Back to School - Chapter Three

Charlie took another deep breath to calm himself. “Well, Mr Hamilton, it was the weirdest dream I've ever had. It was more like watching TV than a dream. Only, it was me on the TV.” Scenes started replaying through Charlie's head as he recounted his dream to the headmaster.

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 and Chapter Three

As explained in earlier chapters, I wrote the original version of Back to School in 1992 when I lived in England. The title of the handwritten draft was A Second Chance. But when I typed it up, it became Another Chance. And finally, when I shared the short story on Tall And True in 2017, I renamed it Back to School.    

I quit high school at the same age and in similar circumstances to Charlie. And for many years, I dreamed of being sixteen again and back at school. This short story was an attempt to exorcise those dreams.

In Chapter Three, Charlie recounts to Heavy-Handed Hamilton the “weird” dream that prompted his visit to the headmaster’s office. The scene of Charlie driving a “beat-up old van loaded with tools, ladders and building equipment” is taken from my experience as an electrician in my early twenties. If I close my eyes, I can still hear them “crashing about in the back” of the van whenever I hit a pothole.

As for Charlie’s dread in walking to the house, reading and listening to those lines now remind me of Franz Kafka’s The Castle: 

“The path to the front door seemed long. It felt like Charlie was heading in the wrong direction on a moving walkway. Or perhaps he didn't want to reach the house? Charlie sensed a looming dread but didn't know why.”

I read Kafka’s books around this time. Perhaps I was trying to emulate his dreamlike sequences? And the confusion we sometimes feel between reality and dreams? 

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

Chapter Four, The Birthday, will be in your podcast feed shortly. In the meantime, check your feed for earlier chapters and other short story episodes of Tall And True Short Reads. And follow or subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it via your favourite listening app.

And 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

Van engine:

Metal clanking:

Squeaky car door:

Footsteps on pavement:

Unlock/open door:

Footsteps in hall:

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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