chemistry for so long that several generations had passed through the school despising Chemistry. Rumour had it that she knew who the tyrannical communist chemist was; perhaps even she had taught the murderous persecutor.

Young Harry’s question was simply this: Why does bread go brown when it is toasted? Ms Braxton had explained that the starch under heat reflected light to the right (“dextra” was the Latin word for “right” so the brown bit was called dextrin). That made the toast look brown. It’s why the crust on a loaf of bread is brown.

Ms Braxton certainly knew her stuff. She was very learned. She lived alone in a very big house and drove a very expensive car. The question young Harry (and most of the impressionable teenagers in the class) really wanted to ask was “How come you’re so rich?” In fact, he did ask her. She got very angry and told him to mind his own business. Her reaction was certainly proof of something don’t you think?

2184. Complications

When Eunice’s daughter, Hazel, from a previous marriage caught her stepfather in the kitchen having whoopee with the lady from next door, she was dismayed. Should she tell her mother? Should she simply get on with life as if nothing had happened? It was life-changing knowledge. She liked her high school. She liked her friends. She liked living in this house. All that would change if she spilt the beans to her mother.

Hazel decided to keep silent. But as the weeks went by she became more and more sullen. Her mother didn’t know what was wrong.

“What is it, Hazel? Is it boyfriends or something?”

“It’s nothing,” said Hazel.

And then Eunice announced to Hazel that her relationship with Hazel’s stepfather was over. He had been having an affair with the lady next door and was leaving.

Hazel had never been so damn relieved in her entire life.

1622. A study in ennui

It certainly produces ennui when stuck inside on a rainy day. In fact, Syd had stayed in bed with the curtains drawn. The only thing that would happen if he got up would be to have breakfast before discovering that there was “nothing to do”. He wasn’t allowed much time on his phone, he wasn’t allowed much time watching videos, he wasn’t allowed much time on his computer, he wasn’t allowed much time doing sweet nothing. And now his parents were telling him to “go look for a summer job during the holiday time.” His parents sucked. The world sucked. It was hosing down outside. He might as well stay in bed. So he did.

When his father came home around one in the afternoon he went into Syd’s room and said “Get out of bed you lazy sod and do something useful.” Syd saw red and leapt out of bed and he and his father had a shouting match. Syd threw on some clothes and stormed out of the house.

What Syd’s father then said to Syd’s mother shouldn’t necessarily appear here unedited. But he swore that their next two sons would have their teenage years circumvented and they’d go from age eleven to twenty-two in one go. It’s a wonder the falling rain outside didn’t steam and hiss and evaporate once it hit the roof of the Maddock household. Syd’s father mowed the lawn in the rain he was so fed up to the back teeth. Then he tidied the garage. Then he fixed the broken cupboard door handle in the kitchen.

When dinner time came Syd came home and everything was normal.

1610. Would you like a chip?

(Today’s story is a true incident that happened to a school friend 53 years ago).

Tony was waiting for a bus just outside the gates of Parliament. (This is long before the days when life was complicated). He’d been to town, from boarding school, to see the dentist. As all teenage boys find, he was hungry and so he had bought some fish and chips. For those not in the know, fish and chips are French fries and a piece of fish fried in batter. All is wrapped in newspaper. (This is long before the days when printer’s ink rubbed off).

There was only one other person sitting in the bus stop waiting. He was an old man, and Tony felt a bit sorry for him.

“Would you like a chip?” asked Tony, offering the goodies wrapped in newspaper. The old man accepted gratefully.

“Do you work?” asked Tony.

“Occasionally,” said the old man. “I work over there.” He pointed to Parliament buildings. “But I’m not on the permanent staff. I’m only a temporary worker.”

Tony offered him another chip.

The next morning’s newspaper reported that the Prime Minister reckoned he would’ve preferred a piece of fish.

1522: Secret code

Ms Evelyn Zimmermann was frothing at the mouth. She was spitting tacks. Ms Zimmermann had spent two and a half months working out a complex, secret code. She would use it with her teenage literature class. They would decipher the code over a period of several weeks. She would help them bit by bit; a hint here and a hint there. The overriding question to answer was: What poem is hidden in the code? How exciting is that?

Ms Evelyn Zimmermann handed out the beautifully printed sheets. She had taken such care; the manuscripts were almost gilded. “This,” said Ms Zimmermann, “is the poem in code that together we shall decipher over the coming weeks.”

Willie Barros put up his hand. “The poem is obviously Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth.”

Ms Evelyn Zimmermann was shocked beyond belief. She was thunderstruck. She was gobsmacked. Months of planning and several weeks of planned pedagogy had gone down the gurgler in seconds. To make matters worse, she would have to give the upstart student a high mark for his know-all insolence. She’d never liked him. He was one of those nerdy students – a goody-two-shoes with no personality. He had pimples and absolutely no dress sense. He was one of those completely yucky adolescent boys whose half broken voice squawked up and down like a clucky chicken.

“That’s very clever of you, Willie,” said Ms Zimmermann sweetly. “How did you know that?”

Willie Barros explained the code in detail. “The answer just came to me, almost without thinking,” he said. He was particularly pleased with himself, although he didn’t say so, because Ms Zimmermann was always nasty to him, although she pretended to be kind. In fact, at times she was downright cruel. Tyrannical even. She preferred the better-looking students.

That’s why, over the last few months, Willie Barros had hacked into her computer and knew everything there was to know.