An excerpt from collection called 'The Students We Know'. Brace yourself, he's coming...
With all the subtlety of a hand-grenade, all the peace of a chainsaw, and all the finesse of a bull in a china shop, I introduce to you our next subject of discussion: Cannonball Charlie.
You know when he’s arrived, you notice when he goes home, and it’s obvious when he’s away (which is never). He’s the one who makes you flop onto your chair at 3pm spouting varied expressions of exasperation along the lines of “hell, what a day!” A day with a living Cannonball is a bit like that. And it’s the kind of day that never seems to end. In fact, you really can’t get away from the fella. You get regular reports of him throughout the day from teachers, parents, even some of the other students, and he sits in your head when you go home. It’s odd how Charlie follows you around.
You can’t catch a break even when you’re not anywhere near him. Other teachers seem to delight in bringing him back to you either physically or with an update when he’s out doing his thing at morning tea and lunch, and you can spot them a mile off. They’ll put on a show of aimlessly meandering past your room with no apparent intent, ‘just to see if you’re in’ and then act surprised when you actually are. You’ve caught two minutes of peace together (which constitutes an easy-going sort of day) before the conversation begins with something like, “oh, I just saw you in your room and just thought I’d just catch you! I just need to let you know that Charlie was up a tree again.”
You have to resist such childish retorts as, “I might go and join him, just to keep him safe, you know.” This is only one of the things Charlie turns his hand to get into trouble. He’s a cannonball in a confined space.
Outdoors, Charlie will be throwing something, kicking something, stealing something from someone else, teasing someone, being loud, being told-off, hiding, plotting, scheming, conspiring, lingering, avoiding and aiming. And he’ll be doing all of this out-of-bounds more often than in. All of this is well-enough until the bell goes at which time the metaphorical cannon has its fuse lit, and is aimed towards the classroom, and the thought that sits in your quivering head goes something like here comes Cannonball Charlie.
You sit at your desk ready to catch him at the door and before long, you see a cloud of dust approaching like on one of the Roadrunner cartoons, only he isn’t being chased by Wile E. Coyote, he just didn’t manage to burn all the rocket fuel he had for lunch. Into the room he explodes kicking up paper as he tears through at breakneck speed. There’s mud on his boots and a manic expression on his face ready not to engage in your lessons, but chew on the corner of one of your mildly still good-conditioned wooden desks which seemed so impervious to wear and tear only a year ago (1BC for you history buffs – 1 year Before Charlie). The thing’s now covered in glue-stick, pencil, dirt, and bite marks. And the metal leg’s about to come off.
I’ll never forget one case a while ago, watching him trying to sit through an assembly. He isn’t really a bad kid as this account may lead you into thinking, and he really was trying. Not because he wanted to be there, but because he wanted to make his teacher happy (a vital part of survival with Cannonball Charlie is to love him to pieces so he wants to please you). He was failing about a miserably as I ever saw anybody fail at anything, and so we sent him on a bit of a mission to keep him busy until it finished.
“Charlie, there’s a whole heap of boxes in the office we’re going to need for the next lesson once this assembly is finished,” we whispered to him.
“Where are they!?” he half-yelled back with eyes widened at the prospect of getting out of there, and his voice echoing through the silent hall filled with folk intent on listening to the principal’s message for the week.
“Keep it down, Charlie! In the office. Go and ask the receptionist for them and take them back to class.”
Well, you can bet old Charlie took his leave without a second thought and left about as quietly as a V8 firing up during Sunday morning prayers. In the five minutes that followed we had more peace than we had experienced in a while, but it was not to last long as shuffling footsteps were soon heard outside the hall door. I turned to look at my colleague, my colleague turned to look at me, and Charlie without any shame at all burst through the hall doors announcing with all manner of pride that he’d found them. The only thing that made the situation worse was that the kid was carrying about five boxes stacked precariously on top of one another and he even proceeded to attempt to make his way towards us with a triumphant grin on face, all the time saying, “I’ve got them! I’ve found them!”
“Get out of here, Charlie!” we whispered and gesticulated frantically as he stood confused as to what he’d just done wrong. I imagine this is somewhat how a cat feels when the offering of a dead bird on your pillow is met with screams of terror instead of a proud belly-rub.
“Take them to the classroom, Charlie!” we carried on.
“Where!? I thought you needed them! Look, I got heaps!”
“Classroom, Charlie! Take them to the bleedin’ classroom!”
By some miracle, Charlie got out of there without a telling off from the principal, and we got out of there without a question and still with our jobs. Skin of our teeth if you ask me.
I’ve witnessed Cannonball Charlie do more impulsive things than this too. I’ve seen him push his mates over without any warning, throw a glue-stick at someone’s head, climb a curtain just to see what was on top of the rail, throw a book at someone’s face and expect mercy because he didn’t think it would hurt, toss his own game of Scrabble up into the air to watch all the pieces landed all over the classroom, and stand in the breakout spaces just throwing cards. He’ll do your head in.
If you can imagine firing off a loaded cannon into a classroom, you’ll understand where Cannonball Charlie gets his name. Hell, I need a cup of tea.