"Rick isn't a bad kid. He just takes against a teacher, sometimes, if he thinks they don't like him."
Late Friday afternoon on a stress-bloated busy bastard of a week, and my pleadings have worked. Rick is receiving the kid glove treatment over The Notorious Accusation of the Balloon Filled With Water.
He's sat working on the lumpy blue couch in the office, listening to the head of department rail volubly at the exam board's telephonists. As the boss replaces the recevier and looks up, Rick's face changes - scowl, foot up on seat, headphone placed into ear.
"Rick. Take the headphone out. You need to listen to this. We need to talk about what just happened in class."
He takes the earpiece out, adjusts his mp3 player, puts the other ear piece straight back in. "I don't fucking care."
"Now Rick. Stop it! You're only getting yourself into worse trouble. Try to calm your temper down. We need to talk properly about what has happened."
"What's 'appened is that fucking teacher is a fucking dickhead.I ain't talking about it, and I ain't staying behind." He's putting the class warrior act on, to mask his pure fury at the accusation that still rankles.
"Be sensible Rick. I have always spoken to you calmly and with respect, haven't I?" Reluctant nod. Rolled eyes. "well then if we're going to talk about what happened, I demand that you show me back some of that same respect, by not being rude to me, and not swearing."
Heavy sigh. Lips moving in a silent "don't care" retort. But unspoken.
"So before we start, is there anything you need to say to me about what's just happened? Rick? I think there's something you need to say." Boss is getting irritated, I can tell. 3 o'clock on Friday - not the most empathetic of moments to try to identify with a teenager's tortured sense of a world of injustice and indignity.
"Yeah." Shrug. The insolent, grumpy, pessimistic Rick I used to deal with a year ago returns - washes across his ashen features like a mask.
"Yes what, Rick?"
"Yes ... sir." His eyes deaden, and I'm reminded of the times I used to drag him out of class before he did damage to the perceived perpetrator of perceived wrongs, only to discover a boy who felt no hope or optimism about his future, who felt hotly determined that a teacher who does not 'like' him is a teacher who has limited his options, has thrown his potential away.
"Go ahead then, Rick, and then you can go talk to Miss Lectrice about what we do next. I'm waiting. What do you have to say?"
"You're a fucking wanker."
They gladden my heart, I tell you, these boys. Read into that whatever you will.