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From Distort to Despair

I think it’s an important extract that shows a lot about people and life.

Sometimes, there’s just too much technology to learn when all I really want to do is to write and edit.

This month, I’ve been taking part in one of those Instagram challenges. Here it is:

Today’s word (yesterday’s actually), DISTORT, led me to insert an extract from my book, Cultivating a Fuji, or at least to try. I struggled to insert the extract in a post, so I decided to put the extract in a comment, but that didn’t work either.

I think it’s an important extract that shows a lot about people and life. So I’m putting it here instead. What does it make you think of? Does it remind you of any episodes in your past?

July 1968

Trevor’s dad looked up from reading Trevor’s end-of-fourth form report, a sour grimace distorting his countenance. He particularly disliked the comment from the maths teacher: “What has Trevor been doing for the last four years? Certainly not studying maths. His mark in the last exam is atrocious.”

“A son of mine should be able to do better than that,” Dad told Trevor.

By this time, Trevor had picked up a thing or two from all those around him. He might not have bothered with studying, but he’d filled his brain with tips for navigating his way through life. Searching for one that would help him now, he soon came across it. Point the finger back at them. Yes, that would work. “Were you good at maths, then?” he asked.

“No, but I knew how to just squeeze past the red line by the skin of my teeth.”

Hmm. Next tip. Get sympathy. “But I don’t understand half the stuff we’re learning. I need help. Can’t you get me a private teacher?”

“Private teachers cost a lot of money, son. Look, this is what you need to do. Find some kid who’s good at maths and offer him something he needs in return for helping you.”

“What if I don’t have what he needs, or I don’t want to give it to him?”

“I didn’t say you have to give it to him. Listen to me. I said offer it. When you don’t need him any more, you find a way of getting out of your part of the bargain.”

Seven-year-old Trevor would have found it hard to accept such advice, but at fifteen he had a completely different sense of fairness. The new sense told him it was fair to look after number one first. In fact, he generally took it even further and looked after number one exclusively.

Trevor soon had a victim in mind, one who fitted the bill perfectly. He was good at maths; he needed something; Trevor could promise it; Trevor could easily renege on his promise. As soon as the new term started, Trevor went in search of his prey.

As usual, he stood alone in a corner of the playground, feet together, back straight, and head down. As if he’d been given a punishment. In that position, it was easy to, well, corner him and announce a proposition. Trevor went over to him and laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Martin, I’ve been thinking. We could be friends. Would you like that?”

Martin blinked and nodded.

“You could come round to my place sometime, and I could go to yours.”

Martin’s eyes opened wider. His mouth, too.

Trevor could hardly believe how easy this was. “We’ll have to arrange it. In the meantime, I’m having a bit of trouble with differentiation. I missed some lessons, or I didn’t pay attention. You know what it’s like. Can you explain it to me?”

“Yes.”

Poor Martin. But also, poor Trevor. Because it takes many years for Trevor to realise that looking solely after number one isn’t a good policy for life.

Cultivating a Fuji is available from Amazon.

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