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    Rigby Taylor
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Mortaumal - 5. School

Mort practised his spiel on Fystie during their short walk to school. ‘Reckon she’ll be convinced?’

‘You’re a born con man.’

‘Thanks, and pushing you to school every day in this thing will make me as fit as Leo, so one day everyone will want to watch me dance naked like him.’

‘You’re already fit and he doesn’t dance naked.’

‘Almost. Have you seen his pouch?’

‘I helped him make it.’

‘Great! Then you can help him with the one he said he’d make for me. Here we are, which way do we go?’

Nerves had made Mort arrive very early, so the school was empty except for three teachers who could be seen through classroom windows. After parking Fystie in a sheltered area under trees next to seats and playground equipment, he helped him out of his chair, then went and knocked firmly at the door labelled “Administration”.

‘Come in.’

‘Good morning, Mrs. Dominint, I’m Mortaumal, Fystie’s foster brother. I’ve brought him to school because…’

‘I hope nothing’s happened to Leo?’

‘No, he’s fine. I…’

‘Why didn’t he bring him as usual, and why aren’t you at school?’

Mort was already losing the thread of his carefully prepared presentation, so frowned in concentration. ‘That’s why I’m here. You see…’

‘You’re the young lad who micturated on Mrs. Pettit’s chair! Aren’t you?’

‘Micturated?’

‘Relieved himself. Piddled…’ She pulled a face to conceal a smile.

‘Yes, Miss, but…’

‘I thought you’d been badly injured and were in hospital.’

‘No, Miss, I only had three stitches. But you see…’

‘Have you told the school you’re not dying?’ Mrs. Dominint had given up trying not to smile.

‘No, Miss, you see I’m not going back there.’

‘Why not? You’d be a hero.’

This was something Mort had not considered, however he valiantly chose to stick to his prepared spiel. ‘Leo and I thought it would be better to spare Mrs. Pettie the embarrassment.’

‘How noble. But I doubt that embarrassment is an emotion with which Mrs. Pettie has any familiarity, which is a pity as she would derive some benefit from it.’

Mort had no idea what the woman was talking about and was in danger of being totally sidetracked, so doggedly returned to script. ‘The point is, Mrs. Dominint, I think it would be better if I found a new school, and while I’m searching I hoped I could spend the day here to be of assistance to Fystie and the other pupils.’

Mrs. Dominint held her tongue, while allowing her eyes to register disbelief.

Before despair at the apparent hopelessness of his mission overwhelmed him, Mort nervously ploughed on. ‘I look after Fystie a lot of the time at home, you see, because Leo’s so busy, and Amy is often at work or out. I feed him, shower and toilet him, we talk all the time and play chess, and go on the internet, and laugh and I put him to bed and massage him if he hurts too much and...’ tears were welling in his earnest eyes and he had to stop and swallow. ‘And he is my bestest friend and…’ His throat seemed to close and he couldn’t continue. He’d done his utmost, so took a deep breath, blew his nose and impatiently wiped his cheeks before looking manfully into the Principal’s eyes; his grandfather having warned him not to trust men who won’t look you in the eye.

‘Can you really understand what Fystie is saying well enough to have a conversation?’

‘Of course I can, he speaks as good as anyone. He’s much cleverer than me, can even beat me at chess. And he makes me laugh all the time.’

‘And you love him.’ It was a statement, not a question, so Mort felt no embarrassment in agreeing.

‘You'll have to go back to your old school because there’s no other school handy, and even if there were, how would you find it if you’re here all day? Do you realise that if you don’t go to school Leo will be accused of being a bad parent and you’ll be taken away from him.’

A freezing chill enveloped the boy. ‘No!’ he whispered with such intensity of feeling Mrs. Dominint shuddered. ‘Leo is the nicest man in the world. I can’t... they can’t… I…’

Mort’s thoughts churned. His plan wasn’t working so he’d try the direct approach – one he’d have preferred anyway, only trying the other because Leo had suggested it. ‘Well, Miss, if there’s no other school, can I come to this one and at interval and lunchtime I can help you. And if the teachers are busy I can help other kids with their work and…’ he ran out of ideas.

I’m sure you would be of great help to Fystie, but he’s the only CP student. The rest have different problems.’

‘What’s CP?’

‘Cerebral Palsy, what Fystie has. It’s terrible for him, especially as he’s so quick and intelligent. This is not the ideal environment for him, but at least here he doesn’t get laughed at like he did at his previous school.’ Mrs. Dominint shook her head sadly.

