All in blue blazers, the class were subdued. Hunched over desks, dulled as beings now, no light fell on the poor souls in this hardest of winters. A sea of disinterest. Skies outside were grey, but the radiators were blazing, fighting the oppressive cold; unusually accurate timing by the school. This peculiar warmth was making the boys sleepy. Sleepier. This class were less interested than normal. Not only was the country gripped in fear of African Flu, but they were stuck in history class, which was far worse.
Through the window a few trees moved, slowly, and a lot of concrete didn't move at all; as Daniel remembered. A disinterested sky. The heavens don't care, whatever they told you at school. Particularly this school. Daniel could see down the hill, he thought, over the school buildings which stuck together like concrete cancer. A sterile landscape, robbed of personality. Maybe a man staggered by, maybe he didn't. It was hard to be sure now, his view hadn't been great. This stupid little school with its stupid teachers and Catholic bullshit, That was all Daniel really remembered of that part of that day. That and boredom.
His head was on the table, so it goes. Daniel's memory peeled away layers of falsity. Or did it make it's own truths? With his eyes shut, now, he struggled. Noticing over his sleeve the inattention of his friends, Matthew and Alan, who were busy drawing an illicit picture on the handouts, no doubt showcasing something they'd no experience of. Daniel's book was unwritten in except for the heading, “Vietnam and the Domino Effect”. Miss Tomes, at the front of the class, not a popular woman, and currently eulogising about the fear in America of the spread of communism.
“Titties” the boys called her, due to the fact her first name was Tanya, so her initials were TT, two- T's. This poor teacher, Tanya, was also flat chested, so in schoolboy terms, the only tits she had were in her name. Juvenile. Hateful, even. None of these choirboys had ever seen a pair of real breasts, not in the flesh. It didn't look like the class were really listening. Some at the back were on their phones, under the tables.
Staring at the empty lines on his page, Daniel began making games up, seeing if he could write music in them with his eyes, without moving and attracting attention from the Cunt Up Front. Another class nickname, although this one may have filtered down from older years. He could write music, sort of, but it was all imaginary and faded when Titties talked. Daniel looked up at his teacher, his head reaching for some entertainment. He looked toward the music lab, wishing he could be there. All he saw, all he recalled seeing were those trees, concrete and that man. The man wasn't real, looking back he was sure of that, he thought.
Blinded by the hindsight, Daniel chose not to remember this man as a sign. It could have been the caretaker for all he knew. But he moved weird, and the caretaker was weird no doubt. Rumour had it he once swung a chair leg at a kid who mocked him. He missed of course, the spakka.
Daniel looked at the clock for help; It didn't return the love. Ticking slower than ever. The boys at the back were getting more animated, having something of use on their parentally paid for phones. Daniel was on a data plan, even in these uncertain times. He remembered remembering about phone data, for sure.
He huffed. Loudly.
“What was that O'Reilly?”
Daniel looked up like a man recovering consciousness. A drunk staggering into sobriety.
“What do you mean, what? I'm trying to teach you about history. It's vital you listen if you want to get anywhere in life.”
Daniel stared at Tomes, devoid of inspiration for a comeback.
Titties continued, “That's what I thought! Count yourself in detention young man...”
Still staring angrily at Daniel, who was slumped over his desk again, uncaring of the tyrant Tomes' teaching. The master of the classroom began trying to reassert herself, preoccupied with the subordinate child. Unsettled from her rhythm.
“So, err, the Americans thought that Communism would filter down from...”
The class, from the back began to laugh. It grew to overwhelming levels.
Titties took notice, upset.
“Quiet! What on earth is...”
“Miss, Wikipedia says it's called Domino Theory, not Effect.”
Tomes stopped. A vein bulging in her forehead.
“Well Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, and doesn't have a Masters in history, so I don't think you can rely on Wikipedia for your...”
Tomes drowned out as the hyenas at the back looked at each other, wide eyed, knowing. Matthew decided to risk it,
“Miss neither do you. We found that out on the internet, too!”
Matthew's delivery was flawless. Sarcastic, confident, cutting.
The boys went into meltdown, so did Tomes. All Daniel recalled of the scenario at this point was much shouting, laughing, threats and then the sounds of a classmate overwhelming that cacophony.
“Oh my fucking God he just attacked him! Miss! Miss! Seriously!”
As the boy's voice trailed, into what Daniel imagined being terror, the class clamoured over one another to get to the windows on the left hand side of the room. The windows faced the hidden music labs of Daniel's dreams, and the public entrance to the school. Blue blazers rising over one another and crashing into the window, hands pressed, eyes straining to get a better view. The boys laughed and cries went out for blood.
“Fuck him up man!”
At this point Daniel couldn't remember who was saying what, only that the excitement wasn't infectious enough to draw him in, and that Tomes' shrill efforts to subdue the melee made him press his head harder into the desk. What stuck in his mind, though, was the noise dimming sharply. As if the boys had all been sucker punched in the gut. Alan vomited, and no one took the piss out of him. That made Daniel sit up.
