Saturday, 10 September 2011

Animal Magic

The anecdote Nick Cohen told about Hilary Mantel in a recent Spectator:

reminded me of a wonderful man I used to know who, by a strange coincidence, was a high school French teacher (but a really nice one).

After graduating, he was sent to teach at a big school in a country town. Before he left the city to take up his new position he was warned by everyone in the education department that the establishment he was going to work at was one of the worst in the state and that the students there regularly ate teachers - and sometimes even each other - alive.

Not surprisingly, given what he'd been told, when my friend approached the classroom door to front up to his first class, he was feeling pretty nervous. Which was why, when the door burst open and a girl with wild hair and tattoos up her arms came hurtling out, he very nearly turned and ran.

Instead, he stared in terror as the girl pulled something out of her pocket and lunged towards him. It must be a knife, he thought. What was she going to do with it? Did she just want him to know that she had it or would she plunge it immediately into his arm or leg? And, if he was lucky and she spared him this time, how was he ever going to assert any kind of authority, when this was the way that he'd let things get going at the start?

Then the girl spoke.  'Hello, sir,' she said, and before he could stop her, she'd shoved the thing from her pocket into his hand. Instead of steel, he felt crumpled cardboard between his fingers. 'Would you like to see a picture of my horse?'

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