‘What’s wrong with the other kids?’

‘Oh, a range of difficulties, mental as well as physical. Two boys spend most of their time in wheelchairs, unable to move even as well as Fystie, the rest of the pupils are reasonably active. All have learning difficulties, but we love them and do our best to make their lives happy and productive.’

‘I could help them play games and stuff too.’

‘It’s a tempting offer, Mortaumal, but we don’t have time to spend teaching one person.’

‘You wouldn’t have to teach me, just give me the exercises and I’ll work out how to do them with Fystie, and Leo can help me at home and I’ll be no trouble, you can teach me when you teach the other kids. I’ll…’

‘Won’t you miss your friends at the main school?’

‘I don’t have any friends except Fystie. I’ve never had any. Only Grandpa and Leo. Other kids don’t like me much. They bully me because I’m a bit small and they reckon I’ve got yellow skin, but I haven’t, have I?’

‘No, you have a light tan and look extremely fit and healthy. What do Amy and Leo think about this idea? ‘

‘Amy isn’t interested, and Leo thinks it’s a good idea. He doesn’t want me to go back to that school, and hopes that if I’m here I’ll be able to make Fystie happier, because although he laughs a lot he isn’t really happy. He’s worried all the time when I’m not there. And he’s sometimes in pain and...’

The interview was out of his control. Mort realised he had three options: give up, burst into tears and plead, or try to reason with the woman. Fighting back despair he asked as reasonably as he could manage, ‘Please, Miss, can you enrol and teach me here just for a while and see if it works? I’ll work very hard, do anything you want. Look after some of the kids at lunchtime and after school?’

‘I wouldn’t have to enrol you. Because although we’re several kilometres from your old school, we’re run by the same administration, and have the same principal. But I can’t make a decision like this on my own; there are three other teachers who must be consulted, as they will be affected.’

‘Can you ask them now? It’s still early. Please?’

‘If you look out the window, you will see cars arriving bringing pupils. Their parents usually want to speak to me, and the other teachers are busy from now until lunchtime. Go and spend the morning with Fystie and the others and see what it’s like, then come back here at lunchtime and we’ll discuss it with the other staff members. However, you must promise to abide by their decision and not argue or keep pestering us.’

Mort’s relief was visible. He smiled and promised that if they didn’t want him he’d go back to Mrs. Pettie.’

Mort enjoyed the morning. No one told him he was a yellow-skin runt, shoved him around or made him feel stupid. When he crossed paths with the adults they smiled pleasantly. There were twenty-two pupils, ranging in age from five to seventeen. Fystie introduced him to everyone as his brother and they played with a ball until the chimes sounded to go inside. He then wandered around looking at what everyone was doing, showing interest, admiring, and on two occasions holding something while it was being glued.

At interval, Mort had fun playing ball with Fystie and a girl with a very narrow face and prominent teeth who, when she had the ball, instead of throwing it at one of them, would suddenly swing around and throw it in the opposite direction and then look surprised. No one minded. No one laughed at Fystie for his funny walk or incomprehensible speech; indeed, several children listened to him politely as if they understood. A fat little boy held Mort’s hand and smelled his fingers. A larger lad told him a story about a fish, and when they were all inside again with everyone concentrating on different tasks in more or less silence, he felt sure he would be happier here than in the aggressive, competitive atmosphere of the main school.

During interval Mrs. Dominint explained Mortaumal’s request to the other three teachers; Miss Glee, a round and jolly bottle-blond in a flowered sun frock; Mrs. Kind, grey haired, lean, serious with a tight mouth and straight back, wearing a grey trouser suit; and Mr. Brawn, tall, powerfully built with a barrel chest, powerful calves. A floppy T-shirt, tartan knee-length shorts and canvass boat shoes gave a sporty look, and a shaven head rendered his large round face more jolly than threatening. He confessed to thirty, but the women suspected forty was nearer the mark.

‘Mortaumal Aywun…’ he said with a thoughtful frown. ‘The name rings a bell. How come he arrived here on his own? And why’s he living with Fystie’s family?’

‘He was living with his grandparents, you must have heard of the Aywuns, market gardeners. Refugees from somewhere in South East Asia... Laos I think... or could have been Cambodia… somewhere there. His grandmother suffered brain damage. Some say the police beat her and others say the husband did it. Whatever the truth, she’s now gaga in a nursing home and the Grandfather died about a year ago.’

‘Where’s his mother?’

‘No one knows.’

