Shergar Ch 8

8.

I’M NOT supposed to know what I’m about to tell you but Jonathan told me himself so I guess it isn’t some great big state secret. The ‘trouble’ he had been having at home — the “trouble” that caused him to spend the summer with us — was pretty bad. Crazy bad, in fact, but in a good way, if that makes any sense.

First things first. He didn’t like his dad. I know most of us don’t like our dad but that is only sometimes, like when they’re telling you to do stuff you don’t really want to do such as signing up for the school orchestra because it will help you get into Trinity College when the time comes, even though if anyone from Trinity College heard you playing the trumpet they would make sure you weren’t allowed within fifty miles of the place.

Jonathan was different. He was serious about not liking his dad, like it was a full-time job. He never really explained why but my guess it was because his mum died and then his dad married someone else. Then he got sent away to boarding school, and that’s when the trouble started.

Please God, don’t ever send me to boarding school. Everything you hear is true. The food is terrible and the teachers are cruel. The kids are even worse. We read this book in language arts last year called Lord of The Flies, about all these kids on a desert island who end up hunting pigs and trying to kill each other. That’s what boarding school is like, except everybody wears uniforms.

No wonder Jonathan hated it. The problem is his dad wouldn’t let him leave, even though there were dozens of schools near his house where the other kids weren’t completely crazy. So he did what anybody would do when they are trapped in a prison — he tried to escape. It’s not like he could just run away, although he did do that at least six times. They just sent him back, only then he was put under curfew and had to report to a counsellor at least once an hour.

The secret was to make school kick you out. This is harder than you think because the people who run these prison camps aren’t exactly stupid. They want your dad’s money so they will put up with just about anything, which in Jonathan’s case meant letting down the tyres in headmaster’s car, refusing to get out of bed for three days, a hunger strike, leading a pupil revolution against playing rugby on rainy days, throwing the remote control for the TV in the teacher’s common room into the rubbish skip. He was the biggest pain in backside and the worst they did was phone his dad, who had to drive down to the school and sit in the headmaster’s office and tell Jonathan to say sorry for everything he had done.

The end came just after the Easter holidays, when he broke into the headmaster’s office in the middle of the night and stole his chequebook and bank card. Next day, he caught the bus into the London and went to the Apple store and bought thirty iPads. Then he took tube to Waterloo Station, where people live under blankets in the the arches and underpasses nearby. It was the middle of the afternoon. He gave an iPad to the one and only homeless person he could find but then word got out and it wasn’t long before every tramp in Waterloo station was selling someone a brand new iPad, still in the box.

Jonathan went back to school as if nothing had happened.

He didn’t get caught until the following day when the bank called and asked the headmaster if he had recently written a cheque for five thousand pounds at the Apple store in London.

The police arrived at school and Jonathan was called into the school office, asked to watch security video footage from the Apple store and invited to identify the person in school uniform buying a job lot of iPads.

“That would be me,’’ he said.

I can imagine how he said that, like it was something to be proud of. And maybe it was. After all, who doesn’t think it’s a good thing to give a homeless person a new iPad? Not me.

Jonathan’s dad is a big man in the oil industry with yellow sports car and a spare house near the beach in France so he didn’t care about repaying the five thousand pounds. What mattered to him was the police agreed the school should deal with Jonathan and not m’learned judges at the Old Bailey. That way everybody’s name was kept out of the newspaper and the judges could get back to work putting innocent people in prison, Jonathan said.

He wasn’t even expelled. He was ‘invited to pursue opportunities at a different educational establishment” or something demented like that. He went to the local school until the end of term. His dad looked for another boarding school, this time the other end of the country, and while he did that, Jonathan came to live with us for the summer.

I’m not complaining about that, no sir. I’m just telling you what happened with Jonathan just in case you think your dad is the devil and your life feels worse than twenty years in Portlaoise Prison. The way I see it, you don’t know how lucky you are. None of us do, including me.