Arts & Humanities Degrees -

Essential to Education

It wasn’t Harrison’s vocal level that made me go to the old bookshelf in the small dark office at the front of our terrace house. Rather, it was the tone of his voice.

Listening to him call down the microphone to his friends as he sat in his bedroom playing Fortnite, I thought that his voice carried the serious immediacy of a captain shouting orders as he guided his sloop though a gale.

The office smelt of decaying paperbacks and yellowing foolscap. It had one small window that looked out onto the street and allowed a single beam of sunlight into the dingy space for three hours every afternoon, when the sun dipped below the awning before sinking beneath the thick green Japanese box hedge that lined the front of the house.

I ran my hand over the dusty undulations created by the different novels which I hadn’t read for years, thinking most of them beyond his capacity. But I stopped when I came to Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea. Simple language that a thirteen-year-old could understand forced my decision.

Standing in the doorway to his bedroom, I held up the book so he could see the cover.

‘Harrison, I’m going to read you a book this afternoon.’

Without looking up. ‘Can I finish this game?’

I swallowed a little hard ball of annoyance. ‘No, I have to drive you back to your mother’s place in a few hours and I really want to get you started on this book.’

He rolled his eyes, sighed, and flicked his headset microphone. ‘Sorry guys. I have to go AKY for a while.’

‘What does AKY stand for?’* was my next verbal joust.

Shrugging his shoulders. ‘I don’t know.’

We sat together on the large worn sofa in the corner of the lounge room under the wooden shaded lamp. He put his head on my shoulder, and I opened the book.

‘You know, Harrison, this is only a small book but it’s a particularly important book. It works on different levels. So, you read it now, and when you read it again in ten years, you’ll see more meaning in it.’

Harrison lifted his head and frowned.

‘You’re not gunna make me read it again, are ya?’

                                             ꭥ ꭥ ꭥ ꭥ ꭥ ꭥ ꭥ

* ‘Ambition knowledge yield’ or perhaps ‘Awesome, knowledgeable, youthful’. I was thinking it may have been a substitute for AWOL.

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