‘Aywun,’ Miss Glee said with a frown. I went to school with Perdita Aywun. I wonder if it was her? She was a strange little thing. Not bad looking but no one liked her. Rumour had it she’d go with boys to the tin shed behind the supermarket and... you know, do it.’

‘Have intercourse, do you mean?’ Mrs. Dominint sounded irritated.

‘Yeah. It’s silly how difficult it is to say that.’

‘Not silly, criminal. The refusal of adults to speak openly, frankly and truthfully to children about sex is the cause of a great deal of misery.’

‘What happened to her?’

‘She got herself pregnant and left school.’

‘She didn’t get herself pregnant, virgin births are a myth.’

‘You know what I mean.’

‘Yes, blame the girls.’

‘Sorry. According to gossip, she gave birth in the hospital and the next morning took off. Not been heard of since... although I suppose she contacted her parents otherwise the cops would have been advertising.’

‘Not necessarily, thousands of teenagers run away from home every year, and many aren’t reported. Most come home after a while. The cops stay out of it unless there’s a public scandal.’

‘That means Mortaumal could be…’

‘Anything could be,’ Mrs. Dominint said with a sigh, ‘but it’s not our business. You now know everything I know. Mortaumal will repeat everything to you at lunchtime, and then you can decide what to do. Has he been a nuisance so far?’

‘The opposite,’ Mr. Brawn said firmly. ‘He got Augustus, who hasn’t uttered a word for weeks, to laugh and talk about the drawing he’s been engaged with for the last week; made me feel a tad superfluous.’

Mrs. Dominint sniffed as if she agreed.

 

At lunchtime, Mort knocked nervously on Mrs. Dominint’s office door. She handed him a biscuit and a cup of weak tea that he managed to spill as he sat down. The teachers came in, smiled at him and sat in the three remaining chairs. Mrs. Dominint, in the chair behind her desk, formally introduced Mortaumal, then asked him to tell the teachers exactly what he’d told her, including how he cared for Fystie.

When he’d finished and answered their questions, the principal sat back in her chair in silence, as if determined not to influence her staff.

Miss Glee turned to Mort and smiled. ‘Wouldn’t you sooner be playing cops and robbers and computer games with children in the other school instead of worrying about disadvantaged children?’

‘I don’t worry about them, Miss Glee,’ Mort replied thoughtfully. ‘Fystie is my friend, so it’s fun to do things with him, and I didn’t like being at the other school, and I hate Mrs. Pettie, so this can only be better.’

‘Goodness, an honest young man,’ Mr. Brawn laughed. He had a warm, gentle voice that made Mort smile with him.

‘Please don’t take offence, Mortaumal,’ Mrs. Kind said slowly, but I can’t help wondering if you’re a little too young for such a responsibility.’

‘A few years ago,’ Mrs. Dominint interrupted before Mort could respond, ‘I was on a teacher exchange program to a school in rural India. Two years before I arrived, the village had no school, so a nine year-old boy wrote letters to officials, collected signatures from the locals, raised money from a few large businesses, organised textbooks and interviewed a young teacher. He also found a suitable room for the classes, organised the rent and cleaning, and kept the accounts. Mortaumal is eleven years old and has proven himself responsible. We render our children infantile by not trusting them to take responsibility, by not being honest about our aims and opinions, and by thus forcing them to be dependent instead of self sufficient.’

Mr. Brawn nodded his head vigorously. ‘I agree with you Angelica. I’ll be very happy with any assistance you can give me, Mortaumal. I’ve not been able to get close to Fystie, nor understand much of what he says, so already you’ve proven yourself useful. And I’m sure you’ll soon get the trust of the other boys.’

‘I’m for it,‘ Miss Glee announced decisively. ‘It’ll be no trouble to set you work at your level and check it.’

Mrs. Kind added her approval and asked Mrs. Dominint’s opinion.

‘I think Mortaumal could be quite an asset to us,’ she said carefully. ‘So I’d like to enrol him as a pupil/assistant for a trial period.’

Mort’s eyes shone. ‘I won’t let you down.’

‘If you do, I’ll send you back to Mrs. Pettie,’ she said with mock seriousness, and the others laughed. ‘But I still have to get the permission of the Principal.’ She picked up the phone, made her request, listened, smiled and replaced the receiver.

‘You can stay here as long as I find you useful, but we must have a letter from your foster father confirming his permission.’

‘Thanks, Mrs. Dominint, you’re a good persuader.’

‘Not especially, they were as relieved to be shot of you as you were to leave them. So everyone’s satisfied.’ Her eyes crinkled in what Mort assumed was a smile, and he relaxed for the first time that day.

