Part The Fourth
“What the fuck were you thinking Dwyer?” hissed Spinge, his nose two inches in front of my face.
I was trapped, accosted by Spinge in the stairwell. In my peripheral vision I could see boys trudging rapidly up and down the stairs, all studiously avoiding even glancing at us. The bell was about to ring to start the day’s next lesson.
Spinge was the school’s stern, but usually good hearted, head biology master. He possessed a formidable nose which protruded from his face at an arresting angular inclination, and was currently occupying a large portion of my visual field. My eyes were wide with astonishment, while Spinge’s orbs were narrow with menace. Neither of us was breathing: Spinge seemingly on account of unaccountable anger, which allowed him only to sputter and hiss, and I, because Spinge had pulled my tie so tightly that strangulation was imminent.
“Uhhhhhhhh?!” I replied, my intellect slowed somewhat by cerebral hypoxia.
“Why on earth did you do it? You must have been out of your head. What sort of person would do such a thing?”
I stared in panic, a rabbit caught in the glare of Spinge’s oncoming headlights.
“Did you, perhaps, want a moment of fame and glory? Or maybe you purposely set out to destroy the good name of your school, and your teachers?”
As I had never entertained any of these objectives, I was enlightened no further by Spinge’s continued tirade. I concluded that this was a case of mistaken identity and Spinge was addressing the wrong person. My blank, and no doubt mildly cyanosed expression, caused Spinge to hesitate as though momentarily confused. He reduced briefly the tension on my tie. I wheezed in a grateful lungful of air, and felt the colour of my face change from a purple to blotchy red, my normal colour of self-conscious embarrassment.
“Uhhhhhh” I stammered, in, what I thought, was a helpful, but tentative tone, not wanting Spinge to pull on my tie again. He was still clasping it in his tightly fisted left hand. His nose was still mere inches from my own. At the same, time I was indeed curious to find out what we were talking about.
“Uh, excuse me Sir” I added. “Um, I hate to seem impertinent, but to which particular ineptitude of mine are you referring.”
“Your bloody skeleton,” erupted Spinge in a staccato fashion, jerking my tie again with each explosive syllable.
“Oh, that”, I squeaked in bewilderment, with what felt like the last puff of air in my lungs.
“Yes, that,” barked Spinge, giving my tie two good strong pulls of emphasis.
As I felt my tie tightening inexorably around my neck, I began to see tiny silver stars blinking as they floated around in front of my eyes. In his rage, Spinge now let go of my tie and, placing hand on my chest, pushed me forcefully backwards. The brick wall behind me stopped my head with a painful thud. I gasped and stared, wide eyed at Spinge, who was wild eyed with rage. I tried to consider why my skeleton should have made him so angry.
The construction of a skeleton had been the requirement of the grade 10 biology project. Mine, I thought, had been a reasonable skeleton, put together from the insides of a baby bunny rabbit. True, it had by no means been a perfect piece of handiwork, but I had been awarded a passable 65%, a ‘C’ symbol.
Considering that only three of us in the biology class had achieved a pass mark at all [one genius had received an ‘A’, one a ‘B’, and my skeleton had received the only ‘C’], it appeared that Spinge’s rage was disproportionate to the project assessments.
“Uh, that bad was it Sir?” I enquired.
“Not your skeleton Dwyer, you idiot”, exploded Spinge confusingly. I seized my tie defensively.
‘What is he going on about?’ I wondered.
“This!” screamed Spinge, as though he were reading my mind. He was brandishing a rolled up newspaper at me. He whacked my head with it and then unfurled it in front of my face. The bold black letters of the headline glared accusingly at me: ‘SCHOOL BOYS ANIMAL MASSACRE’.
I stared, blinking at the headline, not sure what to make of it.
* * *
It was true that I had sacrificed a baby rabbit for its skeleton, but I had performed the grisly task in a most humane fashion. I had carried out the euthanasia by placing the rabbit inside a plastic shopping bag along with cotton wool balls soaked in ether. True, the rabbit had squealed and kicked for a time. No doubt being trapped in this makeshift, claustrophobic anaesthetic machine, without the benefit of a premed, was a little startling for the poor thing.
I had had a period of disquiet over actively snuffing out an innocent, fluffy bundle; a disquiet which had eaten its way, permanently, into the very depths of my soul; but, after all, boys will be boys, and I had needed those precious bones. It was all in the interests of scientific endeavor I had told myself, repeatedly.
