After becoming blind in her twenties, Juliet started listening to a lot of talking books. This sparked an interest in creative writing. The piece below, “Who To Listen To,” was written in Deborah Shepard’s “Life Writing” summer course.
We were living in a car at the time. Dad hadn’t been able to get many gigs, and was drinking too much. Mum was still working in clubs, as a stripper, but wasn’t getting good tips. They were talking of driving to another town, where they wouldn’t be known. It can help in show business. I was twelve. I wanted to stay in the same class, with my lovely Intermediate schoolteacher, but secondary school was looming. Mrs Simmonds encouraged me to apply for St Cuths. She said it was possible to get a full scholarship.
Dad said there was no point. He said the only reason people went to private schools was to hang out with rich people. ‘It’s rich people hanging out with other rich people. Snobs.’
Mum said I should leave school and just do my singing routine with Dad, and my friend Alicia. We made a bit of money. Alicia was very blonde, and quite cute. I was ordinary looking, but had a nice voice.
I didn’t know who to listen to. Mrs Simmonds was so kind, and liked all my work. She said I was smart enough to get into a good school. She said they’d have computers there, and very good teachers. The classes were also smaller.
‘If you want to get ahead and have a good career, it would help,’ she said.
I told her I’d sit the exam, but I wasn’t sure it was possible to go to a posh school, even if I got in.
Mrs Simmonds said not to worry about that, not just yet.
The night before the exam I sat outside the car, with my torch and read over the mock exam questions again and again. I’d memorised many of the answers. There was one very technical question about musical syncopation that I didn’t understand, so I found an approximate explanation that I thought I might get away with and memorised it.
I finally fell asleep, and woke, in my quilt, covered in a light dew.
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