In year ten, we had careers advice from kids’ parents. Once a week someone would come in and sit on a hard plastic chair at the front of the room and talk about stripping down truck engines or taking temperatures. Often they brought in a few tools. Often they were slightly boring and, when they had finished, our teacher, Mr Butler, would lead a smattering of applause and try to wring a few questions out of us.
When Matty Howell’s mother came in we expected no different, she worked in the supermarket. We’d all seen her there; it was a small town.
Matty had managed to be fairly unexceptional in high school. He wasn’t popular but he wasn’t teased. He was somewhere in the middle.
That was about to change.
‘Good afternoon everyone,’ his mum began. She sat neatly with her coat done up and her bag on her knee. ‘As many of you know, I work at the Woolworths here in town. In fact I’m store manager. I have 26 staff under me and I oversee the order of a semi load of groceries four times a week. It has taken me 18 years to get to this position and during that time my job has provided food for my family and kept them clothed.’
Here she paused and glanced at Matty.
‘However, I have been told that this is boring and that no one will want to hear about it.’
Matty sank down a little in his chair and tried a cheeky grin.
‘And so,’ continued his mum, ‘I have decided to talk to you today about another job I have done. Right out of school, as it happened, I was a model.’
We viewed her stout frame and dumpy face with disbelief but at least she had our attention now.
‘Yes that’s right; I was an artist’s model. You see artists aren’t always interested in the idea of beauty that you see in magazines and I have what was described as a well-rounded figure.’ Here she patted her ample thigh. A few sniggers were heard and Matty started to blush.
‘But there are other requirements for such a role,’ she went on. ‘A certain style is needed, a little daring.’ She stood up and unbuttoned her coat.
‘For example, you need to be brave enough to do this,’ she said as she threw her coat to the floor revealing a body as naked as the day she was born.
The room gasped, Mr Butler spluttered then everyone was talking and laughing at once. The teacher started to the front of the room (none to quickly it has to be admitted) but he was beaten by Matty who was desperately trying to cover his mother with the discarded coat.
After that, of course, Matty was fair game, the joke of the year really. If that wasn’t enough, one week later Mr Butler recovered his composure enough to ask his mum out for a drink and she accepted.
No one, except perhaps his mum, was surprised that Matty didn’t go on to complete high school. Last I heard of him he was working night shift Woolies.