George knew the answer. Although only thirteen he had a keen and developing intellect, possessing a quick mind and a questioning outlook. Today though, his brain felt as if it had, to use a mechanical analogy, fallen into neutral. It was as if it was saying to him, 'No George, you can't have that little snippet of information'. For whatever reason it was unable to release the answer, and was still clutching at it until, with great difficulty, George reached in and engaged first gear.
'Rhetoric sir.' he said at last, rubbing his temples as if to thank his brain for finally allowing him to fend off his adversary, at least for the moment.
Mr Smalling seemed irritated, presumably because his attempt to make the boy look foolish had failed, and he did enjoy humiliating children; that was not a secret, even amongst his fellow teachers. 'You are here at this worthy establishment, and at great expense to your parents I might add, to learn, not to have fun, remember that.' He punched the desk as he spoke, to reinforce his words. 'How can we as teachers mould you into the leaders of tomorrow if you stay up all night playing silly pranks and chattering like idiots. Falling asleep during lessons is not acceptable behaviour! See me after class Mr Knight, and for goodness sake Smythe stop picking your nose'. He resumed his sermon on critical thinking and George began nodding off again, until his friend Wilkinson elbowed him sharply in the ribs.
* * *
The class dismissed, George gathered his things from the desk and presented himself to Mr Smalling. He waited patiently for several seconds as the teacher wrote something in a journal on his desk. Looking over his spectacles, he began. 'I am very disappointed with you Knight. Would you care to explain yourself?'
'I am sorry Sir, I had no idea....'
'That much is clear. You have no idea, not a clue. Your brother seems to be coping with your situation better than you. Perhaps you could enlighten me as to why that is.' George felt a flush to his face. He knew what Smalling was referring to.