These are some ‘sketches’ I am working on, to help me gather ideas for my new book. Do let me know what you think!
Tales of Lost Jumpers
The Chosen One
In a rare moment of solitariness, Thomas King found himself musing on the possible interpretations of the small, laminated sign which had been blu-tacked to the kitchen cupboard door. Thomas was not alone, far from it, in fact his ears were resonating with conversation as his colleagues sought to maximise the potential of their short break. Tom, as he preferred to be known by his friends and colleagues, had often described break-times as a bottle neck. He had proved this to be a truism on many occasions as he waited, rather impatiently, for six or so other teachers and teaching assistants in front of him to fix their tea or coffee, all the time overly conscious that his ten minute break was ticking away. The sense of straightening was no doubt amplified by the inadequate space and decidedly dis-ergonomically arranged cupboards and single sink. It was no surprise to Tom that this, in combination with the time-tabled exclusivity of opportunity to speak to or catch up with other members of staff meant that the Staff room morning break frequently felt like being in a high-energy think tank. It was only when one tuned in to the discussions taking place that one realised while many conversations were quick snapshots of diagnostic discussion, many others were less involved with education.
So, while three of the Year Six team, sat on his right, discussed the re-appearance of a missing game card and the resulting implications the event had on the impending investigation into a pupils’ behaviour, two teaching assistants on his left were sharing a recipe for Blueberry muffins. As Tom had no obvious role to play in the execution of either task he had, for the moment, allowed the carousel of conversation to wash over him and was considering the sign on the unit door. “Please wash your own cups up after use,” was printed in the ubiquitous Comic Sans lettering. But Tom’s mind was exercised with the handwritten addition, scrawled, in less than perfect script, diagonally across the bottom corner – “and put them away!” He was considering the fact that in each of the three schools he had so far worked in, the kitchen cupboards had all borne similar signs; each of which had been subject to the additional imperative graffiti. What did this mean? Did it imply that Teachers were slaves to instruction? Or was it that they were genetically pre-disposed to untidiness and clutter? Perhaps, on another level, Tom was considering, the handwritten additions signalled a more subversive trait. One that, while promoting a positive, orderly outcome, also showed a practical and impulsive character. But, before Tom could extrapolate this thought to the wider characteristics of school life and consider whether he would indeed feel comfortable in a school where such additions were absent, there was a knock at the Staff room door.
Knocks at the Staff room door are always treated with suspicion. There was a brief ripple of interruption across the sea of discourse. Furtive looks, topped with raised eyebrows were shared by all those who had heard the sound. Theresa, nearest the door, opened it without raising herself from her seat, just sufficiently to place her head in the gap. Tom well remembered his own rare trips to the Staff room door when he had been at Primary School. All except one of the reasons for his knocking at the hallowed portal had dissolved with time but each visit had left a similar distinct impression. After the knock was the achingly painful delay before the door had been opened and a teachers head was thrust out, accompanied it seemed, with the sound of partying, merriment and, in Tom’s day, tobacco smoke. Sometimes his memory suggested the clinking of glasses and the whiff of whiskey but he was sure his mind was allying the scene with his ex-wife’s tales of back stage parties and theatrical excesses. Even so, each time there was a knock at the Staff room door, a small part of Tom still marvelled at the fact that he was now on the other side of it, even though the vision of a partying, hedonistic elite had been summarily despatched many years ago.
“Is Mr King here?” Asked Theresa, looking pointedly at Tom.
“Oh, yes, yes I’m here,” replied Tom, putting down his cup, walking to the door and slipping outside, taking in the slightly nervous form of Patrick Thompson. “Hello Pat. What’s up?”
“Well Mr King, I just wanted to…um…tell you, tell you something, um, I thought you should know.”
“O.k. fire away.” Tom watched the boys fingers flick at the sides of his grey uniform trousers as he spoke, aware now in the second term of having Patrick in his class that his was his chosen form of dialogue. A polite and intelligent boy, Patrick Thompson was the type of pupil that Tom would file under ‘thoughtful sage’. Their most meaningful interactions usually took the form of a brief discourse in which some weighty matter was swiftly raised, raised, pronounced upon and closed again, all in the space of four or five sentences, usually on the playground or just as the class were filing in or out of assembly, Recent exchanges included ‘The Futility of Trying to Collect All the Cards in a Collection’, ‘A Fast Car Isn’t Always Useful if You Have A Lot of Shopping’ and, most recently ‘Parents Don’t Always Tell the Truth but That’s O.K. Sometimes’.
“Parents don’t always tell the truth do they?”
“Well I don’t know. What makes you say that?”
“You see, my Mum told my sister that spiders can’t hurt you, you see, and well, I know that they could.”
“Yes, some are poisonous, like the Tarantula, but even the little ones could get caught in your throat ugh, ugh, ugh, like that, while you are asleep.”
“So why do you think your Mother said that to your sister?
“Oh, I expect it’s to stop her being scared.”
“So is that alright do you think?”
“Oh yeah, I think you can lie, well, not tell the truth sometimes, to stop being scared and that’s O.k.”
“Yes, I guess so Pat. In we go…” So on this morning, Tom waited while Patrick Thompson gathered his thoughts, fingers twiddling at the grey flannelled creases of his trousers, confident that this would be brief.
“You see, you know what we were doing this morning, about God and stuff…”
“God and stuff…R.E, yes.”
“Well…” Patrick Thompson now lifted his attention from his trouser legs and looked up at Tom with a bright smile. “…I think I am the Chosen One.” Tom raised his eyes to the bookshelves that lined the corridor running beside the Staff room and nodded slowly.
“Right. O.K. Pat, um, I think we need to talk about this a bit more but…” Tom pulled back the cuff of his shirt and checked his watch “…but the bell’s about to go. Why don’t we have another chat about it at lunchtime?” Patrick Thompson gave Tom a decidedly benign smile.
“O.K. Mr King. It can wait. As you told us, the Chosen One is always patient. Thanks.” Before he returned to the hubbub of the Staff room Tom watched young Patrick Thompson, hand trailing the wall, stroll down the corridor until he had gone through the double doors and was hidden from view.
“Oh boy.” He thought to himself, “How on earth am I going to explain this to his parents?”