28 days sooner

For the first time, since starting at the School, I was hung-over. I can’t say I wasn’t warned, “Kids can spot bloodshot eyes from a mile off”. I wandered into the classroom to see a picture of a pale, sickly, degenerate figure. “He looks the way I feel” I thought. Coincidentally, written above the person was the name ‘Tim’. “I’ve definitely made an enemy” I noted.

During the first lesson, all became clear. The figure I’d seen was a character called Tim, from ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Moyes. I felt relieved and needn’t have worried about my pallid complexion. “Why does everyone think you’re Adam’s brother?” asked one child during morning break. Adam is the resident School teacher pin-up. I wanted the names of every child that believed this, just so I could give them all gold stars.

Everything seemed so much more amplified in my fragile state. Every scream, whoop, shout, bang and crash sounded cranked up. I think the previous nights’ ales had also contributed to a trippy dream. I’d been a kid at School, chased, cornered and beaten up in the playground. Every time I shouted in agony, a nearby translator deciphered it. For example, “he said please stop that hurts” and “ouch my ribs”.

Zak was rehearsing possible ‘laughs’. He has an underdeveloped sense of humour, but wanted to make a noise when he thought he’d said something funny. He went through many options and it was like waiting for someone to decide upon a ringtone. The worst was a noise like Woody the Woodpecker after a stroke. Typically, this was the one he plumped for.

We went to the park in the afternoon, where every taunt he hurled at classmates was punctuated by ‘that laugh’. Such were the volume of insults being bandied around; I accidentally called one of the kids by the very name Zak uses to upset him.

It was Zak’s first and last trip to the park. On the way back he refused to cross the road with the other children. Instead, he pretended to run into traffic. Even though I had control of him, it was a heart-stopping moment. Kate, the class teacher, did not disguise her annoyance “he needs at least two people with him”, she spat.

We spent what was left of the day in the library. “I’m in bad shape” I muttered quietly. “Why? what shape are you?” asked Zak. I didn’t laugh.

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