“Are you all ready for your interview Peter?” Peter’s mum, Cliona, asked.
“As ready as I’ll ever be. Sure it’s not a job interview, there’s not much preparation needed.” Peter replied.
“Well, it’s a Catholic school, he might ask you about your religious beliefs.” Cliona said as she opened the front door.
“Yes, I expect he will; I’m prepared for it.”
When they were both in the car, Cliona turned to Peter and said, “Just relax, be yourself, and you’ll be a shoo-in.”
Peter smiled and said, “Thanks, I hope so.”
As they drove through Brockford Village, Peter fidgeted with his tie; his shirt was a little tight around the collar.
“So how do you feel about moving school?” Cliona asked.
“A little nervous but excited as well. I’m looking forward to being a normal teenager. Well, as normal as a mental patient can be”
“Ah, don’t talk like that. You’ve been stable for two months since leaving hospital, and that’s with a heartbreak in between. Keep taking your meds and you’ll be as normal as everyone else in school.”
“Hmm.” Peter murmured.
“Here we are,” Cliona declared as they turned in through the grey iron gates of the school. “St. Finian’s School for Boys.”
Peter stayed quiet and observed the two lush green rugby pitches on either side of the car, then looked ahead at the great, big, red-brick school; one large portion was a lighter red than the rest, an extension built five years before. The grounds were empty on this late Saturday afternoon.
Peter undid his seat belt as they pulled into a parking space. “Ahright, let’s go.” He said, reaching for the door handle before Cliona had shut off the engine.
“Hold on, hold on.” But Peter was already out of the car. Cliona watched him march up to the front door, shook her head and undid her seat belt. She checked her make-up in the rear-view mirror, picked up her handbag and stepped out.
She caught up with Peter at the reception just inside the entrance.
“He said he’d be with us in a minute.” Peter told her as she took a seat beside him.
“You’re eager.” She whispered to him. He just shrugged his shoulders.
The door across from them squeaked open and a tall, grey-haired old man in black stepped into the hall.
“Good afternoon.” He said cheerfully as he approached and offered his hand to Cliona. “You must be Mrs. Black, I’m Father Cunliffe.”
“Lovely to meet you.” Cliona said, taking his hand as she stood up.
“And you must be Master Black.” Father Cunliffe said as he turned to Peter who was on his feet. “Welcome young man.”
“Nice to meet you Father.” Peter replied, giving the Father a firm handshake.”
“Well, come on in now, let’s get started.” Father Cunliffe put out his arm, guiding them into his office.
His office was very plush. Mahogany bookshelves full of leather bound books lined the wall on the right. On the left was a large window stretching across the length of the wall, looking across the car park and pitches; beneath the window were low filing cabinets. The floor was carpeted with an intricately designed rug. At the far end of the room was a large oak writing desk with a brown studded leather swivel chair behind it where the Father took his seat. Two wine bottle green leather armchairs sat in front of his desk; Cliona and Peter sat in them.
“So young man, you’d like to join us at our fine educational institution?” Father Cunliffe inquired.
“I would indeed, I’ve heard great things about this school.” Peter replied.
“And so you would. We’re in the top ten schools in Ireland in terms of academic achievement, and 98% of our graduates go on to third level education. We operate under a Catholic ethos that demands good behaviour and encourages hard work. If you can commit to those two covenants you’ll fit right in here and excel.”
“Well, I was always well behaved in school, the teachers in my old school will testify to that, and I do work hard; I want to do my best.”
“Yes, you’ve left your old school already, why is that?”
“I…em…I had some…trouble with my fellow students.”
“I see, bullying was it?” Father Cunliffe furrowed his bushy, grey brow.
“We have an active zero-tolerance policy on bullying at this school. Staff keep a watchful eye and an open ear, and we encourage victims and witnesses to report bullying. Any bullying that is observed or reported results in the offender being called to my office where I get to the bottom of it and react accordingly. I’m happy to say those meetings don’t occur too often.”
“I’m glad to hear that, my old school was…less than active in dealing with the issue.”
“That won’t be a problem here. We believe that pupils must feel safe, happy and well in order to fulfil their potential, and we do everything in our power to create an environment that will facilitate that.”
“That’s really encouraging.”
“So I guess I have only one more question for you, are you a good Catholic?”
Peter paused to gather his thoughts, “I suppose it depends on what you mean by a good Catholic. If you mean do I go to Mass on a Sunday, do I say my prayers at night, and do I go to confession then no, I’m not a good Catholic. But if you mean do I do unto others as I would have them do unto me, do I love my neighbour, do I love my enemies as my friends, do I thank God every day for everything he has given me, and do I try to be a good person then yes, I am a good Catholic.”
“That’s a very good answer Peter. Our God doesn’t take attendance, but he does track performance.” Father Cunliffe said with a smile. “Now, do you have any questions for me?”
“Yes, what is the nature and quality of your English teaching? I’m a writer so it’s important to me.”
“All of our teachers are hand-picked based on performance, qualifications, experience, and student feedback. Mr. Collins is a wonderful teacher and an author himself. He encourages both the study of English literature and creative writing, and incorporates both in his lessons.”
“That’s great, I hope I get into his class.” Peter gushed.
“I’ll make a note to make sure you do.”
“Do you mean I’m in?”
“Yes Peter, I think based on your personality and academic record you would be a great addition to our student body.”
“That’s wonderful, thank you sir.” Peter said, standing up and shaking Father Cunliffe’s hand. As he sat down, he turned to Cliona who was smiling from ear to ear.
“Congratulations Peter!” She said.
“I’ll meet you at nine o’clock on Monday morning and have a Sixth Year Prefect take you on your induction tour.” The Father rooted in his top drawer and pulled out a yellow booklet. “You’ll find the school’s code of conduct, your book list, and details about uniform in here.” He said, offering the booklet.
“I’ll take that.” Cliona said. “Thank you Father.”
“Not a problem. Let me walk you to the door.” Father Cunliffe pushed himself onto his feet and guided them through reception to the exit. Cliona turned to him and took both his hand in both of hers.
“Thank you so much Father. I think Peter will be very happy here.”
“I hope he is.” The Father replied. “I’ll see you again soon. See you on Monday Peter. God Bless.” With that he turned and walked back to his office.