“Settle down! That’s enough!” The supply teacher burst in, a little late for class. He looked young, the students noticed right away: easy meat.
He swept past the front row of desks to the teacher’s desk and put his battered briefcase in its well. He produced a stick of chalk from the pocket of his tweed jacket and scrawled his name across the blackboard, pronouncing it as he wrote.
“Mister… De..la..ro..sa!” He stabbed the board, breaking his chalk in half. He rubbed his fingertips together and pocketed the remaining stub, leaving dusty white fingerprints all over his clothes. He consulted a sheet of paper on the tabletop. “And you are…8Q.. Double Health and Well-being. Yes? No?”
Rows of blank faces stared at him. Thirty pairs of unblinking eyes stared at him.
“Oh, well, let’s continue under the assumption that you are and this is indeed Health and Well-being. So,” he clapped his hands together and rubbed them. “What have you been looking at?”
No one responded. The eyes continued to stare. Delarosa scanned the class, masking his despair with a broad smile.
He consulted the teacher’s desk again. Sometimes, absentee teachers were helpful and left instructions and resources taped to the desk. Not, he was not surprised to note, in this case.
“All right then,” he picked up his briefcase and opened it. “Word searches.”
The sea of faces didn’t change but a grumble went through the room like a storm rolling inland.
Delarosa divided his pile of papers between the students at the front desks and instructed them to take one for themselves and to pass the rest back. The students did as they were told but there was a definite air of disgruntlement in the room.
At last, when the injustice of a word search became too much to bear, one voice rang out.
“But sir! We were supposed to be doing practical this week. Mrs Lavery said.”
Delarosa looked in the direction from which he thought the voice had come. The way the students were looking at him, it could have been any of them.
“Well, Mrs, ah, Lavery’s not here, is she? Now, who hasn’t got a sheet? And who hasn’t got a pen? Honestly, I don’t know what you lot think you’re going to do at school all day if you don’t bring as much as a pen.”
“Can’t we watch a film, sir? Mrs Lavery lets us watch films sometimes.”
Again, Delarosa couldn’t tell who had spoken, so he addressed them all.
“Do your word search and perhaps I can sort out a video for later on.”
“In the cupboard, sir. That’s where she keeps them.”
“Ah, right. Thank you.”
No one was even looking at the word searches. Delarosa considered the fact that they were all in their seats and so far no one was dead a victory. He turned to the cupboard, but found it was locked. He was about to turn and announce this sad news to the students when a paper dart struck the back of his head. He stooped to pick it up. It was one of his word searches.
His eyes scanned the room. Every face was a mask, inscrutable, expressionless. Delarosa destroyed the paper dart, crushing it in his fist and dropping it into the bin.
“Not conducive to Health and Well-being,” he growled. “Paper darts. Very pointed. Very sharp. Could have had my eye out.”
“Oh, give over,” someone called out. Delarosa spun around.
“Who said that?” He stalked the rows between the desks, looking for the culprit. But every time he went past a student, someone behind him pelted him with paper darts. The class was in uproar. Paper darts filled the air. Delarosa lifted his arms to protect his face and dashed to the front of the class.
“That’s enough!” he screamed and spread his arms wide. The classroom door slammed shut and locked itself. At the same time, the blinds dropped down the windows, plunging the room into gloom.
Mr Delarosa bared his fangs. The students were horrified to see they glowed in the dark.
“Right, you little bastards,” the supply teacher snarled, swooping on the first child. “Easy meat.”