Aka ‘Tall, Thin and Eccentric’
“Today’s lesson is Steampunk.”
“Err, what’s that, Miss Duster?” asked Square Minor from a back desk.
“Steampunk is a sort of thing that happens in the future as part of the past – not time travel so much as Jane Austen in spaceships, but spaceships that are not fully functional with gaps for draughts…”
“Not good if you want to keep the air inside them,” proffered Tight Trapezium from his bespoke desk at the side of the Rhombus that served as the margins of the classroom. This was the Government Inspector of schools, despite also being a pupil in the class disguised as a child like Square Minor, Wobbly Oblong, Triangle Major, Cone Zero et al.
“Who’s afraid of Jane Austen?” had already been chalked on the blackboard by Miss Duster as a sort of avatar of the lesson when coupled with a barely discernible sketch of a token spaceship from Dan Dare or Doctor Who.
Below this she suddenly chalked two numbers separated by a colon: a ratio or a score? Any independent outsider would no doubt assume that ‘Steampunk’ was a shorthand term for a new-fangled way to make English & Maths more digestible – simultaneously together! One feeding off the other, a symbiosis, a synergy…
“Well, who’s heard of Dickens?” continued Miss Duster, ignoring the Inspector at her peril, as he surreptitiously wrote in his Rough-Working Book these words: “The scribe scribbled a score for school”.
The headmaster – famously tall, thin and eccentric – was also present, sitting next to Triangle Major, knees up to his chest so as to squeeze into the child-sized ironwork desk.
“Steampunk, Miss Duster,” he said, “is that one or two words?”
She hummed and hahed. It not being officially on the exam syllabus, it was impossible to be certain. She feared that it derived from some premature confusion of time-travel: a conflict of dictionaries past, present and future. Perhaps all the people in the classroom were reconciliation drains between user-unfriendly filters of time. Daytime dreams and dribbles.
Many of the children couldn’t count past one at the best of times. A monosyllabic life-sentence to cover all eventualities of existence….
Most were away with the Geometrists (a variation on Fairies or Clouds) and they were merely learning parrot-fashion rather than with the rigorous consciousness of questioning the identity of The Doctor or whether Dickens was in history or in some science-fictional version of the future.
Truth 0 Fiction 1
Who scored the goal?
One boy put up his hand.
“Yes, Copper Field,” Miss Duster asked. She could tell he was odder than the others as he wasn’t a shape, geometrical or otherwise.
He didn’t reply, clammed shut. He no doubt wished he hadn’t put up his hand. He thought he must be part of a book and not there in person. A book that hadn’t yet been written, he might have thought.
The headmaster, jack of other heads, not master of his own, stretched and yawned as he uncoiled from the desk, without even a circle for a face. That was what ‘eccentric’ meant, she thought, forgetting that faces were never proper circles…Blank or otherwise.
Time for a tea break. The kettle was boiling, judging by the steam droplets dribbling down the classroom window beside it. The headmaster had left the room, he said, to fetch biscuits to dunk. A Senior moment.
The Inspector totted up results in his head….Blink or otherwise.
What the Dickens, dare one ask? Or Who?
Desperate questions for desperate times.
Drood Junior got up to be Mother.