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Authors: Nigel Bird

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In Loco Parentis

BOOK: In Loco Parentis
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In Loco Parentis

by nigel bird

Published by nigel bird, 2013.

Table of Contents

Title Page

In Loco Parentis

In Loco Parentis | by Nigel Bird

In Loco Parentis

Part Two

~Also by Nigel Bird~

Dirty Old Town (and other stories)

Beat On The Brat (and other stories)

With Love And Squalor

Into Thin Air

Smoke

Nigel's work also in:

Speedloader

True Brit Grit

Grimm Tales

Pulp Ink

Mammoth Best British Crime 8

Mammoth Best British Crime 9

In Loco Parentis
by Nigel Bird

––––––––

A Sea Minor Publication

Copyright © 2012 Nigel Bird

All rights reserved.

ISBN-13: 978-1301088287

for the birds

In Loco Parentis

PART ONE

July 1999

end of term

T
eaching. What a job. Nobody does it for the money, that's for sure.

Me? I'm here to make a difference. Only way to change the system's to get inside it.

If I ever end up like those middle-aged, sour-faced cogs in the conveyor belt, you have my permission to shoot me.

Mostly I love it. If you don't include the paperwork. But there are drawbacks.

Like the end of term.

You spend your whole year counting down to this moment. Soon as it comes you're left hollow inside.

There's a pile of stuff on my desk. Bottles of wine neatly wrapped, chocolates, a bunch of roses filling the room with the sweetest scent. Funny thing about roses, when someone asks me my favourite smells, I always forget all about them. Think of things like fresh-ground coffee or baking bread. Sometimes perfume – that stuff that comes in tins in a bottle shaped like a woman's body drives me crazy.

The rest of the room's a miserable tomb compared to what it's been all year. Gone are the displays of the Ancient Egyptians, the papier mache planets and the walls of words and stories. Instead, the place is stripped bare.

I feel stripped on the inside, like I've lost thirty of my best friends at once.

And the end of another year means more moments of reflection. More resolutions for things to come.

True enough, I screwed up big time in the last six months. Survived it, though.

Next year things will be different. It'll be like there's a new Joe Campion in the world.

The door slams open.

In run two smiling faces. Somehow they fill the room with life again all on their very own.

“We forgot our gym bags,” Sheena says. Instead of going over for the cloakroom she runs straight over to me. Lucy does the same. They hit me at the same time, giving a hug that would make a boa-constrictor feel inferior.

They fill me up with something I need. Love? Fuel? Company? Damned if I know.

Lucy peels off first, laughs and runs to get her bag.

Sheena follows.

Gym bags over their shoulders, they go arm in arm to the door.

Instead of leaving, they turn towards me and run back.

I get more hugs.

“Come on girls,” I tell them. “Your mums'll be waiting.”

“Do we have to?” Lucy asks.

“I'm afraid so.”

Sheena leans her head into my stomach and they're off again. “Have a good summer,” they say.

“You too,” I call after them and collapse back into my chair like a deflating balloon.

the girl in the black velvet dress

First day of the holidays, driving past Leicester Square.

The night's jumping. Tourists swarm. The smells of their sun-creams mingle with petrol fumes and the sweet spices of Chinese food.

A gang of lads ambles across the road ahead. Slows me down and stops me getting to the green light. And I don't care. It's not their city it's mine. Elbow sticking out of the window, I blow smoke into the evening and look at them. My CD's pumping music at a million miles an hour giving me the trippy edge I need to stare them down.

The kid at the end raises his middle finger as he gets to the pavement. Must feel the safety of numbers. I smile. Leave him be. It's my night. My world.

I've been waiting all year for the break and there's not a person alive who's going to spoil the mood.

I get to the house and the music's loud.  Lights flash through the living-room curtains.  It's the last thing I need.  Instead of knocking on the door I go round the back to the garden.

“Where've you been?” Emma asks. “I've been waiting.”

It's news to me.

Waves of red hair rest upon the shoulders of her black, velvet dress. It's the kind of dress that needs to be stroked. The kind of hair that needs stroking, too.

“Royal Court,” I tell her, almost impressing myself by the way it sounds.

“What did you see?”

The buzz I had when driving has gone. It's late. A drive across the city at night and I wish I'd gone home to bed instead.

“Sweetheart. About Soho in the Fifties,” I tell her.

She offers me a fag. I don't take it. Roll my own instead. Liquorice papers and a filter.

“I love the theatre,” she says. I let her talk. She's good at it and I'm not. “We go all the time.”

We. Reminds me she's not alone. Not single. Out of bounds. I forget to listen for a while. Think about the play. About how I felt my finger on the pulse for the first time in an age.

“Sheena had a great year,” she tells me. “You were wonderful.”

I'm not sure what to say. Doubts collect about me like flies on compost. Try to force them back, but they're overwhelming.

“I wouldn't say that.”

She thinks I'm being modest. Can't see that it's the truth. I could have done so much more. Cared more, planned more, kept up with the paperwork, you name it.

“Everybody loved you.” Her voice is slurred and it's the first time I notice. “The children and the parents.”

Maybe she's right there, but it's not the same as being wonderful. I was supposed to teach them things. All thirty of them.

