Excerpt

Anna Smith
from “The Score Diary of Billy Bishop”

8 – 19 (?).

Orgy of despair. Numbers approximate; have been drinking, and as soon as am in bed with one – call her Martha – immediately begin lusting after another (call her Julia). The moment enter Martha’s bed am disgusted by Martha, horrified by Martha’s shrill breathing and loose drawers (rattling, my father would say, har har!) and want only to be with the Divine Julia. Hurtle to finish and leave faster than is proper, even for a drunk. Rush-stumble desperately from bar to bar looking for Julia, Julia, Julia, Julia, Julia. Worth has been sent up to fetch me home and while perfect son, perfect student, perfect in every way does not even have decency to be terrible brother. Hauls me home when am too drunk on whiskey and bitters to fuck, cleans vomit from my shoes and tells Father I am in bed with fever, har har!

RMC too difficult and too harsh (these things are not the same). Understand am not brightest fenny in pountain, have been told before, but am without doubt smarter than E.J. and T. and countless others beaten less frequently (though less often fucked). Never could pass exams. Could never pass finals but without college, must become orchardist like father and grandfather before. Am meant for great things. Great things.

Sat exam in room too half dark to see own paper, too dark to cheat. Tucked crib notes into uniformed sleeve and under ridiculous pillbox hat. Looked suspicious to be forever fiddling with both – Headmaster striding down the rows of bent-backed boys (men, in a few short days, graduates). Took a gamble: laid cheat-sheets on desk with exam paper and in half dark, half-blind Headmaster never saw a thing. When exam finished, Head came to stand by left elbow. Stacked papers neatly together. Fingered cap. Fingered sleeve. Handed papers to Headmaster.

Am to be expelled of course: diplomas are for sadists (Crighton), rapists (Briggs), and murderers (Head, is rumoured) but not for cheats and liars. Cheats and liars are expelled after suitable period of psychological torture, i.e., summer vacation. In fall will be thrown out of RMC, rejected by universities, and relegated to apple-picking life. In summer chase Julia, Julia, Julia, Julia, Julia and then Camille and Evelyn and Sarah and Elise until Worth writes Father, says fever is broken, and hauls me onto a train that stinks of stale beer and fuel leaks.



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