Having pondered the enigma of space it is only fitting to now consider time. This is the seventh week and if at term’s beginning one’s teaching allotment had all the alarming possibilities of a first date, we are now well into that period of a relationship where familiarity breeds contempt. Call it the Seven Week Itch.

Week Six you were still essaying appalling jokes and were being indulged. Just as you took the occasional snipe in good part (“I trust you are not dissing me, Montana?”). Then, like the worm, the class turns. And in its turning you see displayed in all its awful power the operation of the Group Mind.

Years ago at Anhedonia Tech, as the thistledown blew across the western plains of outer Melbourne and the north wind slammed against the aluminium cladding of the portable like a murderer demanding admittance, something insect-like began burrowing through the silence. I would like to think we were reading Lord of the Flies at the time but more likely it was something appalling littered with the words “c-nt” and “head job” which curriculum designers have decided are suitable for instilling a love of reading in young people.

Where was the hum coming from? One moment it emanated from the back row then suddenly translated to somewhere in the centre of the room. Tinnitus after a night on the turps? An acid flashback? As the thistledown swirled like hot snow I seriously believed I was going mad. It was of course the Group Mind and I was its unwitting victim. I had been Hummed.

Then today it happened again. As the unseasonal heat made a tandoori oven of the classroom, a despairing voice intruded upon the intricacies of the medieval feudal system. “Can I get a drink, Mr Diogenes?” “You know the school rules, Vulnavia.”

Whereupon, without warning, the Group Mind kicked in as one by one flower after wilting flower demanded hydration. It was not planned or premeditated but once in operation took on a life of its own. “No-one is leaving the classroom!”

Each face set into a mask of suffering of which Marcel Marceau would have approved. You monster, the masks screamed. We hate you. Come second term we will be right again. The Group Mind will not have disappeared, however, but like the spore of the Black Death, of which the class will next be treating, will lie dormant. Until the next time.

Peter Fray

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