At the outset of the project we had been given a set of written instructions which advised that each of us should source an animal. The list of possible suppliers included veterinary practices, wild life parks, and butcheries. We were to remove the skin, boil the carcass, and extract the skeleton. The skeleton was to be mounted on a wooded board, and presented to our class biology teacher. We were given three months to complete the project.
Having decided that a rabbit would make a fine skeleton, I had discovered that nowhere could I find a rabbit carcass with its head still attached. I did find out that baby rabbits were sold at very low prices by the local pet store. This had solved the supply problem, but had meant buying a live beast instead of a carcass. Feeling a twinge of conscience when purchasing my specimen, I had requested a bag of rabbit food to disguise the fact that my new ‘pet’ was not long for this world. (It is worth noting that the project’s instructions had failed to mention pet shops as a reasonable source of supply, but, in mitigation, there were no instructions forbidding the use of live specimens.)
After the grim execution, conducted in the makeshift gas chamber, I had skinned and then boiled the deceased rabbit, much to the chagrin of my dear mother. Mother dear had grown quite fond of the rabbit during the few days in which it had hopped unwittingly about the house. She had even taken to giving it morning meals of lettuce leaves and carrot sticks.
The task of constructing the rabbit skeleton had not worked out quite as planned. I had performed my rendering processes in the garden, on the camping cooker, as mother dear had felt squeamish at the thought of seeing her recent companion bubbling away on the kitchen stove. I had allowed the thing to simmer in the pot for the period which had been advised in the project instructions, but this had turned out to be a mite long.
‘Probably more suited to fully grown animals’, I had reflected afterwards. My over boiled baby bunny had more or less dissolved into little bits in the pot. I had poured my bunny through a sieve on his final journey and had fished out the bits and pieces of retrievable skeleton. Unfortunately, the little bones were no longer held together by their ligaments, as the project instructions had advised they would be at this point. I was left with multiple tiny bones which, in the end, made up considerably less than a complete skeleton. As so much of any young animal’s skeleton is cartilage, much of it had dissolved or fragmented into rabbit stew.
I had rinsed off the residual tiny bones and placed them in the sun to dry. For some reason I was put in mind of the biblical comment: ‘not one stone shall be left upon another’.
The process of building the skeleton in vitro was complex. It was like building a small three dimensional jigsaw puzzle, but with a large portion of the pieces missing, and no picture of the completed work available for guidance. Work proceeded steadily however. I obtained a smallish piece of wood and sawed it into a square shape, sanded it smooth, and varnished it.
A curved piece of coat hanger wire made a fine rigid spinal cord, on which to slide the residual vertebrae. The standard mammalian proportions of seven cervical, twelve thoracic, and five lumbar vertebrae, were curtailed for this project on account of the abbreviated supply. Bunny vertebrae are very tiny and a number of them appeared to have passed through the sieve and down the drain. However the skull was more or less intact [minus its mandible] and looked fine, if a little large, placed atop the shortened spinal column. Utilizing long bones a little randomly and bits of pelvic wing here and there, and a quantity of superglue, a kind of squatting, slightly prayerfully postured, grotesque impression of a rabbit skeleton began to take shape.
Watching the skeleton emerge from the dining room table had been a source of endless fascination for Josephine, our patient and long-suffering housekeeper. Josephine was a part-time sangoma [a traditional African healer, or ‘witch-doctor’] – a trade she plied when her day job of making beds and washing dishes was over. In keeping with her profession, Josephine had a strong interest in bones.
“I normally throw bones like this on the floor” Josephine informed me knowledgeably. Despite their non-availability as divining media, she seemed pleased to see these particular bones taking shape as a kind of reincarnated representation of an animal.
Once the skeleton was complete, a coat of clear varnish kept all the little bits more or less in place. It was now ready to be handed in. It was not perfect but it was adequate, which is why it had earned only a ‘C’ symbol.
Michael, my refined intellectual and artistic friend, had undertaken to boil up and reconstruct an Old English sheepdog, a euthanized specimen of which he had obtained from the local vet. Michael, too, had been sensibly banished by his mother to the outdoor areas of his home for the dismembering of what was a relatively large dog, into pieces of sufficiently small dimensions to fit into a cooking pot. This process took Michael longer than anticipated. Add to this that Michael was a great procrastinator, and the sheepdog was still in pieces two weeks after the handing in deadline. I spent many an afternoon at Michael’s house, assisting with the disassembling of the decaying dog, and retrieving bits from the boiling broth for reassembly.
