Once upon a time a bully stole a story from a smaller child. As usual the bully had not done his homework, but that didn’t matter since someone else had done it for him. He wrote his name on top and gave it in right in front of the smaller child who had to stay for detention.
The next day the teacher gushed on and on about his story, then urged him to read it to the rest of the class. The bully tried to resist but the teacher berated his apparent humility. At the front he stared at the sheet of paper, not wanting to catch the eye of the smaller child. The text was unfamiliar to him, he had not even bothered to read it before he handed it in, so he stuttered and caught all through the first sentences. But soon the story took over and his voice raised and the words flowed out. When he finished he looked for the smaller child, but the seat was empty.
Later in the afternoon, during assembly, the headmaster called him up on stage to read the story for the whole school. He could not refuse. This time he imagined himself a great orator and got fully into the passion of the piece. He paused and stressed the slower parts and rushed through the exciting action. Some of the younger children gasped, some laughed, but they all clapped at the end, except for the smaller child who sat with arms crossed.
The following morning he was summoned to the headmasters office. He was sure he was in trouble, as he had been plenty of times in the past. Someone must of realized he couldn’t have written the story. Inside he found a tall, older man in the black, flowing robes of a professor.
The man flattered the bully with long, flowery words that he could barely blink at, but he nodded, smiled and agreed to everything. He was told to pack his bags and be at the university the next morning to join a special class of talented writers, like himself.
The strange, new situation did not dawn on the bully until he was dropped off at the university gates. He had been pushed into a new life, one he was not suited for. The other children in his class were weird sorts, the types he would normally pick on. His teacher was easy, lax even, and let them do whatever they wanted, as long as they wrote. They treated the bully with respect, but not for the size of his fists or the angularity of his brow — respect he did not deserve.
They gave him until Wednesday to write a story like the one they thought he had written before. He tried his best. He scrawled words on paper. He tore them up. He tried to hammer ideas into his head with his meaty hands, but nothing came out except rude words. He sat at the desk in his small room and pulled at his hair. They would soon find out he was a fraud and send him back to his old school in disgrace. He would never live it down.
On Wednesday he entered the classroom with his head hung low, he didn’t have anything to show for his week of writing, not one coherent sentence. The teacher jumped up and shook his hand. A piece of paper was shoved into his grasp and he was once again asked to read to the whole class. His name was at the very top, a letter of expulsion perhaps. As he chewed through the first words he realized it was another beautifully written story, one that caused him to wipe his eyes. By the time he was finished the rest of the class were crying too.
And that’s how it went for the rest of the term, work was set and work was done, but the bully had nothing to do with it. Instead his buttocks clenched each Wednesday morning when he woke up with nothing to show. The rest of the time he basked in the awe he received. It was almost as if he wrote the stories himself.
One frosty December afternoon a gilded, covered carriage pulled into the courtyard of the university. All of the students pressed their faces against the cold panes of glass to see who had arrived. The beautifully decorated and poised coachmen walked with well-practiced ease to the side of the coach. One unfurled a deep purple carpet across the cobbles of the courtyard to the main door and the other placed down a gold step. Out of the carriage came a small hand in a white glove choked in thrills and a gold shoe smothered with embroidery. It was Timothy, the prince regent. The rest of the children gasped, but the bully just sniggered, another insipid boy in fancy clothing.
The head teacher rushed in and pulled the bully away. He was yanked down the stairs and before he knew it he was bowing low before the prince. The head teacher explained he was to write a story for the occasion of the prince’s twelfth birthday, that he was picked out from among all his peers for this great honour. The bully nodded and smiled and when the prince turned he started to back away, but a coachman dragged him into the carriage after the prince. There wasn’t anything he could do but gulp.
The palace was full of wonders, but the bully soon grew disenchanted. Spending each day in the company of the prince to observe and grasp his regal character. Then each night in a stuffy room near the attic to write. The bully writhed when he was with the prince — so weak, so pale and soft. The kind of boy he could easily make grovel in the past, but he couldn’t touch him, couldn’t even say a bad word. The prince made him do all kinds of subservient tasks — peel his grapes, arrange his hair, blow his nose. The bully hated every second.
Alone in his room it was no better. He fumed about the day. He tore paper into shreds, he could not write one complimentary thing about the prince. Sooner than expected the morning of the prince’s birthday arrived and he had not written a single word. He eyed the gap under the door hoping beyond miracles there would be a piece of paper there. Nothing.
He searched under his thin pillow and under the straw-stuffed mattress. He checked his own pockets multiple times on the way down to the throne room, and even stopped to look inside his socks. Still nothing. The room was packed, hundreds of gentry and foreign dignitaries watched and clapped. The bully was sat in a chair next to the orchestra, which played a piece specifically written for the prince on his birthday. The king sat in his throne next to the queen and the rest of royal family, while Prince Timothy danced around in front of them.
Far too soon his name was called. He was pushed up the steps to the lectern and the whole crowd hushed to hear him speak — to hear the story of Prince Timothy created by this precocious new writer. He swallowed. His sweaty hands slipped on the gilded wood. He coughed and sniffed. Still everyone watched him. He looked down. There on the lectern was a piece of paper with his name written on the top. Just like all the other stories he had read out. He breathed in a whole chestful of air and unstuck his dry tongue to speak, but the page was empty — it was blank, all it contained was his name.
He flipped it over — the other side was blank too. He looked for anyone to help him, but all he saw was the smaller child hiding behind a suit of armour in the back.
He bit his lip then said the first thing that came into his head.
"Prince Timothy is a jerk.”