Back to School - Chapter Six

The headmaster sighed and shut out the old memory. He leaned forward on his desk. “Edwards, your marks and behaviour this year have been poor enough to earn expulsion several times over.” Hamilton watched the boy's chin drop. He shook his head and sighed again.

Back to School is a short story from the Tall And True writers’ website, written and narrated by Robert Fairhead. The podcast version of the story is presented in six instalments, one per chapter. At the end of each episode, Robert provides insight into the writing of the story and chapter.

The show notes include links to Back to School on Tall And True and the podcast’s theme music and sound effects.

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Writer's Insight into Back to School

In earlier chapters, I explained how I wrote the original version of Back to School when I lived in England in 1992. In the handwritten draft, the working title for the story was A Second Chance. But when I typed it up on my old Amstrad PC, I changed the title to Another Chance. 

Like Charlie in the story, I left school when I was sixteen and worked for a while in the building trade. For many years in my early adulthood, I dreamed of being sixteen again and back at school, imagining different alternatives had I sat my final exams. One day in 1992, I decided to exorcise those dreams and give myself “another chance” by writing this short story.

When I shared the story on Tall And True in 2017, I renamed it Back to School. By now, I was a father with a fifteen-year-old son about to enter his final years of high school. And around this time, my dreams of being back at school returned. Only now, I dreamed of being my middle-aged self, sitting in a classroom with my son, studying for our exams. And this prompted me to rename the short story, Back to School.

I’ve been fascinated with exploring the cross over between dreams and reality for many years in my writing. Perhaps I was inspired by Franz Kafka. Or by the tale of the 3rd century BC Chinese philosopher Chuang Chou, who dreamed he was a butterfly. Afterwards, Chou was left confused. Was he was a man who had dreamed he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he was a man?

In Back to School, I leave it to you to decide if the sixteen-year-old Charlie dreamed of his future as an unemployed father or whether the adult Charlie dreamed of a past visit to his old headmaster’s office. Maybe there’s a third option, and the two Charlies exist in separate realities? Truthfully, I’m not sure of the answer— and I wrote the short story!

Thanks for listening to the podcast. I hope you enjoyed Back to School. You can read this and all my short stories, blog posts and other writing at

The next episode of Tall And True Short Reads will be in your podcast feed shortly. In the meantime, please check your feed for earlier chapters of Back to School and other self-contained short story episodes. And follow or subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it via your favourite listening app.

And finally, please tell your family and friends about Tall And True Short Reads and the Tall And True writers’ website.

Read Back to School at

Podcast Theme and Podcast Sound Effects

Royalty-free music from Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 'Pastorale' – IV. Rondo. Allegro ma non-Troppo, performed by Karine Gilanyan.

Sound effects licensed under Creative Commons 0 from

Clock Ticking:

Footsteps inside:

Creaky Door:

Footsteps outside:

Production Notes

Tall And True Short Reads produced using Audacity. Thanks to Josh (VoiceOverMaster) Meyer for Audacity recording tips and tricks.

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