Beckett was back at home. After a few hours of Block Wars with Annie, Beckett changed and made his way back home. It was time to get to work. Beckett had to finish his report on Julius Caesar. It was late on Saturday night when Beckett walked in the front door, exhausted.
“Beckett,” his father said. “You look like you’ve been all over hell’s half acre!”
“Yeah. Something like that.” Beckett replied in a flat voice.
“How is your paper for history class going?”
“It will be finished by Monday. Don’t worry.” Beckett’s father watched as Beckett staggered over to his room.
Beckett opened his door, dropped his backpack on the floor and sat down in his chair. He turned on his computer and started to type.
After Caesar’s death, his nephew Augustus and Antoni would battle for control of Rome. In the End, Augustus became Emperor and expanded the Empire far into the Middle East. This became the Eastern Empire, or Byzantium.
The Roman Empire would continue to expand under different Rulers, but ultimately collapsed in 395 AD. Just over four hundred years after the civil war began. Byzantium, however, would continue until 1495 AD, just after the Columbus sailed to the Americas. Underneath that paragraph was a picture of Caesar, Antoni, Augustus, as well as Emperors Claudius, Hadrian, and Nero. Beckett had used his computer to put the picture together. He was quite happy with how it all looked.
Two weeks had passed and Beckett was in the principal’s office. Beckett had finished his paper, handed it in, and had heard nothing since. It was the last day of school before Christmas break began. What was wrong now? On the last day of classes, this was the last place he wanted to be. It was two o’clock and Beckett should have been in the classroom watching a Christmas movie with the rest of his classmates. After four months of hard work, Beckett felt he was entitled to an easy day. In the two weeks since he had handed in the paper, Beckett felt like a new person. He was paying attention in class. He had been doing much better in French class as well, getting perfect scores on his vocabulary quizzes. Mr. Baldwin, the phys-ed teacher, had even commented on Beckett’s improved posture when he walked. Spending a little time getting to know Julius Caesar had brought out the best in Beckett. Now, instead of having problems to deal with, he had challenges to overcome. Beckett was content. But he did not know the reason he was in the principal’s office.
Beckett was staring up at the map behind Mr. Hashmi's desk again. He thought about all the places he had been, Italy, France, Egypt, Greece, and Syria. The old joke about Italy looking like a boot had become a faded memory.
Finally, Mr. Hashmi came in.
“Beckett, sorry to keep you waiting.” He said.
“No problem, sir.” Mr. Hashmi was still unaccustomed to being called sir.
Mr. Hashmi walked over to his desk and opened one of his drawers. He pulled out a large manilla envelope and dropped it onto the desk.
It was Beckett's paper.
Mr. Hashmi sat down, opened the envelope, and looked through the report. There were some red marks on the paper. Grammar mistakes, Beckett thought. From Beckett’s position, he could not make out the comments written on the paper by Mr. Mackey. He wondered what this was all about.
“Beckett, I asked Ms Johnstone to let me talk to you personally about this paper.” Mr. Hashmi began. “Do you know why?”
“Um… No.” Beckett began. “Is it alright? Did I pass?”
“Well, Beckett, the problem is that… this is a little too good?”
“Beckett. We have a hard time believing that you wrote it.”
“Sir. Who else would have written it?”
“Well, Beckett. We’ve checked the internet, and you obviously did not take it from there. But this paper is above and beyond what we expected from a 6th grade student. Can you tell us how you wrote this paper? Did you have a high-school or university student help you?”
“What about your father? Did he help you with this?”
“He gave me a few books, but that’s it!”
“Beckett. You realize that there is no value in cheating. You would be better off to do your own work. Plagiarism is a very serious offence!”
“I did not cheat! This is my work!” Beckett shouted angrily.
Then there was silence.
Mr Hashmi looked up at Beckett. “Beckett,” Mr. Souver began. “The other teachers tell me that you’ve been working hard the past few months. You’ve been paying attention in class and that you’re getting your homework done.”