“I could have done better.” Just thinking about school again makes me feel cold. Bumps rise on my skin. The hairs on end. I look at them and see what I'm wearing. My favourite sleeveless with the sunglasses print. Makes me feel good. Sexy.

Emma's staring. Opens her lips like she wants me to kiss her. There's a shine to them. I notice the colour of her eyes. Blue with tiny flecks of grey, a tiny ring of contact lenses around the iris.

“Should we go inside?” I ask. It's the only way I can think of to stop myself leaning in.

She stands up. Stumbles. Bends over to pick up the bottle, her glass, her lighter and fags. It's too much. She drops her fags and I pick them up.

She reaches out. I take her hand and she pulls me up. We stagger even though I'm sober. Somehow she keeps a grip on all she has. We go into the kitchen, joined together like a dog and its owner, and mix.

Soon as we're in the kitchen I wish we'd stayed outside.

Emma pours herself another drink. Her eyes strain as she tries not to miss the glass.

The old man leaning against the fridge, one hand jammed into his jeans pocket and two leather patches on the elbows of his crumpled jacket, turns towards her, leans over and whispers something I can't make out.

I want to take her outside. Find a field. Pretend none of the rest exists.

She bends over to the man, kisses him softly on the cheek and throws her arms into the air as if she's never been so happy.

“I want to be inside you now, not moving just inside” he says like he was born to spout shit all his life. The accent's Irish and it's lyrical like a poem. Even I'm charmed by the way the words come out.

“Yeats?” I ask, figuring it's worth a go.

“Tis one of me own,” he says.

“Wonderful,” Emma laughs and lifts herself onto the counter. Her arm reaches behind my back, she takes my hand and squeezes. “You're a wonderful man, Tony.”

I put two and two together. Maxine's father. Published poet, drinker and ladies' man.

Emma's fingers find their way under my shirt. I picture them, tipped with black nail varnish, lightly scratching my skin and teasing my imagination.

I think of taking her outside. Maybe to ask her for a walk.

“Now did you ever read Austen?” Tony asks more to Emma than to me.

“My God, she's my favourite,” Emma says.

No, I think, but keep my mouth shut.

I don't even listen to the rest. It's like being in a double-English class.

Once in a while they pause for breath or to fill their glasses. I'm just waiting for him to go to bed so I can pop the question.

“And there was me thinking the modern generation was thick as brick-layers,” Tony says. Seems like he's coming to the end. He stubs out another fag. Turns on a tap and fills a mug with water.

I'm going to take her out. Stand her up against a tree and lift her skirt. Let her see how good life can be. Make her moan and shout and give her nails a real job to do.

Tony stands in the middle of the floor. Sways a little, like the act of thinking is taking up too much of his energy. He opens his mouth like we're off again and closes it without speaking. He raises his mug to us, winks at me like he's acknowledging the better man and staggers through the door-frame.

I could kiss him.

Soon as he's gone, I turn to her. She smiles. Tilts her head. She wants it now and I'd hate to disappoint.

I lean in, my whole body tingling. She stiffens and leans away.

Something's wrong. I sense it before I know what it is. It's the real world again, merging with my own.

I pick up a cloth and start wiping at the worktop like it needs a clean. When I turn round I see him. Roger. I say hi and he nods back, smiling. There's not a hint of suspicion. He stretches and yawns to wake himself up, takes a beer from the fridge and pulls the ring. No one speaks, but it's not uncomfortable.

Tony comes back for more. Must have sensed there was a new audience for his bollocks.

The back door opens and in walks Wolf, just back from a trip to his dealers. Throws a lump of hash onto the table and his leather jacket onto the floor.

“JC,” he shouts like I'm a mile away. Comes straight over and gives me one of his hugs. My spine cracks like always. Loosens me up.

“Hey Wolf,” I say and he puts the kettle on.

“Skin up,” he says.

“One for the road.” I look at Emma's red hair falling down her back and want to run my fingers through it and then I look at her husband. Roger's older than me by far. He's going to seed, but he's still hanging on to something, his studded belt worn loosely under his belly, his hair tied back and shiny black. They make a good pair I think, then heat up the gear in my fingers. The flame catches my skin. “Bastard,” is what I say and everyone laughs. I crumble the block, do my job, smoke for a while and leave.

The sun's coming up as I get to Highgate.

Beneath me the city stirs.

Music fills my head with beats. I tap my toe and wait for the lights to change.

By the time I pass under Suicide Bridge, I've thought about her in a hundred different ways.

Didn't lay a finger on her, though. Can be proud of that. Like I said, this year I'm going to do everything right. Here's to it.

back in the day

Col's having a party on Saturday. Fancy dress. The Seventies. It's only the Nineties and he's already getting nostalgic.

I know what I'm supposed to do. Buy myself some flares or a tartan scarf, maybe get hold of a wig that makes me look like I'm allergic to the barber's shop.

Well he can stuff that for a lark.

I click the switch on the clippers, enjoy the hum and the vibration for a moment, then set to shaving the sides of my head.

It's not as easy as I thought it would be, getting the lines straight.

BOOK: In Loco Parentis
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