Fortunately the various boiled bits of Michael’s project hung together, more or less, owing to the largely bony nature of the skeleton and ligaments which weren’t boiled into fragments, as had occurred with the baby rabbit. Eventually, Michael did hand in a magnificent, fully formed skeleton of an Old English sheepdog. He was penalized for tardiness, so received only a ‘B’ symbol. Another project, a little Blue Duiker skeleton, done by Willie, had earned the only ‘A’. It was so perfect, even with a brass plaque to indicate the species, that it was rumored that Willie had lifted it from the local natural history museum.
Everyone else in the biology class failed. Jonathan, another student with mildly misguided initiative, had attempted to construct the skeleton of a day old chick. Day old chicks, it turns out, do not really have skeletons - what little skeleton they possess is practically devoid of bony bits. I was intrigued to discover that Jonathan had also utilized ether for his execution process. Jonathan had, however, not made use of an improvised gas chamber. He had, by means of a wad of cotton wool soaked in ether, simply applied the stuff directly to the nostrils of his unfortunate baby chick. Whether this had caused anoxia by airway obstruction, drowning by liquid ether entering the airways, or anesthesia from ether gas hitting the tiny brain remained undecided after our informal inquest.
Owing to its very small size, Jonathan was unable to skin his little limp specimen. He had therefore opted to boil the chick whole. After simmering it for the recommended number of hours, Jonathan was left with a pot of downy chick broth, and not much else. He had fished about hopefully in the depths of the soup, employing the services of a slotted spoon; but to no avail: the entire pullet seemed to have effectively liquidated itself. Jonathan had resorted to pouring the mildly viscous liquid through a muslin cloth, and had managed to retrieve three or four gritty bits that may, or may not, have been parts of the skeleton.
In order to construct them into something vaguely representing a bird, Jonathan had first constructed a framework on which to hang the ‘bones’. To this end he had rolled a tangle of copper wire into a ball like shape to which he attached two twisted copper wire legs, and a copper wire neck. He had added a small copper wire ball for a head, with a protruding bit on the front to represent the beak.
To this post-modernist hollow sculpture of a day old chick, Jonathan had attached, by means of considerable quantities of superglue, in a seemingly random fashion, the several bits of grit he had retrieved from his boiling. The end result was a grotesque blend of copper and tiny bone, and visible quantities of glue. The artwork was possessed of an unpredictable habit of falling intermittently forward on its face owing to the instability of its copper wire legs. Jonathan had received an ‘H’, the lowest possible symbol.
The skeletons produced a good quantity of raucous laughter when they were finally exhibited in the biology laboratory and scrutinized by the critical eyes of the rest of the school, Jonathan’s offering providing the most amusement.
* * *
As a considerable time had now passed since this interesting project had been laid to rest, I was taken aback to see it mentioned in such blazing newspaper headlines. Also, Jonathan terminating a day old chick, and I snuffing out the innocent existence of a young rabbit, however untimely their demise, could hardly be construed as a massacre. I was confused and I mentioned this to Spinge, who appeared to be on the brink of apoplexy.
“You were not supposed to kill animals, you idiot” moaned Spinge through gritted teeth. “You were supposed to obtain dead specimens from the vet.”
I explained about the dearth of offerings with heads still attached.
“Yes, that’s all very well”, retorted Spinge, still ruffled, but seemingly somewhat mollified by my enthusiasm for obtaining a whole specimen.
“But why on earth did you tell the paper? What were you thinking to admit to doing a thing like that?” he continued, seeming to be about to work up his rage again.
“But”, I stammered quickly. “I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t speak to the newspaper.”
Spinge slapped the headline a few times with the back of his fingers: “The woman who wrote this article says she got her information from you. How do you explain that?”
I couldn’t explain that, but I pleaded my innocence and that I had not given any information to the newspaper. I didn’t even know any journalists. It was a mystery as to how they had obtained their information and why they had given my name as their source.
All was made clear to me at lunch break. Richard came running over with a copy of the newspaper.
“Did you see what she’s done?” he blurted out. “Are they going to expel you, do you think?”
I was confused again, as usual, but Richard seemed to have new, more detailed information, so I let him proceed.
“On the weekend, when you slept over at my house, remember? You were telling me the story of how you did in your pet bunny, to get its skeleton for Jenny and Spinge.”
Jenny was our pretty biology teacher who was supervising the grade 10 biology projects. We would do anything for Jenny.
“I did not do in my pet bunny”, I protested. “I bought a bunny, a rabbit, and anaesthetized it in a humane manner.”
