When the principal summons you into his office you know that you have been born into interesting times.

“Trevor!” Imre Kevorkian greets me like one potentate to another. When in reality this is a serf appearing before the lord of the manor. Well, a yeoman anyway.

Looking over his shoulder you can see a small repast laid out on the sideboard which dominates Kevorkian’s suite. The principal is an avid watcher of Antiques Roadshow and can wax knowledgeable on patina and provenance which he pronounces in the French manner. We sink into the easy chairs normally reserved for visiting dignitaries (the local member on his annual tour of duty, a famous old boy or a lady writer). Easy is a loose term in the circumstances as you try to maintain dignity with your knees higher than your head.

“So, Trevor,” the principal smiles, revealing a Balkan inheritance of one gold filling and a plethora of what looks like pewter. “How goes the teaching life?” Interestingly, he says this as if he, Imre Kevorkian, belonged to some other profession entirely.

“We win a few skirmishes, even the odd battle,” you venture.

“Ah,” says our leader, his face set again into the lugubrious mask which has earned him one of his nicknames, Bela Lugosi. It was not a good thing to mention the war, obviously.

On the sideboard, coffee in a silver pot is sorrowing and you can almost see the edges of the ribbon sandwiches beginning to curl.

“I suppose,” the principal brightens as he takes another tack, “being a teacher of the humanities — you are a humanities teacher? Of course you are. Then you will know the necessity of keeping abreast of current events.”

“I try to stay informed, principal.”

“Imre, please. Yes, that is very much the impression I have formed, Trevor. That you are a man of thoughtful opinions. Which is why I thought to pick your brains about the whole government thing.”

“Which thing is that, Imre?”

“I know anything we say will not leave this room,” Kevorkian looks around nervously and then whispers sotto voce, “I mean Canberra.”

The word coming from the national capital is all enemas and the thwack of latex gloves, so you can understand the man’s skittishness. The Minister, Gloriana herself, is even determined to sack non-performing principals. The idea of it! But, of course, this is the dilemma of the man whose other name is Special K.

“I don’t think you need worry, do you, Imre?”

“You think? I just thought — ”

“If you mean that footage posted on YouTube, it was an isolated bullying incident and the knife was never actually used. As for the Year 9s selling ecstasy, I mean please, if it’s happening at Xavier — okay, it is unfortunate that the Channel Nine news crew interviewed you in front of the plaque commemorating the Minister turning the first sod for the Multi-Purpose Educational Access Facility.”

“Oh God,” the principal ejaculates (as they used to say in novels) and bites his knuckle.

“You have the complete support of the staff,” you say out of embarrassed desperation.

Kevorkian suddenly comes to his senses.

“Yes, well,” he says, rising from the depths of the easy chair so that he positively towers, “I know I can always rely on the support of my people.” Ah, so we are back to being master and servant. “I’m sure you wish to prepare for your afternoon classes.”

And so you leave, casting one longing look toward the sideboard. What about the brewed coffee? What about the ribbon sandwiches? What about me?


Read the full Lowbottom High diaries here.

Peter Fray

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