“Yes.” Beckett replied. “I have.”
“Well, while I can’t believe that this is your work, I will give you credit for the change in your attitude. If you keep it up, you don’t need to worry about failing the 6th grade. Until we can figure out what to do about this paper, we’ll let you have a ‘PASS’”.
The words pierced Beckett like an arrow! After all his hard work, and after putting his life on the line, he was getting no recognition. Beckett’s heart sank.
“But I worked my butt off on this paper! You can’t do that!” Beckett shouted.
“You may take your paper Beckett. We have made a copy of it.” Mr Hashmi said, ignoring Beckett's protest. He pushed the paper towards Beckett. "You can go."
Beckett took the paper from Mr Hashmi's desk. He looked over at the door, then back to the principal. “This is my paper!” He shouted. "You have no right to say otherwise."
"Beckett, you can go now." Mr. Hashmi replied.
"No, you old fart. You can't just do whatever you want. I did the work. You're going to respect that!"
“If you want to be suspended, this is the right way to make it happen Beckett. Being yelled at in my own office is not something I’m willing to tolerate.” Principal Hashmi replied.
"You cannot prove anything you're saying. Do whatever you want with my grade, but this is mine. I did this." Beckett said. He did not wait for a reply. He turned around and walked out the door.
Beckett ran out of the school. It was 4pm, raining and starting to get dark. Beckett had left his backpack in Principal Hashmi's office. The paper was clenched in his hand as he ran towards his home. Tears began to well up in his eyes.
It had been raining hard for a few hours. A part of the sidewalk had been flooded, as had the grass on either side. Beckett would have to go around where the flooding was the shallowest.
"Hey, loser!" A voice shouted. It was Ben.
Beckett looked behind him at Ben. He turned around to face him. "Do you just hang around Douglas all day? What do you want?"
"You broke my nose, loser. You're gonna pay for it."
"It was an accident."
"Doesn't matter. You broke my nose. You'll pay now. You'll pay later."
Beckett looked him right in the eyes. Ben shoved him. Beckett fell back, but put a foot behind him to stop from falling over.
Ben shoved him again. Beckett stayed standing. One foot went in the puddle. Beckett felt the water slowly seep into his shoe. He kept watching Ben.
"When did you grow a backbone, loser?" Ben barked. And he grabbed Beckett by the collar of his jacket and tried to push him into the puddle. Beckett kept his footing, and held himself out.
"You're going in."
"What's your problem, Ben?" Beckett shouted.
"You're weak." Ben replied.
"If I'm weak, why are you the one with the broken nose?"
Beckett grabbed Ben by his jacket and held tight. The two struggled. The more Beckett resisted, the harder Ben pushed, and the louder he grunted.
But Beckett stayed standing. The pushing continued, Suddenly, Beckett stopped resisting. He walked backwards, pulling Ben into the puddle.
Ben looked down to see his feet partially submerged. He could feel his toes get wet.
Beckett smiled. "Now your socks are wet." He laughed.
Ben sneered and starting pushing harder. Beckett resisted, but soon it wasn't enough. Beckett lost his balance. He started to fall, but he held tight to Ben.
They both went down. Beckett landed on his rear. The bottom of his backpack dipped into the puddle. Ben went down face first. His chin and mouth were submerged, before he could steady himself with his hands. Ben was stunned. He looked at Beckett.
Beckett looked back at Ben.
"I'm gonna get you later, Beckett. You're gonna get such a surprise."
Beckett stood up. "Whatever, Ben." He turned around and walked away.
Ben stood up. Looked down at his feet which were still under water. He turned around and walked back in the direction he had come.
Beckett walked home, soaking wet, but smiling. ---
Beckett got home and ran in through the door. Not taking the time to take off his wet shoes and coat. He went straight to his room and dropped the paper on his desk. He flopped down onto his chair. He looked over his clean desk; it had become organized in the past few months.
