I like round numbers. And twenty is a goodie.
Yesterday's was prime. I'm just saying.
Today's story involves aardvarks; I've never trusted them. I hope you enjoy this little slice of ancient history. I did, and I was there.
Making A Break For Venezuela
When we were kids, everything was in black and white.
We never questioned it; we didn't know any better.
I'm standing with my best friend iDifficult in the office of Horace Bristle, the headmaster at St. Mungo's Preparatory School, where we board. The old boy is blustering wonderfully as he reads the thick report at his desk.
It seems we're in trouble. We're twelve years old.
Mr. Bristle drops the report and looks our way. Mister Roth. And Mister Difficult. He almost spits our titles; it's part of the bluster. I suppose you know why you're here?
Sir? Sir? we say in unison, summoning all the innocence we can into our voices. I find this quite easy; I'm not aware of having done anything wrong at this point. Well, anything specific.
I've been hearing reports, he indicates the paperwork, about more odd goings on. Horace fixes us with his best steely glare. His left eye tics, which ruins the effect somewhat. And I know you two are at the bottom of it.
The headmaster has no idea that he's an anachronism. A clicheé. Not that he'd understand the words. He comes from an education system that's based on thrashings. And rugger. And tuckshops*. He's never heard of pastoral care, innocent-til-proven-guilty, or sex education.
And he certainly wouldn't approve of his speech being in pink.
[* And midnight feasts, of course, but we still have those. It's food, after all.]
I arrange my face into blank and polite interest. I notice that 'Difficult is doing the same, but that he looks less comfortable; I think he's carrying his ferret in his britches again.
When I was your age...
The headmaster launches into a tirade about responsibility, school values, moral fibre and back-in-my-day, but we're not listening. Curious, I tilt my head slightly and try to read the top paper in front of the headmaster. I glimpse a few words as Old Horace rants away; a vat of apple sauce... Peruvian passports... squid in a barrel... monster trucks... gold lamé wetsuits... and lard.
I smile. Now there was a day truly conquered.
A cough from 'Difficult brings my attention back to our accuser. The Headmaster has obviously finished, and is awaiting a response. His complexion is darkening; our silence seems to be infuriating.
Well?! he bellows, thrashing his came onto the table. What do you have to say for yourselves?
As we ponder our reply, the old teacher heaves a sigh.
I despise these two boys, I imagine his internal voice saying.
They're never broken a school rule, it continues, but usually only because what they've done is so bizarre there isn't a rule for it.
They've never done anything that's led to injury. The curmudgeon in him grumbles that this is nothing but luck, but deep down he suspects that it's something to do with meticulous planning and daredevil execution. People who can do that tend to make their own luck.
Though they've never done anything that's actually dishonest, either, it concedes. Despite his dislike of the pair's antics, they seem to have some sense of right and wrong.
If only they weren't so bloody creative and capable! wails his outraged disciplinarian heart.
I am aware that time is passing, and that nobody is talking.
Well?! He repeats to us, somewhat hoarsely.
Sorry, Sir, mutters 'Difficult, gazing at his shoes with a well-practised look of contrition.
Won't happen again, Sir, I sniff in a similar vein, knowing this will probably be sufficient.
The headmaster sits down and seethes quietly, knowing he has to swallow both his anger and his pride at any moment.
If it were up to me, he growls, you'd be packing your bags.
He pauses to let that sink in, but we're waiting for the punchline.
But the Board of Governors has other ideas. They seem to admire your... he chews the words and spits them out one at a time, Creativity. And. Spirit. Of. Adventure.
Thank you, Sir! beams 'Difficult. Horace casts him a withering look, but he knows he's lost this one. He looks about for something on his desk distractedly.
May we go now, Sir? I ask, keen to get my friend out of range of the Bristle's cane.
No, you may not, Roth! the master scowls as he finds the paper he's looking for. He indicates it; it seems to be a list. There's a few things to settle.
We reassume the blank expressions of the innocent.
First, where is the School's aardvark?
I'm not sure, Sir. I'm telling the truth; the last time we saw the armoured mascot, he was making a break for Venezuala on a motor scooter. Do you know if he had his passport?
The headmaster grits his teeth ticks a box on the list.
Next, where is the front lawn?
I sent it away to be cut, Sir, explains 'Difficult.
It'll be back Tuesday, I add helpfully.
Horace stared blankly at my friend for a moment, then calmly ticks another box.
And finally... The Governors have asked if you would... he wrestles with the concept, if you would bring the library building back from... he waves a vague hand, from wherever it is right now?
We exchange a momentary grin, and then gift the headmaster with our most reassuring smiles.
We'll get right on it, Sir.
Continue to Day 21 >>
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