“Yeah, whatever” said Richard, “but Wendy was in the lounge, remember?”
“Who was?” I demanded, suddenly horror struck.
“Wendy, our lodger; remember? She became all interested in your project and was plying you with questions.”
I did remember. Like the foolish young boy that I was, when someone, another pretty someone in this case, had taken an interest, I had been only too happy to describe, in gruesome detail, how I had obtained my skeleton.
“Well”, said Richard bleakly, “I didn’t tell you at the time, but Wendy is a journalist, she works for the Mercury. She wrote this front page article”, he continued, pointing at the dreaded headline.
“Damn, damn, damn”, I panted running to Spinge’s office. I thought I better fill him in on my disaster, before Wendy claimed that I had granted her an interview.
Spinge was, to my intense relief, no longer in a terminal fury. He seemed interested in my story, and, though a little sympathetic even, he once again indicated what a supreme idiot I was. I didn’t get punished, but I could see he was unimpressed.
“Next time Dwyer, don’t go round killing things, and, if you must, please don’t tell anybody”, was his parting remark.
Shades of Colour
“This,” said Miss Gonn, is an earthworm.
She had drawn a circle in chalk on the blackboard, an ancient means of displaying information (which had now become the more politically polite ‘chalkboard’). Her diagram had a label line connecting the circle to the word ‘earthworm’, written in perfect female letters (apologies), in yellow chalk.
“An earthworm,” emphasized Miss Gonn. Miss Gonn was our firm (of nature and physique), pretty, grade 8, biology class teacher, who usually wore tantalisingly transparent tops. The flimsy outlines of Miss Gonn’s lingerie had far more attraction for us than such offerings as circles with earthworm labels.
“Now copy down this diagram in your notes”, she instructed, pointing with her long stick at her earthworm. We each dutifully drew a circle in our notes and labeled it ‘earthworm’.
Next Miss Gonn drew a concentric circle within the earthworm. She labeled this new addition ‘intestine’, and added a second label to the existing outer rim: ‘cuticle’. She tapped the board commandingly with her long pointing stick, and reluctantly we transferred our collective gaze, to the circles on the board.
“The outer layer, the skin, is known as the cuticle and is the outermost part of the integumentary layer. The inner circle is the intestine. Are there any questions?”
There were not. What question could we have possibly asked? We, and she, knew that these two concentric circles were useless. We all knew what earthworms were of course - soft brown worms found in the garden. We knew that no part of an earthworm resembled concentric circles. We knew that, even if we had sliced one in half carefully, with a sharp blade, the cross section would not have appeared as two concentric circles.
This misrepresentation did not bother us. We had, by then, become hardened cynics. We had come to realise that school was not there to teach us anything worthwhile. School was there to offer us, at best, a flat diagrammatic outline of a small part of reality. The diagram on the board was not connected to the reality it was describing, except perhaps by virtue of the label. All the ‘education’ we ever received, really, was a synthetic, artificial, semantic construct. There was no reality in school – none. This had become a sufficiently subliminal notion by now for us to have grown oblivious of it.
“For homework,” said Miss J, I want you to colour in your earthworms – Dark green for the integumentary layer, and yellow for the intestine. The bell rang to signify the end of biology class. We got up from our lab tables to trudge off to maths.
Needless to say, my diagram went uncoloured. Colouring in circles with green and yellow pencils was not a sufficiently interesting or attractive activity to stimulate my brain out of its baseline inertia. I didn’t mind applying myself to something, occasionally, if it was even vaguely interesting. But colouring in, ‘No,’ said my brain, ‘that is not going to happen.’
* * *
Several years and more than a few punishments [for unfinished work] later, and we were sitting in the grade eleven biology classroom, in front of Spinge, the pedantic head biology master who taught the grade 11 and grade 12 classes. Spinge favoured tight shiny polyester lime-green trousers, which proudly displayed his skinny frame physique.
The same concentric circles were on the blackboard with the same labels and lines. “Right boys, settle down,” Spinge whined nasally at us, in his colourfully camp fashion. “This,” he continued, “is an earthworm.” His tone seemed to imply that we should be impressed by this special treat. Spinge’s concentric circles were coloured, very neatly.
Spinge was carefully colouring in a new the circular layer between his green and yellow layers, a brand new bright red layer which he labeled nervous system.
“Now you see boys, the outer green layer is the cuticle of the integument, the yellow layer is the intestine and the red layer in between is the nervous system. Copy these down please."
We dutifully drew three concentric circles in our notes and applied the appropriate labels.
