bullet holes

Posted: February 19, 2014 in memories

i wasn’t directly responsible for the bullet holes
in the deputy headmaster’s door

he was my math teacher
beet red face_ big nose and bristling moustaches
like a sergeant major with a voice matching his demeanour
and a fearsome reputation for corporal punishment we reckoned he took pride in _
to a man_ our class was terrified of him

after lunchtimes he was usually six sheets to the wind anyway
but on the Monday afternoon Britain went decimal
Mr Penny swayed into the door of the maths room where we waited
and staggered down to the store cupboard without saying a word_
rummaging about noisily he brought out a gross of 12inch rulers
then he stumbled up and down the aisles of our desks
snapping the rulers in half one by one
dropping the broken pieces all over the floor _
he explained with quite a bit of colourful language
that we wouldn’t need foot long rulers any more

we were 13 & 14 year old tearaways
but i don’t recall any of us laughing _
so finally disgusted with himself and with us
most of all with the new decimal system
he crashed down into his chair
and flung the surviving rulers across his desk

i have to admit _ and without exaggeration
by the time Mr Penny’s patience snapped
our school was riddled with bullet holes _
few windows in the two storey building escaped the maelstrom
lockers _ desks _ classroom and toilet doors
boys were daring each other where to stick them next _
they came in strips of four in a row
a promotional see-through transfer with the petrol company logo as well
we knew which garage to go and beg them from
and on the day the promotion was over
three of us just happened to be there
in the right place _ at the wrong time

my locker was loaded with boxes full of bullet holes
i had transferred all the usual bric a brac
probably unwashed sports clothes and etcetera
even a few school text books i’m sure
to another lad’s cupboard he rented me for a box of 25 sheets _

for two or three days i was pestered by everyone
both before and after school_
break times_ and most of all between classes
there’d be a crowd of boys at my locker
where we swapped boxes or bunches of stickers
for everything a schoolboy could imagine _
in my defence_ i was completely overwhelmed
it was the only time in my life i ever cornered a market
and the trade didn’t stop until the morning of reckoning

Mr Penny descended on the school like a demon possessed by a man
he planted himself in the central corridor_
even redder with his screaming and shouting_
driving everyone before him into the school hall _
teachers and pupils alike_ no-one tried to stop him
he climbed onto the stage and promptly declared an amnesty
to all those who surrendered their bullet holes
on the single condition they surrendered them_
‘right here right now’

for more than ten seconds no-one moved
no way in the world would anyone be first to approach him !
everything would be fine_ i was sure of it
until the kid in front of me swung round
wanting to unswap his best pen for the stickers he held in his hand
i tried to silence him but he was insistent
when i looked up every face was turned in our direction _

i felt every set of eyes in that school hall
staring only at me
and stood over them all on the stage_ Mr Penny


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