What is Wrong with This Kid? (M'ayen/D'xon)

Laura Walker

Later in the day after Garatt’s failed morning detention D’xon couldn’t get off his mind how badly Garatt was doing. If M’ayen had also given him detention, then there must be something consistent going on. He had to find out more.

During a break they shared, he went to M’ayen’s office and knocked.

“Enter!” The call rang through the door after a few moments.

D’xon came in and closed the door behind him. “I need to talk to you about a Candidate.”

“Ah?” Internally M’ayen was ready to go on the defensive. It was only a matter of time after all until the children started to complain. Of course he could justify everything but it was annoying to be called to account. Still, he nodded to the chair across his desk. “Go ahead then.”

D’xon took the seat. “A Candidate named Garatt. He’s been turning in really awful assignments that don’t make much sense. He mentioned that he had detention with you so I assume that he’s been causing problems in more than my class.”

Oh. Well, this was an interesting turn of events. M’ayen paused and tried not to smile. “..Garatt,” he said as though readying his thoughts. “..Yes. He has been rather struggling, hasn’t he?”

“I feel like he’s probably better than he’s showing,” D’xon said. “But he’s definitely not showing it. How has he been doing with you?”

M’ayen sighed deeply. “Garatt is.. Well. We’ve been seeing rather a lot of each other. The boy just doesn’t learn, does he?” he said as though despairing. “I know it’s not said here and not the Arolos way, but sometimes I do rather miss the ability to give children a short sharp shock that makes them decide whether they want to stay or go. There’s only so much that can be achieved with detentions and correctional essays.”

D’xon’s lips thin slightly at that. He agreed on the latter, but not on the first part. But no need to argue, they were at Arolos not at Fort. “Well, at this rate he’s going to get threats to be put out of Candidacy anyway. Maybe that will be shock enough.” Maybe.

“I’ve yet to meet the boy who isn’t convinced the world will always offer one more chance,” M’ayen said. “He’s already had Standing at this Hatching pulled.” A truth, if one with other reasons behind it.

“There’s a difference between the loss of one chance, however painful, and the chance of losing everything entirely.” D’xon shrugged. Their options were limited in some cases, but at least if the Candidate was sent away then they’d not have to deal with the boy anymore. Honestly D’xon was annoyed by Garatt, but he didn’t think the boy was being deliberately a problem. And he’d rather deal with one struggling than one who was defiant and disrespectful.

M’ayen laughed. “Not so much a hardship in this case. The boy’s set to inherit a fairly large Hold if he doesn’t wind up with a dragon. This is where a lifetime of coddling gets you unfortunately.”

“I hope it’s not that big of a hold given how he is crumbling under pressure here.” Boy would that be a disaster. “But maybe he’d do better at that than here. Not that he could do much worse.”

“Berford, I believe.” As far as Holds went, it wasn’t a small one. “Holder’s only son. Faranth knows why he let him go.”

“Well...that’s a shame. Maybe his father let him go because he didn’t think that the boy could manage the Hold. If he Impresses, I bet there’s someone waiting in the wings.”

“Oh, undoubtedly. I suspect for Garatt though, the kindest thing that could happen is if he were to get sent home to be Daddy’s problem again,” M’ayen said. He sat back in his chair, raising a hand with fingers bent to start ticking off a list. “Day-dreaming in class. Outright sleeping in class if you would believe. General slovenliness. Inability to follow basic instructions. Inability to answer questions when called on. The list goes on.” He shrugged disgustedly. “And I’ve seen girls who cry less than that boy at a punishment.”

“I can’t believe he’s been here this long,” D’xon said, acknowledging all the problems. He considered for a moment. “Unless this is a new problem. Even the ACMs here aren’t that lenient. I hear that he had a close encounter with the egg thing and those stupid Candidates. Still, if he’s that easily traumatized, what happens if some of the eggs don’t Hatch or there’s a tragedy in his Weyrling class? Or once he’s graduated and his first wingmate dies?”

“If you ask me, Garatt is one of those children who scrapes by until someone starts to apply a little discipline,” M’ayen said. “Once we were asked to be sterner about picking up minor infringements.. He’s not used to being scolded, so everything starts to slide.”

D’xon nodded. “That’s also possible. At any rate, he’s not doing so great now. I hope with time he’ll improve or we’ll know that he can’t.”

“In the meantime--” M’ayen looked at D’xon a moment, considering. What could he get away with here? “What is he struggling with in your classes?”

“He’s mixing up essays as he writes.” D’xon shrugged. “It’s like he forget what he’s writing partway through and starts a different essay. Unfortunately none of them would be of great quality even if they were finished, but probably passable, I suppose.” He didn’t mention the being sleepy. A lot of Candidates were tired that early in the morning. He was, too, for that matter.

“Well.” M’ayen seemed to be thinking. “There is the Candidate trip coming up, and I have to say, I’ve already said I’m far too old for camping. If he can’t catch up, I don’t mind taking him in hand and ensuring he does them here, and perhaps missing a real treat would get the message through.”

“That might be a good idea,” D’xon said. “In the meantime, any chance I can take the occasional evening or part of an evening to do some of his detentions.” Because there would be more, he was sure of it. “I’m not adverse to making him do morning detention, but that means I have to be there, too.”