*****

Mort was perfectly happy to be the only student in his class. Two desks were set up in a small store room for Fystie and him, teachers set them tasks, explained what to do, then left them to it; correcting and setting new tasks when they were ready. As Mort had always suspected, ten minutes of undivided attention from the teacher was worth an hour of general instruction, and in two hours he could do what took five hours in a classroom. Here he was able to continue a task till its completion instead of constantly changing subjects every twenty minutes, and this suited his temperament. Fystie also was thrilled to be doing things other than reading and playing easy games. In his free time Mort played with the other students, helped them with their exercises and puzzles, read them stories and made himself so useful the teachers sometimes wondered how they’d managed without him.

He was especially useful on the days they went to the pool for physiotherapy and swimming. On the bus he was indefatigable in seeing to seat belts, checking no one was missing, and that everyone knew where to go and what to do. In the pool he was another eye to ensure there were no accidents. It seemed there was not an officious bone in his body. He always spoke to the other students as equals, never as if they wouldn’t understand, always treating everything, even problems and accidents as an adventure, and at the slightest suggestion of opposition by the pupils to anything he might say or do, he backed away, apologised, listened to objections and allowed them to feel they were in charge, if not of their own destiny, at least of the things they were capable of having some control over.

Once a week there was a formal staff meeting. Mort was invited to the last ten minutes when problems specific to individual pupils were discussed. At the third meeting he was asked for his impressions of the school and if he had any suggestions. Mrs. Dominint had prepared him for the question in advance so his response would be well thought out. Unselfconsciously unaware of the honour, and with seriousness worthy of a statesman, he said he loved how peaceful it was, and how the teachers were always patient and good tempered. The schoolwork, activities and games all met with his approval. The only thing he thought could be changed was the way the teachers sometimes spoke to the students.’ He paused, wondering if he should continue.

‘Well? Don’t leave us up in the air,’ Mrs. Kind grunted benignly, ‘sock it to us like a man.’

Mort laughed. He’d been relieved to discover that Mrs. Kind’s severe appearance wasn’t a reflection of her character; she made jokes, laughed and played harmless tricks on her pupils. He liked her, but something kept him slightly wary.

‘It’s just that sometimes when you and Miss Glee think you’re being nice, you talk to the kids as if they’re not all there... unable to understand. They probably don’t understand some of the words, but they know you don’t speak to each other like that, and probably wouldn’t talk to kids in the other school as if they were babies. They know you’re not trying to hurt their feelings, but they can’t help being a bit hurt. Does that make sense?’

‘Perfectly. Have they told you this?’ Miss Glee said without her usual easy smile.

‘No, I just noticed the way they looked. Please don’t take offence, Mrs. Kind,’ he said with a nervous smile, ‘but the other day you chucked Alistair under the chin, and squeezed his cheek as if he was a baby, and said “Come on Alistair, be a good boy for me,” and you sounded as if you were talking to an infant. He knew and I knew you meant no harm, but he’s fifteen and I could see his embarrassment in front of the others, so I asked him what the trouble was and he told me.’

‘I fear we’re all guilty of that sort of thing from time to time,’ Mrs. Dominint muttered, then sniffed slightly. ‘Thanks for pointing it out.’

‘Mr. Brawn doesn’t do that.’ Mort turned to him. ‘But you sometimes sort of back them into a corner. Like, if they do something to annoy someone, you insist they apologise immediately and that makes them stubborn. But they think a bit slower than you, so if you’d just point out their fault and the consequences, then let them think for a bit, they’d usually decide for themselves to make things good. They get pushed around all the time because most people imagine they’re too dumb to think. I reckon they need to feel as if they’re the ones making decisions about what they do.’ He looked down and blushed.

‘Mort, you’re a genius. Of course you’re right. I’ll work on myself. Thanks!’

Mrs. Dominint frowned. She was wary of people who accepted criticism too easily; in her opinion it indicated a weak character. ‘What about me?’ she asked with a slightly supercilious smile. ‘How can I improve myself?’

Mort blushed and a little voice in his head told him to be careful. His confidence evaporated. ‘Nothing Miss. You’re perfect.’

‘Mortaumal,’ she said with mock severity. ‘I can tell there’s something you’d like to say, so out with it. I promise not to take it badly.’

‘It’s nothing to do with the way you act; that’s great. You’re calm and never get cross, yet you’re always the boss. Everyone respects you and... it's just that…’

‘Yes?’ The head teacher’s smile was uncertain.

