Geography and the Spectre of Richard Venner


So, it goes like this: I come home from school.  I am fifteen.  My father says, How did you go in geography today? And my mother looks up from her dinner and waits.  O father, do you think the world will be more or less beautiful if I can learn to name its parts?  Mother, do you really think I can fail?  You are educated, he brings in an income; I am not fat or ugly.  Read the research, dearest mater and pater!  I come from a winning demography and, anyway, one day they will invent Google and GPS.  I spit on your Geography and scorn it through a glass darkly. 

Well, asks my mother.  How did you go in the test today? 

And I can feel the spectre of Richard Venner hovering above the dinner table.  Good, pure, studious Richard Venner.  Ten years of listening to my parents’ ode to Saint Richard.   

And it goes like this: Richard doesn’t mind wearing his hair short; it wouldn’t hurt for you to comb yours occasionally.  Why can’t you wear a school uniform; Richard is head boy and it’s good enough for him?  Richard’s mother says he is studying half the weekend so that he can go out every Saturday night with Janine.   

Now, fuck it, mother;  stop right there.  Don’t even mention her fucking name, Dad.  I have loved that girl from O such a distance since the time she sat in front of me in Year 8.  My God, thank you for that pale strong skin and the long dark hair and the little silver bracelet that slid silently up and down her arm as she wrote and paused and slowly touched her ear.  But she was untouchable, of course.   

Except to Richard Venner.  Polite and groomed Saint Richard, the only boy in our school with the self-confidence to touch while the rest of us wallowed in our unworthiness.  But let me tell you, Ma, he did not touch her.  Not really.  I know this because as he grew older he told us every minute detail about the sex he had with every girl with whom he had it.  And he never once mentioned Janine Bannister.  Why so shocked, Pa? Did you really think good schoolboys became good men?

 But let me tell you, Mother and Father, one day, one day years from now she will take my hand in the darkness (like I’d dreamed for a hundred years!) and ask me to give her a call.  She asked me, O venerable ones, your son to ring her.  One day I will tell you this story; O will I tell you this story! 

But now is now.  I am fifteen and there is a Sahara between this kitchen table and the touch of Janine Bannister’s fingers. And we are all agreed that I am not Richard Venner.  I do not work hard enough; I confuse worrying with studying but it is not the end of the earth.  Never in the field of human endeavour, I tell you, has so much been achieved by one who did so little! 

I have learned the precarious art of doing just enough; one slight miscalculation down and I’m a failure; one slight miscalculation upward, and I am subject to an irresistible flood of high expectations.  Dad! Mum! Do you know how clever I have to be to achieve this mediocrity?  Why must I be compared with the vacuous, easy high achievement of Richard Venner?  He studies, Mama! Success is what you get if you study! What did you expect, Papa? 

Anyway, today I am calm for the reign of Richard Venner is about to end.  Here is the moment I have waited for all day or perhaps for half my life.  I wait like a man with four aces. 

Well, asks my Dad again.  What did you get for the test today? 

65 percent, I say. 

O come on, he starts, you know you can do better than that.  Sixty-five is not good enough. 

And now my moment comes. 

But, I say all wide-eyed and smug, Richard Venner only got fifty five percent. 

I wait O I wait.  I savour their imminent confusion as the truth dawns.  Today, Mother, Mrs Venner is groaning, Why O why Richard, can’t you be like that Oscarandre? 

But I am the fruit of inscrutible loins.  Without a pause, without a blush and with all the conviction of love unbounded, with all the emotion of filial love so cruelly rewarded my Father and Mother sigh at me with shimmering eyes: 

O Oscarandre, we don’t care about Richard Venner; we only care about you…  



Filed under education, humour, life, memory, mother, school, sex, youth

8 responses to “Geography and the Spectre of Richard Venner

  1. S

    I am lucky to have never had that sort of pressure from my parents. But, I do recall a particular teacher I had once, at the ripe young age of fifteen (what is it with fifteen year olds and the pressures of achievement?). On test result days, she would pull us out into the hall, and one by one, give us our scores. This would have been fine if not immediately followed by the scorn of, “Student A. got this score, so why can’t you?”

    I frequently had an 85% and couldn’t be assed to try and beat out Amber Lewis or any of the other girls that had just above that 85 of mine.

    I hated that teacher and the purple cough syrup she used to guzzle in the middle of class for her, “little cough”. But then, two years after I graduated from that fine institution, she had a heart attack and died.

    Then, I felt kind of bad that I never did beat out Amber Lewis with her 86.

  2. The trick in situations like this is never let your parents come into contact with the parents of the person who always beats you.

    Worked for me…

    Anyway. Nice to know that while you may not be acadenically competitive, sexually competitivness, now, that’s a different matter.

  3. Doktor Holocaust

    When i was a kid, i was everyone else’s Richard Venner until I turned 12. when I turned 12, I realized that having higher reading comprehension than 99% of my peers was meaning I had to do two or three times the work just to MAINTAIN my grades as the public school system, with approval from Ma and Pa Holocaust, kept shuffling me into harder and harder classes until I finally cracked.

    when i was 12, I cracked, I stopped caring for three years. Then I realized i would need a scholarship to get out of that horrid town, so I started working on my grades again, but did my best to avoid being an overachiever. Did just enough to get a B average without too many disapproving glares from the parents.

    The other overachievers I knew as a kid, the ones who never let their grades slip? they were half-bald with grey hair by the time they were 19, wizened and worn-out before their time. most days, I can still pass for 19, and I haven’t seen my late teens in about a decade.

  4. Hi, Richard Venner here…

    I would just like to say that I have been cruelly misrepresented in this story and feel that had you developed my character more deeply the readers would have more clearly understood your parents preference of me over you…

  5. Do you know, S, that really my parents were pretty gentle considering my laziness. And, you know, at 15 it does feel like the world’s on your back sometimes.
    Gee, Dok, that last description sounds like me and I just put it down to self abuse. Over achievement sounds much better.
    Dammit, Jester – Now you tell me! Now I know why my mother keeps saying, “Why can’t you write a blog like midnightjester? He’s so polite.”

  6. Solnushka – Do you know I never thought of myself as sexually competitive; except in terms of a three legged race perhaps.

  7. Doktor Holocaust

    what, wizened and grey before your time? perhaps you’re not doing it right, then, as I have conducted vigorous research and found that proper quantities of self-abuse, when coupled with moderate alcohol, tobacco, and comic-book abuse, actually helps maintain a youthful appearance. it lets you “eat of time, and be not rotted,” as J.R. “Bob” Dobbs put it whilst channeling some space-monster-god or other.

  8. AKAIK yovu’e got the answer in one!

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