You learn a lot of things at the age of 14. For instance, you learn that girls have breasts, and they are good to look at. You also learn that you tend to get slapped if you squeeze them without permission. Jim had learned that many times. Right now though, he was learning to not trust a woman in a white lab coat, and, more specifically, an old woman in a white lab coat.
Jim had also thought that Mrs Sweed was more suited for the job of mad scientist than science teacher, but today he knew it. She was standing behind a large table in front of the class, wearing what looked like chain-mail gloves. In front of her bubbled a green liquid inside a see-through beaker. Chunks of this liquid were escaping the container, hitting the desk and the floor. Each blob made a loud hissing sound on impact. For the moment, Jim was glad to be sitting at the back of the classroom. Next to him sat Michael, a rather weary teen who was into heavy metal music. He and Jim were best friends.
‘She must be bloody mad,’ said Mickey, his preferred nickname (Preferred to gobshite or Goth).
‘Exactly what I was thinking,’ yawned Jim, ‘At least she has plastic glasses on.’
‘What is she saying anyway?’
‘I dunno. All I can hear is the hissing and the bubbling.’
Jim put his head on the desk and closed his eyes. Soon after he lifted his head to see that the beaker had overflowed and that the teacher was melting in a comical fashion. It seemed strange to him that there was no-one else in the class until he opened his eyes. Mickey had nudged him. He yawned. The bell went. Looking to the front of the classroom he could see that the beaker was gone and he was able to walk to the door without the fear of the radioactive waste, or whatever it was, jumping out of the beaker and attaching itself to his face, causing him to melt in a comical fashion.
‘What do you have next, then?’ Michael asked.
‘History,’ Jim said glumly. He found history the most boring of all subjects. History was stupid and pointless. Learning about dead (Most of them were) people and then answering questions was not something Jim had imagined his future career to be, and it was unlikely that history would help him any further than giving him a hour period in which he could sleep or play games with his recently expired chewing gum (His favourite was “Taunt the Fat Kid”). Everyone knew Hitler was a bastard, and they didn’t need an hour’s lesson to be taught it.
The door to the history room was slightly ajar as he approached. This was not unusual on Wednesdays, as the teacher always seemed to have a memory problem on that particular day. His name was Mr Keys, and he approached Jim from the other end of the corridor.
‘Go in, umm, Jem, is it, no, I mean umm,’ the teacher tapped his head in thought, ‘Ahh yes, Jim. Go in then.’
Jim pushed the door open and walked in. He was not surprised to see the rest of the class staring at him. He quickly took his seat beside Bruce, who had the same feeling about history as he did. To emphasise this, Bruce had an elastic band and was wrapping it around his fingers. The teacher walked in and everyone in the class stood. Mr Keys was very old fashioned, unlike his classroom.
The room was advertised as the most modern in the school. Although this was true, the term “modern” was one to be used lightly. A better term to describe the room, thought Jim, is “not as old”. The chairs in the room were a bright orange plastic, but several other classrooms in the school had them now, due to the school’s budget increase in the last few years. The thing that made the history room modern was standing in the corner, covered in a large blanket of dust. It was a computer. Many years before, the school had bought a computer for every classroom, now all that was left was the one in the history class. It was at least ten years old, and took forty minutes to boot up. And someone always wants to use the computer to do their work, Jim thought. There was a rumour going through the school that there might be new computers coming, to allow for an ICT department. Jim would believe when he saw it and no earlier.
Bruce was still playing with elastic band and the teacher had begun to talk about what he had for breakfast, his clinician had told him to do this on Wednesdays to help combat the memory loss problem. Jim yawned as the teacher continued to describe his breakfast.
‘And I had some orange juice on the side,’ he cleared his throat, ‘Mr Gleaver, your finger has gone blue now; please remove the, uhh, what are they called?’
A girl raised her hand. Her name was Rachel and she was a swat. Not many people in the school liked her; in fact, most people in the school avoided her. Jim didn’t mind her. She had not slapped him once in the entire time he had known her. Mr Keys nodded,
‘An elastic band, sir,’ she said. At this point though, Bruce had already removed it. His finger was a dull purple.
‘I have removed the band, Sir!’ He said, handing the object to Mr Keys. The teacher briefly inspected it before throwing it into the bin by the door.
‘Right class,’ he said, ‘Today we are going to learn about the suffragists and the suffragettes.’
The class was quiet, which was quite abnormal for a history lesson. Laura was sitting across the table and one chair from him. She was talking softly to her friend beside her. Bruce’s fingers had now gone back to their usual colour, and he seemed to be actually listening to the lesson.
‘They were fighting for the rights of women, and one of them even died for the cause. Umm, but I’ll have to check in my text book, which happens to be in my, umm, car! Damn, right, wait here everyone while I get the textbook.’
Mr Keys left the classroom. After a brief moment of complete silence, the class erupted with the noise of pointless chatter,
‘It’s not like we can go anywhere, hey, Jim,’ Bruce nudged him.
‘Yeah, ha ha.’
Jim looked over at Laura. She was still talking to her friend, but noticed he was looking at her. Her eyes met with his and she smiled before turning back to her friend. Jim didn’t know what it was like to be in love, but he hoped it involved feeling the way he did at that moment. His heart was beating slightly faster than normal, and he was sweating, but that could have been due to the heater in the classroom, which was on the setting for sub-zero temperatures. It was now at least six or seven degrees outside.
His arm suddenly began to throb with pain and he looked at Bruce. Another one of his annoying habits was to punch someone in the arm when he wanted their attention. Jim now had bruises from his elbow to his shoulder because of this.
‘There is definitely something wrong with you today, Jim, mate. You seem to be drifting off into some sort a’ trance.’
Jim shook his head and attempted to think clearly. He had P.E after lunch. Shit, he thought, I have forgotten my P.E kit again.
‘I think I have snapped out of it now,’ he said. Mr Keys re-entered the classroom without a book in his hand. A few of the thicker students began to laugh at this but they stopped upon seeing the expression on his face. Rachel put her hand up.
‘Sir, you went to get a history textbook.’
Mr Keys said ‘thank you’ under his breath before darting back out of the classroom again. Half the class erupted into laughter. Jim didn’t bother laughing, he was finding difficult to sit up straight. He again felt his arm go numb with impact.
‘There is something definitely wrong with you today, were you like this in science?’ Bruce asked, grinning, as he always did.
‘No, I’m alright, just a bit tired.’
‘Okay mate, no worries. Did you pick up your dinner card this morning?’
Jim slapped his head and swore quietly, ‘Damn, sorry, I didn’t’
‘No worries eh? I don’t really like those turkey burger things anyway. But the pizza was alright.’
The class continued to talk until Mr Keys returned, this time holding the book he wanted. He smiled at the class, and made sure they could all see the book he was holding. It was a copy of whip-whores monthly magazine, issue twenty-six.
‘So in this book, I will find the facts I need to kno-’
He stopped because four students had fallen of their chairs in laughter and others were about to. He looked at the magazine in his hand. Oh God, he thought.
‘I am not prepared to teach this class any more! One of you must have told me to go and get this magazine out of my car, and I want that person to own up now!’
Rachel put her hand up,
‘Sir, no one told you to get that er,’ she giggled, ‘mag out of your car.’
‘Dammit! Now this memory problem has gone too far! Well class, you will just have to entertain yourselves for the rest of the lesson. I am going to the headmaster.’He left the class without another word, before returning to pick up the magazine which he had left on the table. The class continued to laugh until he was out of the door.