The absolute best story that I ever wrote, indeed probably the best piece of writing I have ever done or will likely ever do in my life, is lost to history. Being lost admittedly polishes it in my memory somewhat, so if by some happenstance I could retrieve it through time it would not likely impress me that much. However, for the purposes of this article it was the best thing written by anyone anywhere.
Unlike most of my writings which I can no longer find, this story was not misplaced or the victim of an accident. It's loss was a deliberate act by someone. Someone with less moral fibre than an IP lawyer, less self-awareness than a burger flipper, someone with a glow-worms' intensity of consciousness. In a paraphrase of Calvin & Hobbes, it's someone with “... a dim perception that nature played a cruel trick on them.” And just because I've still got an epithet spare, someone with all the deductive and reasoning abilities of a can of spam.
It's the fault of a PE teacher. (Unfair generalisations duly noted.)
I skipped PE once, my sole act of rebellion against the crushing oppressiveness of a society that didn't care whose poetic soul got trampled in the race not to be picked last for the fucking five-a-side football. Most of my rebellion consisted of waiting it out until school came to an end naturally, so this was decidedly out of the ordinary for me. After all, wasn't I supposed to be getting educated in school instead of slogging it out running through mud in February? What the hell was the education part of Physical Education?
So one afternoon I decided to hell with this and spent an hour in the park. There were a handful of us who'd decided the same and the time passed in quite a dull fashion. Rebellion didn't have any of the euphoric highs that I might have expected. I can't remember quite what prompted me. Maybe I'd forgotten my gym kit. Maybe it was the prospect of spending more time outdoors in the novel setting of being outside and not having to run anywhere. The details aren't important.
Inevitably there were consequences and I got into trouble because, no master schemer me, they'd noticed that I'd gone. My PE teacher confronted me in the corridor with the result that I got handed a 'blue sheet', which was to say a punishment exercise to write.
That night, in biro, I scribbled out my answer to the punishment question: Why I Shouldn't Skip PE. My muse was obviously active, and in an inspired moment I laid out a series of rigorously logical steps detailing a sequence of events, beginning with my non-attendance of PE and leading to the inevitable destruction of the Earth. Roughly it started with me getting away with it. If I did that, then I'd be tempted to skip other classes. If I got away with that, others would be inspired to do the same. So when the next generation is ready for the workplace, they don't have any useful skills. The economy then collapses and this news will be obvious in our radio and television broadcasts. Any onlooking aliens will see that this is the ideal time to attack a weakened opponent and since not having skills means not being able to invent weapons to defend ourselves, it's game over for Earth. Rigorously logical. I told you.
To this day I still believe it in a fingers-crossed sort of way, but PE teachers being what they are, when I presented this gem of writing it got ripped up in front of me, unread, not even glanced at, and dumped in the bin.
That was the real punishment.
And as it turned out, a rather deeply symbolic moment. That sheet was worth more to me than every PE 'lesson' I'd ever had in my life. Take me cross country running, put me in goal, have me throw medicines balls around, have me do bench presses. At the end of it I've learn nothing, except to hate every PE teacher there has ever been. This is a divide between the body and mind where muscles and looks are respected whereas creativity and intelligence are not. No duh, Sherlock. Smartarse, clever dick, smarty pants, brainiac... all derogatory. Mind is not highly regarded. Young women want to be Paris Hilton. No-one wants to be Jill Tarter. (Go on, Google her.) Guys want to be 50 Cent. No-one wants to be Carl Sagan.
All that, perhaps, is another story.
An old friend of mine once told me how he'd managed to contrive to somehow not be present when a register was taken at the start of the school year for PE, with the result that no-one missed him being absent from PE for a whole year! Now that was smart! He now runs a company.
So go on. Skip PE.
And never stop thinking.