Tales From Earth:The Assignment

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A short story by Enigmaster

Dwight held his head in his hands. Why was life being so unfair to him? What had he done to deserve this kind of trouble? Deep down though, he knew he had brought this upon himself. All week there had been something else that was more important, another reason to put it off. He knew he should have done it by now – most people in his class had already handed it in - but the deadline had crept up so stealthily and now it was Sunday night. This coursework, set about a month ago, was due in tomorrow and Dwight still had no clue where to start.

In class for the last two weeks Mr. Maelstrom had covered everything they needed to know – the techniques, the style, everything. That information was now lost in a mixed wave of panic, confusion and fear. So far, Dwight had written the title of the piece: ‘Why is Winston Smith driven to rebel against The Party?’ This spanned the head of an empty page.

“Winston rebels because… nah, that won’t work,” Dwight tested his one and only idea out loud. Without the stupid notes I’m doomed, he thought. I had all the time in the world to copy some down, and I blew it drawing those stupid doodles.

The thought of this almost made him reach for his sketch pad, but he caught himself before he became side-tracked and forced his tired brain to focus back on the first line he so frantically needed. He buried his messy black hair once again in the hands he should be using for composing a GCSE level scrawl. As if on cue, his impeding mother interrupted by stumbling into his room.

“Are you alright, dear? You know, I used to study 1984. Do you need any help?” She asked with concern. “You look a bit stressed.”

Dwight gave her a cold, ‘You don’t say?’ look, and commanded her wildly to leave while he continued to search desperately for the introduction.

The disheartened woman sighed for she was used by now to her son. All three of her other now grown-up children had refused help at some point, whether it was in homework, love, or rehabilitation. All this new rejection did was confirm her suspicions that she was a bad mother. She sighed again.

“I’ll be watching Eastenders if you need me,” she uttered as she hobbled back through the door. Dwight raised his head slightly; his mom only watched soaps if she was having a hard time – must be some kind of trouble at work, he concluded. Or was it? He couldn’t tell.

“Urgh!” He cried in desperation, he was getting distracted again! This really was no good. Trying to force an essay out of himself was clearly not the way to get it done. Maybe if he rested his eyes, just for a second, the words would flow so much more easily…

“Wake up dear! If you’re not ready in fifteen minutes I’m going without you!” Those words, usually accompanied by a groan of weariness were that day followed for Dwight by a thumping heart and dilated pupils. He hadn’t finished it. Not only that, but he hadn’t even started it! Mr. Maelstrom was going to have Dwight’s head hung in his filing cabinet by the end of the day. There was no way he was even going to be able to knock up a quick substitute piece – and he was going to be late!

“Come on, get dressed!” His mother’s calls barely penetrated his brain as he frantically searched for alternatives. He had already ‘missed’ three days off school last week as well as countless others playing football with his mates and had been warned that bunking off again would mean expulsion, so that had to be skipped. There is no way mom can write a sick note, she has such a lousy reputation with the school for being too soft, he thought. There was no way out of it: he had to go. He had to face Maelstrom. He had to suffer for his own imbecility.

The car journey lasted hours. Somehow they managed to arrive at school at the normal time, even if they had left slightly later than was usual. Even the typically short walk from the St. George’s College gates to his form seemed to take forever. All the way he was constantly on guard in case any teachers somehow knew his terrible secret earlier than he planned. Paranoia was getting the better of him and he knew it, but still he stared around at his peers, suspicious. Throughout registration the speculation on what the first lesson would bring built up and up, until it almost became unbearable. Many people commented on how nervous he looked and joked that maybe he hadn’t done the assignment. Dwight laughed along of course but was almost dying inside.

As the moment of reckoning approached, the end of the lesson, Dwight finalised his plan. The best way was to slip out of the door when Maelstrom asked for the work in. Then he could blame it on the teacher, or at least find some other way for the ‘work’ to get ‘lost’. He was so absorbed in this thought process that he nearly choked when he heard:

“…We’ll finish this section tomorrow. Don’t forget to hand in your coursework on the way out.”

Dwight managed to merge with a big group pushing their way out of the classroom, and as each paused to hand over the work, he regrouped with another mass who had just finished dispensing their essays. Phew, he had made it! Now all he had to do was wait until Mr. Maelstrom chased him up, by which time he should have completed the feat.

For the next few hours Dwight was at peace, content in the knowledge that he was safe for at least twenty four hours. That was until a mate told him Maelstrom was already in pursuit. It was impossible luck; there was no way he could have checked through everyone’s pieces and spotted the absence of Dwight’s. But behold; he must have.

“Dower!” Dwight shivered an icy tremble at the sound of his name and started to actually quiver when it became clear who had shouted.

“My office, NOW!”

This is it, he thought, bye bye freedom. For this I’ll be grounded for two months plus, even with moms rep, and that’s on top of whatever the school does! The huge looming door of the study that would be the last he would enter as an innocent rule-abiding student gaped wide. The room was old and creepy; it smelt musty, much like the qualities of its master.

“Listen, Dower, I don’t know who you think you are, but what has gone on this morning is not tolerated at this school!” Mr. Maelstrom began. Here comes the killer blow… Dwight anticipated.

“As much as I appreciate your concern with getting coursework in on the deadline…”


“…You must understand that using a school phone without permission is not only bad policy but also costs the school money. Do you hear me?” Dwight couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“Yes, sir, it won’t happen again.” What the hell is going on?

“Good. Well anyway, once your mother had dropped it off I had a flick through; the level of work is excellent. This puts you in good stead for an A if you continue to work to this standard. Keep it up.”

“Thank you, sir, I will.” And with that, Dwight stepped out of Maelstrom’s den the happiest he had been in months. He just wanted to run home and kiss his mother, for she had potentially saved his entire future career. At that moment he realised how fortunate he was to have such a loving mother and as he wondered what he could do for her in return, he realised that he could start by finding out exactly why she was again watching her soaps.