"EEEEEEEE ....... AAAAWWWW....... OOOOOO...."
"Don't think about it people. Don't do, it be it!"
Robert shuffled awkwardly from one foot to the other mumbling the vowel exercises on the white board. The teacher was called Caroline. A plump blonde woman in a brightly coloured kaftan and scruffy black ankle boots.
There were five other kids in the class. Three boys and 2 girls. The girl across from him wore a dirty grey hoody. The ends of her dark hair had been bleached and she was as wide as she was tall. Robert recognized the calculating look she was giving his neat cotton shirt and the too new blue jeans that hung off his bony hips.
"Big deep breaths now." Caroline gave an exaggerated demonstration of breathing, bending her knees and lifting her arms over her head. She looked like a brightly colored animated bird desperately flapping it's wings but unable to get off the ground.
"And another one." She flapped again.
The boys at the front were becoming restless. They obviously knew each other. Robert guessed they'd been attending remedial reading for some time. They started pushing and shoving each other as they mimicked Caroline's arm movements.
"Alright everybody should be nice and warmed up now." Caroline clapped her hands. Her voice a little shrill. "We'll do some reading now. Fiona let's start with you."
Caroline switched on a projector and a three letter word appeared on the white board.
"Cat." Fiona guessed. Fiona was pale and skinny with chipped black nail polish and hungry green eyes.
"Try again." Caroline highlighted the middle letter. "What letter is that? Spell the word out."
Fiona finally identified the word as "cup" and Caroline moved on to the boys. Simone, the girl in the hoody took six attempts and fifteen minutes to identify "help".
By the time it was Robert's turn he was shaking a little and his hands were sweating. The word came up on screen and the others stared at him sullenly. Daring him to get it right. The word was cry.
"Bus." said Robert.
When the bell rang the others disappeared. Barely waiting to be dismissed. Robert packed up slowly. Caroline watched him rearranging the contents of his bag with a mixture of sympathy and repugnance.
"Hard to believe he's the son of such a brilliant writer." Robert could see her saying to her colleagues later in the staff room.
Outside Simone and the boys were hanging around on the path. Waiting for him just far enough away from the classroom and Caroline. They'd already taken half a packet of cigarettes and a stick of black lipstick off Fiona who was glumly stuffing the remains of her rifled belongings back into her kahki shoulder bag as she tramped back up to the main campus.
Robert smiled and sunk back into the shadows of the building drawing a well-thumbed little pocket book out of his trouser pocket. Slowly and carefully he thumbed through to the page he wanted and in a soft clear voice read out the words "they all fell down".
Simone and the boys were never quite sure what happened next. It was as if someone had pushed them with tremendous force. Their legs gave way under them. They tumbled to the floor and rolled down the path through the gardens bumping rocks and stones and scraping their hands and faces against stinging nettles and tree roots until they landed thoroughly bruised and torn at the fence.
Robert stepped back out onto the path a wide grin lighting up his face, making his cheeks glow and his dark blue eyes shine.
"What happened?" Fiona ran back down the path. "How did you do that?" she asked but before Robert could reply Fiona began to cough. A dark red glob of blood filled her mouth and oozed down her chin. Her eyes rolled back in her head and her knees gave way beneath her. Yelling for help Robert leaped forward catching her just as she sank into unconsciousness and fell to the ground.