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For Indecisiveness Kills Retirement (1st Prize Winner - Group II)

March, 2011
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Everyone knows the easiest decision to make is the decision of not making the decision.

It was barely light when a man of portly presence strode confidently down the deserted streets of London. The handlebar moustache he proudly wore bore a sign of importance and arrogance.

Emitting loud taps on the concrete pavement from the lengthy cane he was gripping, he lifted his left hand to adjust the black bowler hat on his shiny head, tufts of grey hair sticking out from underneath.

For he was the perfect image of a prominent British gentleman, the mere look at him confirmed it. For his display of pomposity resulted in copious eye-rolls, rather than the glances of admiration he was yearning for. For he was Cuthbert Lloyd, the Headmaster of the distinguished St. Joseph’s Private School for Boys.

Yet, as much as Professor Lloyd would deny it, every man hopes for a peaceful retirement. Especially someone who has been working among an abundance of rebellious young boys with parents who think way too highly of them. As he nears the age of fifty, Professor Lloyd’s mind began to get overcrowded with images of Hawaii, the tranquil beach, the sun shining over the golden sand, and the mild wind ruffling the remnants of what used to be bushes of hair. It was only until days ago when he realized he could not avoid these dreams forever, and that he would have to deal with them sometime. Preferably soon, because all he wanted to do right now was to drop everything behind and book the next flight out of England.

This was probably why his school was bustling more hurriedly than ever that particular Sunday morning, and that noise they were making could rival the one of the construction of the bridge a few blocks away. The entire school knew. Professor Lloyd had made it final. He was retiring.

That was his final decision.

The consequence of all this, excluding the cheerful gossip of the ‘old nagging andr-oyd’ leaving the country, was the queue of people, each hoping to be his successor as Headmaster of St. Joseph’s Private School for Boys.

Amidst all the hurrying to get ready, Cuthbert Lloyd stood quietly, his belly sticking out slightly. His tiny eyes scanned the catastrophe, doing nothing to seem of authority. Then with a deep tenor bellow, he pronounced:

“Let the interviews begin!” With that, he paced to his office in a dignified manner.

Once his office door had clicked shut, his colleagues broke into a fit of scoffs and eye-rolls regarding his egotistic attitude. The applicants, however, nervously fidgeted in the chairs and reread their résumés, patiently waiting to be called on.

Back in Professor Lloyd’s office, the first applicant has entered anxiously.

“Name? Gender? Age? Favorite fruit? Name of first pet?” Professor Lloyd’s demanding tone rang through the room. He hadn’t even bothered to lift his head up from the clipboard he was taking notes on.

“Er…” The tall man stuttered and scratched his head, “Adam Walters. Male. My favorite fruit is pineapple.” He scratched his head again, “Er. I never had a pet. And er… did you ask for age? Thirty-four?” He replied hesitantly, confused about whether he was supposed to be prepared for the entire ask-random-questions-super-fast factor. Was he testing his mind’s agility?

“Uh huh. Uh huh.” Professor Lloyd muttered while scribbling furiously on his clipboard. The applicant could catch a few phrases like “Didn’t have a fun childhood. Appears to have nits. Unhygienic.” How dare he assume like that?

“Does it trouble you to remember your age? You seemed uncertain about that.” He finally lifted his head, and graced the applicant with one of his most innocent façades.

The look on Adam Walter’s face was priceless.


Professor Lloyd grunted in frustration in his office. He was finally alone after dealing with four useless applicants. Two of which were elderly females that looked like they sure had experience. Nevertheless, both of them spoke wearily and appeared to have a heart attack every minute. That Adam Walter was unhygienic and had horrible memory. The last applicant was the most promising, a middle-aged male who had once worked in the Department of Education. However, everyone has his or her flaws, his being his terrible hairstyle. We certainly could not have a Headmaster with a hose-like ponytail sticking out of his head. Such disgrace.

“Professor Lloyd, are you ready for the next applicant?” The young secretary enquired.

“I’m always ready.” He huffed and sat regally in his chair. He had made his final decision.


