The Navale Academy - Day One
September 8, 1637. Sixteen-year-old Jimmy Chartron repeated the date to himself as he ambled down a spacious hall on the second floor of the Navale Academy. Today was his first day of school. He stopped in front of a mirror hanging near the middle of the hall to double-check his appearance. His plain undecorated navy-blue vest hid most of the threadbare white shirt underneath. His golden-blond hair ran a little long, combed to the right with a few strands that dangled over his blue eyes. He smiled with excitement but quickly stopped when he noticed the overbite in his front row teeth. He double-checked the brown pants he wore didn’t have holes and continued his trek down the hall.
At last, he reached the room he was looking for and pushed open the door.
An empty blackboard with a glowing frame loomed over the other students who chatted and laughed with each other—at least most of them were. Jimmy kept his eyes pinned to the floor and weaved his way past the tables without bothering to introduce himself to anyone. A lone seat in the rightmost side of the class beside a large arching window caught his attention. He made his way to the spot, giving an awkward nod or wave to one or two of the boys and girls who noticed him.
Jimmy positioned his bookbag next to the wall and rested both arms on the desk. Excitement bubbled up inside of him, and he twiddled his thumbs, waiting for his first day of school to begin.
The clock’s hands were mere minutes away from eight o’clock.
Another minute of twiddling his thumbs passed before Jimmy reached down and grasped the flap of his bookbag, pulling it onto his lap. Papers … my pen, compass … wait, where is it? His eyes widened in shock and darted across the contents of his leather bag. I was sure I left it here. He fumbled inside his leather bag in the hope of coming across a letter-sized envelope with a red stamp on its front flap. Where’s my letter of acceptance? In one swift move, he dumped the contents of the bag into a pile on top of his desk, earning him a stare from more than one fellow in the classroom.
A drop of sweat beaded down his forehead as he pushed, turned, flipped, and tossed the random paraphernalia across the surface of his desk.
“What’s he doing?” a girl whispered two rows behind.
“I honestly have no idea,” her friend replied, sounding not at all interested.
Jimmy, ignoring the other teenagers’ odd looks at him, began to put things back into the bag while mentally calling out each object. He put the compass back in … compass. Then his notebooks went in … notebooks … wait! He pulled the two brown-covered notebooks back out and fanned the pages over his desk, hoping the envelope would fall out. Nothing. He put the notebooks into the bag … notebooks. Next, was a metal case and a couple of erasers … pen box and erasers. He tucked these into a side pocket located on the upper flap of his book bag.
Nothing else was left.
Blast! Jimmy cursed himself in his mind. He threw the book bag down and plopped into his chair. He began to scratch his head when he shifted his weight and heard a crinkle in his coat’s left pocket. Wait… did I? He shoved his hand into his pocket. There it is! He pulled out the crumpled envelope and re-read his acceptance letter:
To Jimmy Chartron:
It is with great pride that I announce your acceptance of enrollment into the
Navale Academy of Eagleon. Your first day at school will commence on September 8th.
Bring this letter with you as proof of your enrollment.
I look forward to seeing you in the fall.
The curious signature on the bottom no doubt belonged to the headmaster. It spelled ‘Dunan,’ but the stroke from the ‘n’ slid up before curving downward three times like a row of hills, each one shorter and lower than the next. “Duh-nan? Doonan?” Jimmy whispered as he tried to find the least awkward way of pronouncing the name. He settled on the latter, practicing a bit to shorten the sound when he said the nan part.
“Doonan …” he whispered again, satisfied with how it sounded.
The clock struck eight, and Jimmy placed the letter on his desk. He stared straight ahead. For some reason, he suffered a gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach—nervousness, probably.
The whole class fell silent and turned around, face front, gazing toward the entrance to the classroom in silence. The mahogany boards on the floor creaked as footsteps down the hall drew near. Nervousness changed to curiosity on Jimmy’s part, and he found himself elevated from his seat as his body leaned forward across the table.
THOCK! THOCK! THOCK!
The headmaster’s footsteps moved into the classroom. He was a middle-aged gentleman, probably in his mid-forties, with a walk that reminded Jimmy of the tutors some of his friends used to have, specifically the square shoulders and measured steps.
