And now (courtesy of our sponsor Google Earth) we pan up to see revealed the wonder of Lowbottom High. The original designers (like the architects of Tenochtitlan, mysterious people who have since disappeared) had a vision sadly obscured by the subsequent jungle growth of demountable classrooms. Old-timers, Aborigines of the profession, recall when there were but two wings which from this vantage spelt out the pictogram for harmony. But the universe is in constant flux, tending towards complexity and so we see laid out not a simple organism but a complex thing through whose circulatory system countless bodies course. As we follow their progress we see that their destination is their purpose.

As happenstance would have it, it is lunchtime. Under the canopy of the Tyburn tree, ragged with crows, illicit smokers broadcast a cordon of cool which nerds, swots and their ilk dare not penetrate. These others are engaged in rough-house soccer (which is kinda cool) and chasey (which is not). Beneath the nearby shade-cloth, knots of kids, fuelled by body chemicals and that particular human need to belong, combine and recombine in a bee dance of sociability. If ever there is a conflict, teachers descend like leucocytes to the site of infection. The body only works through the cooperation of its many parts.

Inside, meanwhile, there is activity of another kind. In a room chosen for its remoteness in the Arctic Circle of the demountable classrooms, the Asperger kids discuss Fibonacci numbers and the relative merits of each and every Star Trek episode. Closer to the centre of things, the drama club tries to decide whether someone who is dead is still dreamy. They conclude, boys and girls alike, that Heath Ledger still has it. Down the corridor, there is no such concordance as the school orchestra attempts rhythm and tonality. The music teacher screams. Across the way, kids puzzle over the J-curve or the subtext of The Catcher in the Rye.

Near the office of Principal Kevorkian and Downtown Calcutta (the place of easement), surly students caught farting in Vis Com endure the ghastly punishment of stasis in this pulsing dynamic thing. Nearby a fractious branch meeting of the union (“further to the motion — if I may be allowed to speak”) is being conducted at the same time as non-union staff in the common room chew over their lunch (last night’s leftovers microwaved in Tupperware containers) and the state of their superannuation.

What appears at ground level to be a congeries of crossed trajectories, a bedlam for the peripatetic, is at this height a beautiful machine. Eccentric, yes, and requiring constant tinkering, but this is us.

Soaring ever higher, Lowbottom is now but a pinprick on the surface of the globe. We have negotiated the acres of space junk and are presently shooting through the layers of the Van Allen belt. At his altitude, the school has all but vanished. Suddenly at the apogee of our journey, it all makes perfect cosmic sense. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with the last school bell of the year.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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