The whole class, Daniel and a few others less easily riled aside, stood horrified at the window. Tomes couldn't break the wall of fifteen year old boys who almost all outsized her, crowding the view, and demanded to know what was going on.
“He's dead, Miss.”
What happened next seemed like an eternity. Silence. It has a habit of doing that, silence, it grows beyond reality, overwhelming, getting louder. You can hear silence, and then it was deafening, as Daniel remembered. Suffocating, drawing the air from the lungs of the boys, unable to sing their song of sickness. The sadism was doused, as the reality of it all became dizzyingly clear. The shell shock then shattered.
The fire alarm went off. Like a shot in the arm of the madness. The boys broke from their horror, gulping in the jarring noise like air as they returned to reality. Tanya took over,
“Right, boys, fire alarm! Fire alarm! Everyone to the playground please, in an orderly fashion!”
Like a bad actress with a worse script, she was ignored. A wall of blue blazers and silence.
The class turned toward her, eerily. Although Tanya was rather pleased by her effort to up her game, almost sinking into her one small win. Now that she had their attention, she continued, ignoring the horror their faces reflected back at her.
“Boys. The fire alarm is going off, we need to head out into the playground. Err, in orderly fashion, please.”
Tanya paused in her last sentence, as the boys looked more placated than they had done since the teachers agreed to turn up the heating to encourage sedation. Given the minute that had preceded this, Tomes decided her authoritative approach was a winner. Almost smiling, she chose to stick to that approach.
“BOYS! You all need to make way to the playground. NOW PLEASE!”
Miss Tomes held the door open with one arm, the other pointing out of it, head slightly bowed in that way some teachers do when they think they're right. Like they're getting a knighthood. The boys began to shuffle towards the door, until Alan, the boy still wiping sick from his shirt and face, started shaking his head. Maybe it was because he was midway through writing a rather brilliant imaginary piece of music with his eyes, Daniel remembered this poor soul perfectly, eyes searching.
The music in Daniel's head became less exciting, atonal and indirect, confused but distinct. Gradually it soar up, clearly. Alan stuttered,
“Miss, Miss Tomes no.”
No one heard but Daniel, as he recalled.
“No! No! Lock the doors!”
The class halted, some turned, others froze. One or two still near the windows peered out. Those boys then turned, white.
“No miss don't go out, don't go.”
Daniel had made the window by now, shaken from his composing. Out of the window, down between two walls, the boys could see the man getting up. Bloodied and staggering. Looking less than alive. The gory footprints of his assailant already leading off, the man followed them, out of the view. From what Daniel could see, it was the much maligned caretaker. Was this the flu? Tanya arrived, unable to see anything now.
“I know you all think I'm a pushover, but I'm not falling for this. School policy is playground. Playground, now.”
Tanya put on her best 'serious' face. Enough of the boys bought it to start a chain out of the door. Alan and Daniel remained fast, Daniel's mind hit notes he thought might work.
“Tanya, what about the terrorism policy? Lock doors and get down? We had that assembly? I really think...”
“Did you just call me Tanya? I am Miss Tomes to you! How dare you, I am the teacher here and not only will we be doing as I say, I'll be calling your parents when class is out.”
“My parents are dead you cunt!”
Daniel's glint betrayed him.
“No they're not I met your mother at, HOW DARE YOU!”
Miss Tomes lost her cool completely, and again Daniel's memory blurred. He remembered Alan trying to stop her kicking the class out, begging. The boys seeming nonplussed by the directive, and of eventually filing out himself like a good little boy, somewhat ashamed of his actions. But also pleased he'd got a reaction. The playground was full when they got there, undersized, being an inner London school. Some teachers towards the front entrance barked orders, and the boys buzzed with gossip and rumour. Only Daniel's class had seen anything untoward, it seemed.
As they settled at the back of their detention in the urban open jail that passed for their playground, a fracas erupted. Audible but semi visible from Daniel's history class captives, slightly older lads in the cluster of sweat and badly fitting uniforms were joshing, initially, about the nature of their calling.
“I heard Mr Staines in design technology has been fucking the librarian, they got caught at it and now we've all got to be told.”
“Bollocks! that kid in year 7 caught the flu and they're going to test us all.”
“Where are the test kits then you fucker?”
“Oi fuck off we're just having a laugh.”
A punch was thrown. Then several more. Daniel began to score it in his head, it was a bit Jaws, high, sharp, fast notes, in a way he rather enjoyed it. The music was shredded when screams rang out from the front. Loud enough to be murderously prescient at the back. His eyes shot across the crowd. There were no teachers at the front any more. They'd disappeared from view. Daniel's music stopped. The fighting didn't, it grew as more were sucked in, unaware of anything but fists.
The stampede became evident, a crushing, crucial, devastating event. Daniel felt as if he noticed first. He spun around, Finding Alan and Matthew, both entranced.
“Uh, I, I think we need to go.”
CONTINUED HERE (2nd & Final Part of this section)
CONTINUED HERE (2nd & Final Part of this section)