The clean-shaven headmaster had brown hair combed slick to the back. A few wrinkles had settled underneath and around his hazel eyes. He wore a pair of black dress pants sporting faded, white stripes running from waist to ankles and a wide belt with a silver buckle. A brown vest covered his white, wing-tipped dress shirt that was left unbuttoned near the top. Over this, was a navy-blue frock coat with gold trims.
Jimmy watched as the headmaster took off his coat and surveyed the classroom.
Not knowing what to do in the silence that ensued, Jimmy decided to take a closer look at his classmates.
The first one Jimmy saw was a quiet fellow, hunched over his desk in the opposite corner of the room. The lonely boy wore a gray coat that seemed to make him even more broody than he perhaps already was. Jimmy saw his hands skillfully toying with a switchblade as his eyes darted from one corner of the room to the next.
A few seats past the brooding boy, and directly in the center of class was a brunette who had just finished arranging her hair for at least the tenth time since Jimmy walked into the classroom. Her white blouse had embroideries running along the left and right sleeves which signaled to Jimmy that she was from a privileged family.
Jimmy turned away and focused on two teenage boys, sitting exactly on the same row of chairs but each one on either side of the class rather than together. Yet, their eyes closed the distance between as they glanced each other with shrewd looks and tapped their pens occasionally from moment to moment. It was a code. They’re probably cheaters, Jimmy thought.
The headmaster cleared his throat. “Class,” he addressed them with a deep-set, serene voice, “I am Headmaster Dunan, and I would like to congratulate you all on being accepted into the Navale Academy of Eagleon.” He clasped both hands together.
“It is a great honor for you to be here, but also a great responsibility. All of you will in one way or another leave this class. Some of you may fail, while others will succeed. Some may succeed because of their hard work, and others because of their intelligence.” He paused a moment and his eyes shifted between the two teenage boys on either side of the classroom. “Make no mistake, though, smart does not entail cheating, which will no doubt bring only grave consequences.”
The two boys shifted their eyes from the headmaster’s gaze.
“Let’s begin.” Dunan lifted the gavel and slammed it on the table.
“I’m sure all of you have brought your letters of acceptance?”
Across the room, hands shot up holding the brown envelope and red seal. Jimmy saw the show of hands but simply held onto his envelope and waited for Dunan’s instructions.
“Very good!” Dunan grinned.
He began to walk through the classroom, collecting the letters while providing a small pamphlet to each student. “What I am giving you is a list of the courses we offer at this academy. Take it to the school library and do some research on whatever course interests you before you make your choices.”
He reached into his striped pants and yanked out a gold pocket watch. “Once you have decided, mark your choices, write your name on the pamphlet and return it to me.”
An excited murmur ran through the classroom as all the students began to get up and pack their things away. Clearly, no one had expected such a short class on their first day!
“Ah! But you must all be back here an hour before four. Keep your eye on the clock and don’t get lost. The library is on the third floor; if you need help, feel free to ask any instructor you come across and they will be happy to assist.”
The headmaster scanned the classroom one final time and slid the watch back into his pocket.
Jimmy swung his bookbag over his shoulder and followed the raucous crowd out the class and up the stairs to the third floor.
What a library it was!
Shelves that stretched all the way to the ceiling were lined with books of every sort. Numerous librarians with flowing robes levitated upon glowing blue stones that carried them to the desired shelf and section. Ribbons of large, square windows with ivory mullions lined the wall that faced the outside school grounds.
Jimmy stared in awe for a few moments and smiled.
The library felt like a second home.
For the rest of the day, he found himself going through history and science textbooks. Element alchemy as well, a topic he found fascinating but a bit beyond his mental grasp. What caught his eye, though, was the first edition of Farwell’s Theory on Electricity, to which he naturally took an interest. He read the first few pages, and for the next couple of hours, became engrossed in the book.
Finally, he brought it to the librarian at the check-out counter.
“I’d like to borrow this book,” Jimmy said.
“Name?” the woman asked as she whipped out a small, index-card.
“I don’t have one yet, but I’ll be taking the course on electricity.”
“Hmm …” The lady stamped the card and deposited it into a huge, sorting machine. “Be sure to bring it back in three months’ time.” She turned around and thumbed through some paperwork.
Jimmy nodded and gleefully stuffed the book into his bag. There would be time to read it in the weeks to come. After all, he had as much time to study as he wanted, didn’t he?