That, M’ayen liked less but he looked considering. “You can, certainly, but I feel a little as though he’s getting away with something there. If he’s making mistakes with both of us the penalty surely has to be something more than the same amount of detention shared between us.” Don’t push that too hard, pass it back. “Any thoughts?”

“I’m not talking every time,” D’xon said. “I’m suggesting either we flip and you kindly take a morning once in a while, or you take one candlemark in the evening and I take the other.”

“I can take the occasional morning, certainly,” M’ayen agreed. He paused. “You know, if it helps, I have a low class-load at present as I’ve just returned. If I know what essays you’ve assigned him to do, I don’t mind watching him for the extra hour here and there added on to his detentions with me.”

That made D’xon happier. “I’ll let you know. Maybe he’ll amazingly straighten up, but I’m doubting it. We’ll see how he does with the ones I currently have him doing. I just can’t see passing him with the work he’s doing. Especially not with important classes. He’d just become a liability.”

“How are you finding him with things other than essays?” M’ayen asked, as though it were only a matter for mild interest. “I have to say, his appearance drives me up the wall.”

“Ah, yes,” D’xon had to admit to that. “I’m guessing that there’s little we can do to impact that can fix that any time soon. I don’t understand how hard it is to look presentable. He’s a Holder’s heir, for feck’s sake. Surely his father raised him better than that.”

“Pick him up in class,” M’ayen advised, the voice of experience. “Every time. For day-dreaming as well - and if he tries sleeping again, though I hope I’ve taught him better than that now. Sometimes being pulled up in front of their peers is what it takes.”

“D’xon raised his eyebrows. “I take it you’ve been doing that. Has it stopped the behavior yet?”

“Well, I find he pays a lot more attention if you make him stand rather than sit,” M’ayen said. “Once he’s sat down he seems to go off into his own world.”

That earned him a slow nod. “I will consider using that technique.” After all, having someone stand for a class was a relatively benign punishment. “Though by that standard, I’ll have most of the class standing at some point. Then again, a lot of those manage to keep up with good work. He does not.”

“It’s that or keep an eye on him and shout his name whenever he starts to nod,” M’ayen said. “And between you and I.. my eyesight’s not what it was. I’ve moved him to the front row where it’s easier to see but watching him constantly is a strain.”

“Honestly, I’m not sure why you’re bothering,” D’xon said. “If he needs that much work to stay on task, then why not let him fail out? Are they going to keep this much of an eye on him during Weyrling classes? Or when he’s in the air for Thread?”

“Have you tried removing anyone from Candidacy for anything less egregious than the mess on the Sands the other day?” M’ayen asked. “If I so much as try I have the sharding Candidate Counsellor leaping down my throat, bleating that I’m being unfair and that’s not how things are done here. I’d be highly obliged if someone could convince the boy to drop out but right now it feels as though the alternative to applying discipline is a completely unprepared Weyrling in the future.”

“Ah, yes, the Weyrwoman’s uncle,” D’xon said. “Did you ever hear why he got his current job?” Even turns and turns later, sometimes rumors stayed around.

“I know that back a few turns ago when I had the Candidates he didn’t even go for the job,” M’ayen said. “I was surprised, honestly. I thought the Weyrwoman would have pushed him into it.”

“Actually he had it before. Turns ago.” He’d gotten another ACM drunk one day and got a lot more information than he would have just asking normally. He was pretty sure at least that detail was right and was willing to bet the next wasn’t too far off the mark. “He failed miserably. Probably because for a long time he had a drinking problem. Or so I was told.”

M’ayen gave a low whistle. “That one I didn’t know,” he admitted. “Though it explains a lot. His softness on them couldn’t have helped either.” He considered the other man. “Can I suggest, as outright removing the boy from the program is beyond us, we work together on this one?” he said after a judicious moment. “I know ACM Talena has been having similar problems with him. I feel as though he really needs a coordinated zero tolerance approach. Give him the message that either he straightens up or he leaves.” 

“I honestly don’t see that approach working given how he’s already crying at the drop of a hat,” D’xon said. “But I don’t see anything else working, either. I’m willing to keep an eye on him and press the bigger issues, but otherwise I’m tempted to let him fail on his own merit. He can’t be babysitted forever.”

“If that boy does Impress, there's no way he's getting anything other than green,” M'ayen said. “Which will no doubt impress Daddy no end but he simply hasn't got the strength of character for anything higher.” He huffed as though thinking it over. “While I've more often had this issue with girls I'd say let him cry. Ignore it. He'll do it as long as he learns it gets him out of consequences.”

“You’re probably right,” D’xon said. “I know we need them, but we often don’t need the riders that Impress them. I can let him cry anyway. Maybe it’ll shame him into doing better.”

“I suspect it won't take many occasions of being allowed to cry in front of his peers before they'll squash that particular habit out of him,” M'ayen said.”Talk to Talena as well. Maybe she’ll have a few ideas on more effective punishments.”

“I just might.” D’xon pushed to his feet. “I think that’s settled then.”

M'ayen nodded. “Thanks for this. Always better to deal with the problem kids as a group.” And just like that, for a variety of minor childish misdemeanours, Garatt was a problem child.


Blackadder: I mean, what about the people that do all the work?
Baldrick: The servants.
Blackadder: No, me; *I'm* the people who do all the work.