After last month’s variation with our solo efforts, Eden Baylee and I get back to normal with the fourth in the series of 800-word collaborative stories. This one has a blunt, uncompromising title but it’s definitely not gratuitously intended. Honestly. If you’re new to this whole 800 word story idea, the background to it is spelled out here.
Prompt: It wasn’t so much that I’d been blind to the truth. It was just that I’d seen the truth differently.
Parts 1 and 3: Bill
Parts 2 and 4: Eden
Teachers generally don’t get a good press. Oh yes, there are the pious words in the broadsheets about dedication, vocational callings, responsibility for preparing the next generation and the rest, but alongside them are the mutterings from parents who have ‘real’ jobs and envy them their long holidays and 9 to 4 working days in centrally heated classrooms.
But those same parents are glad enough when the school holidays end and they can dump their brats at the school gates and let some other poor sod look after them for the rest of the day.
For me, it all came out when Kenny Briggs told his dad, Big Kenny, a bricklayer, that I’d said in Social Studies that women were second-class citizens. Well, I had. And it’s true. Most women are still treated like skivvies. But the way Kenny told it, his dad reckoned I’d been slagging off his mum. Well, I had in a way. I’d seen the two of them at a parents’ evening and it was pretty obvious to me that Mrs Briggs was basically bullied by both Kennys.
But then, a couple of days later, Big Kenny turns up and I’m called into the headmaster’s room.
Mr. Wiltshire, our headmaster, is a giant. He stands two metres tall with long limbs and a barrel chest. It’s like the parting of the Red Sea when he walks the hallways; students scurry out of his way. Rumour has it he played basketball in his youth, almost made the pros but for a barroom fight that ended his career. He wears a patch over his left eye after glass flew into his face from a broken beer bottle—so the story goes.
“Have a seat, Mr. Thomas.”
Wiltshire points to a chair when I enter his office. The big man is sitting behind his desk. “This is Mr. Briggs.” He motions to Kenny’s dad who is seated in front of him.
I sit down and swallow hard. My mouth feels dry as sand.
Mr. Wiltshire reads from a paper on his desk. “Mr. Briggs has brought me upsetting news, and I want you to explain yourself.”
I clear my throat. “Yes, sir.”
Big Kenny spews in my direction. “My boy said you called my wife a twat! I should smack you—”
“Quiet!” Wiltshire jumps up, arm extended toward Big Kenny like a policeman stopping traffic. “I’m in charge here.”
He was right, of course. It was his school. He was wearing his gown, but this was macho stuff and they were like a pair of Sumo wrestlers. My chances looked slim. On the other hand, I’d seen through Wiltshire ages ago, knew I had his measure. The gown was a giveaway, too. When he’d first come to the school, he’d used his brawn to disguise his deficiency of brain. Real academics scared him. Most of the staff were intimidated by his bluster, but I didn’t buy it, right from the start. It wasn’t so much that I’d been blind to the truth. It was just that I’d seen the truth differently. It gave me the edge I needed.
“Mr Briggs,” I said, keeping my voice soft but screwing my face into what I hoped looked like shock.
Big Kenny just stared at me, malevolence personified.
“As you’re no doubt aware,” I continued, forcing my shock to dissolve into (I hoped again) concern, “the vulgar derogatory epithet ‘twat’ is the common man’s term for ‘vulva’ or ‘vagina’, i.e. female genitalia. Etymologically, its derivation is uncertain but, conjecturally, it may be from the Old Norse ‘thveit’or ‘thwāt’, meaning a slit.”
Big Kenny’s mouth hangs open. He looks to Wiltshire. “You letting him talk to me like that?”
The headmaster lowers himself back into his chair. “Please, Mr Briggs. I’m trying to get to the bottom of this.” He turns to face me. “What are you talking about?”
“Sir, you asked me to explain, so that’s what I’m doing.”
The large man takes a deep breath and nods for me to continue.
“I’m taking Ms. Jenkin’s Advanced English class this term. One of her assignments is to read up on the history of words and use them intelligently in conversation. I’m starting with words related to the female anatomy.”
Big Kenny tries to chime in but Wiltshire cuts him off. “Get to the point,” he says, curtly.
“Yes, sir.” A part of me feels giddy. “I did not call Mr. Briggs’ wife a twat. I called his son a twat because he was not being very nice to his mum. You see, twat can also mean an obnoxious person.”
Wiltshire leans back in his chair, a look of exasperation on his face. “Get out of here,” he says to me. “And wipe that smirk off your face while you’re at it.”
All comments welcome.