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Sweat Days

It was, simply put, too hot. The sun watched the classroom with a sort of bored malevolence, reaching down its long fingers and poisoning whatever it touched with a brush of its hand. Everything radiated heat: the walls, the chairs, the desks; everyone in the room was shifting in a low-key rhythm, trying to find that sweet spot unspoiled by the temperature to no avail.

The teacher had given up on imparting any information to the students ten minutes in; he was content now to watch them vaguely scratch at some worksheet or another and count down the days to the summer holiday in their heads. Truth be told, as long as no one did something to call his attention and make him trudge through the crucibyllic heat of the classroom, he would allow them to do whatever they liked. They could be plotting his murder for all he cared, as long as he didn’t have to move.

Halfway through the lesson, he heard the clipped walk of the headmistress outside. He knew the timbre of her gait by now, half-second gap between heel and toe hitting the ground. At half the teacher’s age, she was new to the profession and a go-getter, an all-round terrible combination. She was constantly urging the staff to ‘inspire’ the students by being ‘pro-active’ and ‘innovative’, all words which marked her out as an idiot and a busybody, and certainly someone who had never spent a second around a teenager. When she arrived she had immediately taken the teacher’s long-held parking spot for her own, and looked flagrantly ridiculous every day as she parked her tiny little Masda in a space made for a real car.

Still, she signed the paycheques, and she didn’t like to see her staff sedentary, so just before she reached the door, the teacher managed to pry himself out of his seat and start a lazy circuit around the room. He strolled past the students, ostensibly looking down at the worksheets on their desks, but in reality judging the vast array of stationery they all lugged around with them. When he had been in school, it had been one pencil, a pen, a rubber and maybe a protractor, if you had arithmetic that day. All very plain, all bought from the kindly Mr. Crown down the road from the comprehensive (the Teacher concentrated, but couldn’t remember if he’d heard that Mr. Crown had died a decade back, or if he’d just assumed).

Now they all carried with them a hundred different pencils, all of different colours, at least two pens- one fountain, one not-, umpteen rubbers in garish colours, a protractor, a rule, calculator (which looked too much like a phone for the teacher’s liking), a right-angle, a glue stick, a penchil sharpener, a pair of scissors (whoever’s bright idea that was), a hole punch, a roll of sello-tape and a compass (which was never put to mathematical use but in fact only existed to stab the desks, the rubbers and, more often than not, other students).

They ported all of this around in a mini-sac that they called a pencil case (what had become of the snazzy tins of his youth?) that was inevitably branded with some blank-eyed musician or nitwitted footballer. They’d define themselves through these items, laugh at those who had the wrong ones and form entire cliques based solely on the similarity of the faces on their merchandise. The lurid colours and cheap plastic would fade by March and then in Septemer, they’d’ve bought a new one, perhaps with a new false idol blazened on if they’d experience some small iota of personal growth in the intervening year, and the teacher would still have no idea who these people were. All he knew was that just before the start of every new school year, they recieved more money than he’d ever dreamed, just fot having their face on a piece of ephemera.

The sun continued to quash all energy in the room like a wet blanket on an electrical fire and the teacher had almost finished his rounds and was already looking forward to flopping back down into his uncomfortable chair when he noticed that Chloe Marsden’s pencil case was blank. Well, not entirely- but it didn’t bear the insipid mug of any primping singer or dull-witted sportsman. It was, in fact, covered in words. It seemed to be a poem of some sort, although not one the teacher recognised.

He picked up the pencil case- Chloe made no objection- and turned it over in his hands. The words seemed, to his mind, to actually be quite profound: the poem was really quite good, and the fact that some phrases were emboldened and bigger than the rest really leant weight to their ideas. He was most pleased.

He thought he might look up the original poem when he got home, to see if he could maybe do a lesson on it, when the weather was cooler. He turned the pencil case over in his hands once more, and was about to put it down, when one of the emboldened phrases suddenly leapt out at him

 Dream of the soft look

  Your eyes had once

Without really knowing what he was doing, he walked over to the window, slid it open and then threw the case out. Inured to the gasps behind him, he watched the thing tumble through the air, turning over and over, and then slam down onto the headmistress’ car, cracking the windshield.

Ignoring Chloe Marsden’s plaintive pleas, he walked back to his desk, sat down and promptly closed his eyes.

It was, simply put, too hot.


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