26 03 2007

John turned up early as he always did. He liked to be first into the staff room in the morning. It meant he made sure no-one stole his special mug. He put the kettle on and busied himself getting the milk and the sugar from the tall cupboard whilst he waited for the water to boil.

The staff room was dilapidated. The walls were still patchy with the tell-tale traces of nicotine, which only served now as a reminder of the smoking ban. The large foam cubed chairs were sagging and some carried the imprints of decades of teachers behinds like the backends of worn out buffalo. In the far corner was a small bookcase with a wilted spider plant on top. Yesterday’s Guardian lay abandoned on the windowsill.

He enjoyed this part of the morning. The quiet before the rest of them got in and formed their defensive cliques with their gossip and the rules he’d never quite figured out. He stirred his coffee and thought about the days work ahead. He had 3G first period. They weren’t too bad then but 4B after morning break. No-one liked teaching “that lot.” Some of them were onto their third ASBO. Certainly none of them really cared about maths. The only arithmetic they could do with ease was working out their dope deals in quarters and sixteenths. At St Martin’s you were doing well if you got to the end of a period with that class without anyone being stabbed.

The other teachers began to arrive, bustling and chattering. He had a look at the notice board. The cleaners were planning a strike again. He checked out the vacancies. Nothing much different from what he was doing now. The same catchment area of ex-mining deprivation but with an extra half hours commute every morning. No ta. It was fine for the teachers with cars. The at least had somewhere to go for a fag. The other reason he liked his coffee so early.

He made his way out of the main building and through the back gates this time. The path led to the woods and the small bridge overlooking the railway line. The sky was clouding and he hoped the rain would stay off long enough for him to get his smoke. He passed Jim, the school janitor on his way back and they said hello with a silent nod.

He lit up and exhaled with the contentment of a man who has just loosened his top button after a heavy meal.. This was the one part of the day he truly savoured. Standing here looking down onto the train track the day was still full of possibilities. He might yet find that spark in some disenfranchised lad. He might get to make a difference. He chuckled to himself at the thought. Be more likely to find a winning lottery ticket on his way back into the school grounds.

The other option was he could come back here at first break. He’d calculated that if he got here at exactly 11.03, providing it wasn’t running late, he could just jump off this bridge straight into the speeding driver’s cabin of the 10.55 from York. He wondered what part of his life might flash in front of him as his bones and flesh ripped apart on impact.

(570 words)




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