“Yes, and your pet peeves?” He regarded the smart, strict, and seemingly perfect forty-year-old male named Rupert.

“Ah. I absolutely detest it when my salty food touches my sweet food. It makes me want to puke.”

“Picky eating habits. Throws up easily. Not safe to be in perimeter of children.” The professor scribbled immediately.

“Thanks for coming, Regan. NEXT!”

“It’s Rupert.”

“Doesn’t matter. NEXT!”


“I can also tap-dance. I have a diploma in piano, ten trophies in swimming, three merits for community services, five individual concerts on the cello, an astonishingly high GPA, and I have collected over a hundred porcelain china dolls.” The impressive forty-two year old lady bragged.

“Well. I can do Latin-dancing and the can-can. I have a diploma in the harmonica, one trophy for most improved (16 minutes, look at that!) in swimming, ten merits for community services, nine individual educational talks, an even higher GPA, and I have collected over two hundred porcelain china dolls!” Professor Lloyd battled, while marking all that on his clipboard.


“Brags way too much. Thinks too highly of herself.”


“Thanks for trying, but no thanks. Just a friendly suggestion, bragging doesn’t get you anywhere. NEXT!”


“Do you smoke?” He crinkled his nose in disgust at the applicant, scrutinizing his face.

“No, and I don’t plan to, sir.” The applicant’s nonchalance disturbed the professor greatly.

“Don’t lie to me, fellow.” A stubby index finger was stuck right in the applicant’s face.

The applicant’s arms immediately flew up as the universal sign of ‘I surrender’, and stepped backwards, uncomfortable to be in close vicinity of the professor.

“I’m not, sir!” He was getting slightly irritated, trying to refute the intimidating man.

“I can smell cigarette smoke from way over here coming from your jacket!”

“That can’t be possible, sir, I have never touched a cigarette in my life!”

“Don’t you contradict me!” Professor Lloyd yelled, elated, and scribbled the words ‘smoker’, ‘liar’, and ‘rude’, under the name of ‘George Phelps’.


Forty applicants have now come and left. None of who appealed to the eyes of Professor Cuthbert Lloyd. His notes on his clipboard were getting slightly hysterical as time passed. The words ‘UGLY’, ‘acne’, and ‘big nose’, were the reasons for ‘bad influence for the children’. The explanations for ‘not strict enough’ were ‘owned a crazy dog’, and ‘loves balloon animals’.

As you can see, Professor Lloyd was mainly finding wild excuses to stop someone succeeding his throne. If he wants to be headmaster so bad, why did he request for retirement then, you may ask?

This was one of his greatest flaws. His indecisiveness. Cuthbert Lloyd wanted the best of both worlds, and is always thinking that another opinion would provide him with a better life. He wants retirement, yet he would miss his power as Headmaster of St. Joseph’s Private School for Boys.

Let us get back into Professor Lloyd’s head and wander in his perplexed, yet stagnant thoughts.


He had assumed that this would have happened. It was only fair if a number of people were given the extraordinary talent of being able to manage this prestigious school. He himself being one of the lucky people.

“Well, there is always tomorrow.” He smiled relaxingly to himself as he casually sipped a cup of coffee, “Or if there really isn’t anyone out there who can manage a school as well as I can, I guess society needs me. I won’t be retiring, if that was the case.”

Spinning his bowler hat in his fingers and stroking his handlebar moustache with a loving caress, his mind was filled with images of him sunbathing in Hawaii again.

Then of an image with him commanding three bewildered new teachers. The corners of his lips lifted up into a grin.

Let us cross our fingers in hope that he’s not expecting to find a replacement any time soon. All in due time, my friends, all in due time.

Everyone knows the easiest decision to make is the decision of not making the decision. 


By Muriel Wang,

Shanghai American School

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  1. SAS Rocks
    September 19th, 2011 at 17:17 | #1

    Best piece of writing ever! :)

  2. Kevin
    September 23rd, 2011 at 18:45 | #2

    OMG, Group II?! WOW

  3. Wisegirl
    March 3rd, 2012 at 11:43 | #3

    This is so good!

    –H.Girl Percy Jackson series fan

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