‘Carter! Carter!!' barked Lucifer Craven, the hall supervisor. He pushed the first formers aside with a swipe of his hand, ‘Where has that boy got to?!' His eyes bulged in his head as he sound that sound. The tinkling of the out-of-tune piano in the fifth form common room. He knew exactly where the Carter boy was now. He stormed into the large hall and, sure enough, found Gideon Carter sat at the battered baby grand. Craven marched up to the boy, dragging him away from his beloved instrument. Gideon did not protest; he'd been through this procedure many times before. Craven would take him down to the headmaster's office, and then on to the school assembly hall where he would be publicly humiliated. He braced himself for what was to come. But to Gideon's surprise, instead of turning left at the main stairwell to the headmaster's lair, Craven turned him right towards the science laboratories. When Gideon expressed puzzlement at the development, Craven sneered.
‘Headmaster Dickens and I have decided that our usual method of punishment' he smiled horribly as he said this, ‘is no longer working. Instead, we thought it would be more effective just to send you back to lessons.'
Gideon knew what that meant. Fifth form biology class. And most definitely public humiliation. For in addition to being a hall supervisor, Lucifer Craven was a biology teacher. They got to the door and the familiar ‘hazardous chemicals' sign. Craven gave Gideon a forceful shove. He flew through the doorway, knowing full well that this would catch the attention of the boys in the laboratory.
‘Hey, look who it is!' shouted McLaren, as he played with a scalpel, ‘It's the faggot!'
Gideon's stomach lurched. His head was spinning; he couldn't help it. He grabbed the nearest desk and steadied himself. So this was what Craven meant by humiliation. Gideon would have preferred the assembly, where the head of fifth form listed his faults, including this one, to the whole school. At least that way it was over in a few minutes. But this punishment was worse...his peers' comments cut him to the quick. Gideon quietly took his seat, avoiding eye contact with anyone. What was today's lesson again? Ah yes, genetics. How fitting...Craven began his lecture:
‘Now, where was I, before I had to fetch this little toe-rag from upstairs?'
A small blond boy at the back of the class put up his hand, ‘Please sir, you were explaining about inherited characteristics.'
‘Thank you Taverner. As I was saying, some characteristics are inherited from one's parents. This can be anything from height to eye colour. Now...who can I pick on? Ah, Carter! Come up to the front!' He had an evil glint in his eye.
‘Sir, I really don't think that's necessary...'
‘Nonsense, my boy! McLaren, Ripon, send the queer up here!'
Gideon's stomach lurched again. He felt McLaren's hand on his left shoulder, and Ripon's on his right. He stood up - there was nothing he could do. He knew exactly why Craven ‘needed' him as an example. When he was stood next to him, Craven resumed his speech. ‘Last lesson, we talked about organisms having potential genes but not necessarily being able to use them because of their environment. We have the basic genes: for eye colour, hair colour, height, weight, et cetera, but can anyone tell me any others?'
McLaren spoke, ‘The gay gene Sir'
Craven laughed his sickening laugh, ‘Precisely, McLaren. Now, bearing in mind what I've just said, any of you could have it. The good news is that most of you haven't been able to "activate" it, as such. I say most, because there is one boy in this room who is different from the rest of us. Any ideas as to whom that might be? Yes, this one right here. I've half a mind to expel him. His behaviour is disgusting and not suitable for a civilised institution.'
‘But Sir,' protested Gideon, ‘I haven't-‘
‘You haven't done anything? Au contraire! You are a mutant, a freak of nature. By rights you shouldn't exist. I would blame the parents, but seeing as I have had lengthy discussions with Mr Carter, I can assure the class that it is not the environment that has made this boy the way he is. It is purely his genes - his defective genes. But no matter, he will not live to pass them on. See boys? There is some hope for humanity.'
Gideon hung his head in shame. Why did this have to happen to him? His brother Robert was normal, and people liked him. But no, Gideon couldn't follow in his footsteps - that would be too easy. He made himself feel ill. He wished he could deny their accusations, but he couldn't. They were all true, every word. He was a disgrace. He wished it wasn't true. Craven was right - this was worse than anything the headmaster could dish out on his one. He was an outcast. That was all. And he always would be - it could never change.