His father’s books on Caesar and Rome had not been returned. Instead they had found a home on Beckett’s shelf, which also looked a lot neater these days. It had also filled up with books on Rome and Greece and Beckett had found in his father’s library and the school’s library.
Beckett stared up at his ceiling for a few minutes, then turned his attention to the paper on his desk. Beckett looked at it angrily, trying not to think about it. Why had it all happened this way? He leaned forward, picked it up, and read the last part.
Two thousand years after Julius Caesar died, he maintains an important influence today. During his lifetime he accomplished many things. He conquered Gaul and extended the influence of Rome. He began a civil war in Rome, won against the odds, and established a new government in Rome. When he died he left behind a legacy that his nephew Octavius (Augustus Caesar) would turn into an empire that would last for hundreds of years.
But why is any of this important? Many people influenced history. If Caesar had not done what he did, maybe someone else would have.
There are two reasons why Caesar is important today. First of all, it is because we can learn from him. We won’t learn strategy or warfare. But we can learn how to achieve the unachievable. Caesar always wanted to emulate Alexander the Great, the Greek conqueror, and he did this by feeling a kind of rivalry with himself. After every success, he felt it was necessary to follow it with an even greater success. It’s not so important that he defeated Vercingetorix at Alesia, or Pompey at Pharsalus, or even that he established a new order in Rome. What is important is how he did it. He did it by striving to build achievement upon achievement. If we do the same, we can make incredible things happen and defeat our own fears. Secondly, today in Canada and in many other countries around the world, we have the freedom and ability to pursue these dreams. Caesar was the first person to dream of a world that allowed all people to do so.
That is why Caesar is important today.
As Beckett finished reading his paper, he turned it over to look at the comment on it by Ms Johnstone.
YOUR WORDS? I HAVE THE IMPRESSION THAT YOU DID NOT WRITE THIS YOURSELF. COME SEE ME.
Beckett threw the paper onto the floor and put his head down on his desk. After all that hard work, Beckett had nothing.
“Son? Are you in there?” Beckett’s father knocked on the door.
Beckett wiped the tears from his eyes. He cleared his throat. “Yeah, I’m in here.” Beckett managed to stammer out.
“Can I come in?”
Beckett’s father walked in. He was wearing his usual khaki pants and blue shirt with the top button undone. His black jacket was still on, meaning he’d just come home from work.
“I talked to Mr. Hashmi on the phone.” His father said. “What happened?” His father was genuinely concerned. Beckett had not heard his father talk like this in a long time.
“Dad, they said I didn’t write it. They think I cheated. Dad, you know how hard I worked on it. You know how much I’ve been working.”
“I know, son, but Mr. Hashmi is not trying to be mean. Why does he think that you cheated?”
“Because it’s GOOD, dad! And he doesn’t believe I wrote it. He thinks I’m stupid. They just think I'm stupid!” Beckett tried to control himself but he lost it. He started to cry. Beckett hadn’t cried in front of his father since he was six.
Beckett’s dad sat there, watching his son pour his heart out. “I know you did son. Don’t worry about it. I’ll go over to your school on Monday morning. Mr. Hashmi and I will have a talk. The truth is, if he can’t prove that you plagiarised your essay, then he shouldn’t even make accusations like that.”
“But dad, why can’t he believe me?”
“Well son, sometimes we old-folks just get so stuck in one way of thinking that when something changes, well, it’s just hard for us to accept. Don’t worry. You've worked hard. Take it easy for a while.”
“Yeah,” Beckett said, wiping his eyes.
Beckett’s father got up from Beckett’s bed, which was, for once, made properly and left the room. He paused as he closed the door and said, “Son, I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks dad”, Beckett replied.
"How about I order us some dinner?"
"Yeah, that'd be good."
His father started to leave.
"Hey dad, I was thinking about going back to swimming lessons. Is that alright?"
"Sure, son. You have their number. Just call them and let them know."