Hold your breath, pinch your nose and dive head first into the absurd world of Thomas Howarth’s Uni Confessions.
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Sunlight shone in dusty cuboids through the windows, like thick, glowing bars across the exam hall. A cage. All eyes were fixed on the clock. Ten seconds to go. The oldest invigilator, a wardrobe-shaped man with eyebrows like Irish Wolfhounds, coughed horribly. Six seconds to go. The student in front of me scratched nervously at her arm and broke seven nails. Two seconds to go.
‘You may start.’ The old invigilator spat the sentence as though his lungs were knackered wet bagpipes full of words. The sound of paper echoed through the room. Question 1. ‘Assess the metaphysical relevance of the blah-blah-something.’ Question 2. ‘If we apply the Cartesian model to the blah-blah-stuff, how might we understand the blah-blah-thing?’
I closed my eyes and squeezed the bridge of my nose. When I opened my eyes, I noticed something incongruous. I was reminded of the time at primary school when a dog wandered dumbly into the playground and was sick on a book, for a lobster had entered the exam hall.
You will find the answers,’ he assured me. ‘Just chew it over.’ He emphasised the ‘chew.’ He bowed before scurrying off into the bowels of the building.
I watched, frowning, as it scuttled silently through a broken pane in the door. It moved along the edge of the room, its feelers waving like rye in the wind. It came to a halt, and its tiny, bizarre head turned to face me. It raised a claw and nodded, before continuing with its journey. It exited the room, unseen by everybody else, through another missing pane in another door.
I threw my hand up into the air and caught the attention of the old invigilator. He came over to me with all the physical elegance of a reversing tractor, and I asked him if I might go to the toilet. He nodded solemnly and I sped quietly from the hall. I found the lobster resting in a doorway. He glanced around and then spoke.
‘You are struggling with the exam?’ he whispered. He had a Spanish accent. I nodded. ‘You will find the answers,’ he assured me. ‘Just chew it over.’ He emphasised the ‘chew.’ He bowed before scurrying off into the bowels of the building.
My left hand came into contact with the underside of the desk, and I felt globules of chewing gum.
I re-entered the hall and took my seat. The questions were just as baffling as before. My left hand came into contact with the underside of the desk, and I felt globules of chewing gum. Loads, actually. I ran my fingers across them, and realised that they spelt out words. Full sentences, in fact. Entire paragraphs. The inverted mountain range of solidified gum spelt out the answers to the exam’s questions. With my left hand I read them, and with my right I completed the paper in record time.
I left the hall early and looked around for the lobster. There was no sign. No hint of his existence at all. But I got 100% in that exam, graduated two years early, and now I’m CEO of a major corporation at only twenty years of age. The moral, I suppose, if there is one, is to never lose hope.