“For homework,” instructed Spinge, pointing with an extended middle finger and dropping his wrist at the board, “I wish you to colour in the layers of your diagrams.”
Needless to say, my circles were, as usual, left uncoloured.
Fortunately there were no punishments. Spinge felt we were now old enough to be ‘responsible’, so he didn’t take in our notebooks to check on our colouring in. This allowed me to raise my slackness to increasingly rarefied altitudes, and by year’s end I had a notebook replete with anaemic colourless diagrams.
A few days before the final biology examination, Spinge made a horror of an announcement. “Nearly exam time boys,” he explained, “so I want to check your notebooks myself to make sure they’re up to date and that you have all you need for the exams. Please leave your notebooks on my desk as you leave the classroom.
That was definitely not an instruction with which I could comply. My black and white notebook would have created a serious problem. If Spinge saw my uncoloured diagrams, he would have been furious. He would have had a stroke, or he may have even complained about it to the Headmaster. They all would have been horribly red in the face with rage. I would have been punished severely, six of the best at least. Their anger would have been terrible to behold.
The mere thought was enough to induce mortal terror in me. I couldn’t do it. At the end of the lesson, I stepped out surreptitiously without being noticed by Spinge, and kept my inadequate notebook safely buried in my school bag.
During Latin we were abandoned temporarily by our teacher and left alone in class to complete a translation of Caesar’s unintelligible writings. This created an opportunity for me to discuss my plight with my close friend Michael who sat one desk in front of me: what to do about the uncoloured biology notebook that Spinge wished to check, but which would surely be the death of him, and maybe me too, if he so much as glimpsed my inadequate offering.
“You could just not hand it in,” suggested Michael.
“He’ll notice,” I muttered. “He knows each of us, and me especially. He’ll be on the lookout for my book.”
“Hmmm,” mused Michael, his chin resting in one hand, and his blue eyes twinkling through his wire framed spectacles. He turned away and stared into space for a bit, seemingly far away.
“Tell you what,” he said, turning back suddenly, “give me your book.”
“To you?” I replied.
“Yes,” commanded Michael firmly, “hand it over.”
I rummaged in my school bag and extricated my biology notebook. It was a large hard covered notebook. I had covered it in a durable grey plastic contact paper, to stop it from falling apart. Michael opened it and turned the pages briefly, glancing at some of my pencil diagrams.
“I’ll do it,” he announced simply, and slipped my book into his rather neat and tidy briefcase.
“But, but, that’s a mammoth undertaking,” I stammered. “There’s a whole year’s work in there that has never seen a coloured pencil.”
But Michael was ignoring me. He had turned to the doings of Caesar, a book of words which described the Roman Army, and often confused us amateur Latin scholars with passive past participles and pluperfect subjunctives. Schoolboy Latin translations often came out a little back to front owing to these complexities of mood and tense. Although Caesar moved inexorably, page by page, across Europe, towards England, he would have been unimpressed by the vast number of his activities which came unstuck amid clumsy schoolboy translations. Poor Caesar was often left the victim of such odd circumstances as: ‘Caesar, having been attacked by a trench, ought to have been climbed upon by a rampart, which had been a galley.’ Or: ‘Caesar, having dug his soldiers into a galley, would have crossed the sea of his captain.’
The next morning Michael handed me back my biology notebook.
“There you are,” he announced simply, but proudly. “Take that down and put it on Spinge’s desk.”
I opened the book to discover that all the diagrams, in the entire book, were now neatly and correctly coloured. Michael must have spent all of the previous evening colouring in my biology notebook. I was speechless. I had a lump in my throat at the thought of the unrepayable debt I owed Michael.
“Thank you,” I said, feeling overwhelmed with gratitude.
“Get a move on then,” commanded Michael gently. “Be off with you, before it be too late.”
He wafted his hands, shooing me away. I ran down to the biology classroom which was situated in the basement. There, on Spinge’s desk, was the neatly stacked pile of notebooks. Had he marked them? Were the sitting there waiting to be returned to the class? Spinge was nowhere to be seen. I looked through one or two of the notebooks and was gratified to see therein a few uncoloured works of art. Also, I was very pleased to see, no red ink markings were visible. Spinge hadn’t yet marked our work.
With relief I added my book to the pile and turned to leave. Unfortunately, I doing so, my school bag, which was hanging from my right shoulder, swung around and knocked the books off the desk onto the floor. I bent over to pick up the fallen books and then rebuilt the stack as best as possible.
