Who can say how these things start? Does it aggregate like stellar dust until there is formed a red giant? More likely it achieves substance in the way that sugar is spun from heat and nothingness to give us fairy floss. Rumour.

The rumour in question acquired life, as far as anyone could tell, some time between recess and lunch. A great deal can happen in the space of two periods. How many of us, with a mere 10 minutes to bell time, have believed the moment of crisis passed only to see it all go to hell in an instant?

It so happened in this case that Harlan Prescott, the Vis Com teacher (whose demesne in the Van Allen Belt of portables is known as Harlan’s Half-Acre) saw two heads bent in earnest conversation in the vicinity of Downtown Calcutta (the place of easement). Since the heads belonged to those old antagonists Delia Le Clezio, aka The Lezzy, and our esteemed leader Imre “Special K” Kevorkian, Harlan was naturally alerted to some anomaly in our little universe.

“I’ve just this minute seen The Lezzy conferring with Kevorkian.”

“What do you mean conferring?”

“Someone’s for the long drop.”

“For goodness sake, man. You’ve got to stop having that extra coffee at recess, you’re a wreck. They’ll be sending in the men in white jackets if you’re not careful. Someone for the long drop! Pull the other one. What a thought! Who do you think it might be?”

By lunchtime, there was more than one drawn face in the common room, their Tupperware containers of leftovers untouched. The girl whose students have a habit of climbing out the window (on one celebrated occasion she turned around from summarising on the whiteboard a fascinating discussion of landscape in David Malouf to find nary a soul in attendance) burst into tears and rent her clothing in the Mediterranean manner. Another, the one they call Foss, decided that 65 was a bridge too far and handed in early resignation. (“But why now, Bob?” a clearly puzzled principal asked.) The several telcos noticed unusual activity in the Lowbottom region and the server was down for a period due to overload. Only when it looked like staff might take up arms and break out the tumbril from the sports shed did someone think to confront The Lezzy for the gen.

“Hugger-mugger with Dear Leader this morning, Delia! Has there been a thawing in the Cold War?”

“Only when it comes to choosing a present for Jacinta.”

“Jacinta?”

“Yes, apparently, she’s landed some fabulous job in Bahrain. Leaving at the end of term.”

“Then I hope we’re not going to any great expense.”

“Don’t worry. Kevorkian was thinking of one of those nice Lowbottom High coffee mugs. I told him it would be perfect.”

So once more we are united in perversity.

Peter Fray

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