I was just placing the last book on the top of the stack, when I heard Spinge’s rhythmic squeaky footsteps coming along the corridor outside the classroom. We met up in the doorway, just as I was making my escape attempt.
“Oh, it's you Dwyer,” he said in surprise.
I stared at him, speechless.
“And to what do I owe the pleasure of this surprise visit?”
He obviously wanted to know what I was doing sneaking around in his classroom, when clearly I had no business there.
“Uh, pen,” I mumbled. “I thought I, uh, left my pen here, during the lesson. I just came back, to look for it.”
I could feel the blood rushing, inevitable and unstoppable, to my face. I blush easily, especially when conveying untruths. The consequent erythematous changes and burning sensation which occur on my face at these uncomfortable moments are quite uncontrollable.
“Oh,” said Spinge. “I see,” he said, in a doubtful tone. He obviously didn’t believe what he was hearing, but fortunately didn’t enquire further.
Later that day during the biology lesson, Spinge walked around the class, handing back our notebooks.
“Dwyer!” he exclaimed, hitting me on the head with my notebook and then plonking it down on the table next to me. He grabbed my earlobe in a most excruciating manner.
“You clearly did not colour in your diagrams yourself,” Spinge said, tugging my head by ear.
“Uh,” I replied apprehensively, my earlobe on fire, “uh, why do you say so, sir?” I was wandering if Spinge had worked out what I had been doing in his classroom earlier.
He tapped the cover of the book.
“This work is, far, too, neat.” he said. “All the colours are inside the lines. It’s the one of the neatest books in the class, and we all know, Dwyer, that, even with your best efforts, you could not have produced work of this calibre. Who did this for you?”
I couldn’t help it – before I could top myself, I had glanced guiltily at Michael sitting next to me. Michael, slightly wide-eyed, shook his head, almost imperceptibly.
Spinge must have noticed this surreptitious exchange, for he continued drily,
“Ah, Roberts, you would do well to attend to your own work, instead of wasting time colouring the work of your colleagues.”
Michael was of a deep and serious disposition, an intellectual, who thought long and hard about things. His father was an Anglican priest, and Michael was going through something of a religious phase himself, as so many of us did in our teenage years.
“The Samaritan would disagree, Sir,” Michael intoned evenly, his eyes gazing down at the cover of his own book.
“The Samaritan, Roberts?” replied Spinge, his face a little pained. “Oh, now we can excuse our behaviour with a superficial religious quote?”
“The parable of the Samaritan can be interpreted or understood on many different levels, Sir” responded Michael, “rom the pure narrative, to the deepest, most ethereal philosophy, possibly beyond expression in mere language, Sir. The word ‘superficial’ is, an inadequate term to describe this philosophical exposition accurately, I think, Sir.”
“Yes, Roberts, yes, well,” spluttered Spinge, a little taken aback.
Before Spinge could utter another word, Michael, warming to his theme, continued:
“The parable of the Samaritan was chosen, Sir, in order to illustrate that time spent in the assistance of others, with no thought of reward, causes a benefit to accrue to the self, that, although not easily definable, is most satisfying, most fulfilling, and hence can in no way be described as ‘wasting time’, Sir.”
“But, but, why can’t you just colour in your own bloody pictures Dwyer?” demanded Spinge turning to me. “What’s the matter with you? Are you an imbecile?”
At this point I certainly felt like one.
“That’s just it, Sir,” interjected Michael, continuing in his sermonic tone. “Dwyer is incapable, Sir.”
“What do you mean ‘incapable’, Roberts? He is always top of the biology class.”
“Exactly, Sir,” retorted Michael, “Dwyer gets the highest marks, Sir, but he is incapable of wielding a coloured pencil without appearing to be, as you so aptly put it, Sir, an imbecile. Dwyer suffers from dysgraphia, Sir. He is unable to write legibly, and he is unable to colour in a diagram and keep the colours inside the lines. In short, Sir, when it comes to applying pencil to page, Sir, Dwyer is, an imbecile.”
“Yes, well,” stammered Spinge, “but Roberts, we can’t have you wasting, uh spending, all your time doing the work of others.” Spinge seemed desperate to regain some kind of control over the situation. “Uh, you, Dwyer,” he commanded, “in future, you are to leave your diagrams uncoloured.”
This was blissful news to me; a balm to my ears. As Spinge was due to teach us the following year, it would be a year during which I would be entitled to legally leave all my diagrams uncoloured. No further need to colour in, ever.
I could have hugged Michael; and Spinge for that matter.