‘Well… you’re not young, because you’ve got lots of wrinkles, yet I think you try to look young. Your hair is long like Miss Glee wears it, but it makes you look old. Mrs. Kind is also old but just has it short and easy so it doesn’t blow in her face and she’s not always pushing it out of her eyes, so you don’t notice it. And sometimes your perfume’s a bit too strong…’ Mort stopped and wished he could suddenly disappear.

‘Out of the mouths of babes,’ Mrs. Dominint said in a soft voice that was not completely reassuring. ‘Thank you, Mortaumal. Do you know, I think my husband was trying to tell me exactly that two nights ago when we went to a concert. He asked me if I’d ever thought of wearing my hair up, and to be careful to check that no one suffered from asthma before I entered a room. I’ve got the message. My husband will be delighted.’ with a visible effort she smiled at Mort’s anguished face. ‘You’re a sensible young man, Mortaumal, may you always tell the truth—and never suffer the consequences.’

He wondered why it felt like a threat.

School went on as before, although Mort had the impression the female teachers were not so easy and friendly as when he first started. He put it down to how busy they always were. It rained for several days, the pupils were kept indoors, and in desperation, Miss Glee, who was a regular at Leo’s jazzercise classes, joked that they should ask Mort’s stepfather to come and give a the kids lesson. Mr Brawn reckoned Mort should be able to fill the bill, being so fit, and Mrs. Dominint said it seemed an excellent idea. Mort said he’d try, but modesty forced him to say he didn’t think he’d be any good. When they insisted he said he’d ask Leo for ideas.

‘And you’ll have to wear the same sort of costume as Leo!’ Miss Glee said firmly, describing in detail how sexy he looked. ‘It’ll be great for the pupils to see something different, and easier for Mort to perform if he doesn’t look the same as he usually does.’

Mrs. Dominint raised an eyebrow. ‘Do you think it would be appropriate for one of the pupils to dance around naked?’

‘He doesn’t take the classes naked!’ Mort said as if talking to a silly child. ‘He wears a small thong. He says it’s easier for the class to see exactly how to make the moves if his body’s not all covered up. That’s why Hugh, my self-defence teacher, wears a speedo during training—we all do, and it’s great.

‘I can’t see any problem,’ Mrs. Kind said with a slow smile. ‘It’ll do them good to see what a healthy body looks like.’

‘Mr. Brawn? What’s your opinion?’

‘Whatever Mortaumal’s chooses to wear is fine with me. The exercises will be very useful for the kids who seldom get enough, and it sounds fun. If they like it it’ll be a good way to make them fitter. We can have daily sessions. Several of the students are worryingly overweight, and most parents don’t seem to care.’ He turned bland eyes to Miss Glee. ‘What do you wear at those jazzercise sessions, Marian?’

‘Miss Glee blushed. ‘A thong and bra. Loads of people wear thongs, guys as well as girls. Bare bums everywhere. But it feels great; totally liberating to be jumping around almost naked…’ She stopped and laughed wildly. ‘Oops, sorry Mort, I forgot you were there, Am I raving?’

‘‘Yes dear,’ Mrs. Dominint said with a tight smile. ‘But that’s part of your charm. So, Mortaumal, wear what you like, as long as you are completely comfortable! There is nothing worse than a performer who looks embarrassed, he makes the audience feel embarrassed and unable to enjoy anything.’

‘I wont be embarrassed about what I wear, I will be embarrassed if I make a mess of the exercises.’

‘You won’t, because that’s not your character. So, can you start tomorrow? We could have a session just before lunch and see how it goes. Don’t take too much trouble, they all know you and won’t be critical.’

Mort’s eyes widened. ‘Tomorrow? I’ll do my best, but I haven’t prepared anything and…’ He looked up with a grin. ‘Yeah, no worries, Mrs. D.’

******

During the afternoon, Mr. Brawn came to check Mort’s work, drawing up a seat facing the two boys.

‘Do you know many women, Mort?’

Mort frowned and thought. ‘None, really.’

‘Then I’ll let you in on a secret. You might also find this useful, Fystie.’ Mr. Brawn cleared his throat. ‘There are five things to remember if you want to travel smoothly with a woman. One; they are always right, even if they’re wrong, so you must never, ever argue with them. The clever one’s will eventually realise they’re wrong, the others aren’t worth bothering about. Two; whatever goes wrong, it is not their fault; it is always the fault of the nearest male, who must apologise sincerely. Three; when speaking to a woman, every comment you make about her, other women, her work, her house, her garden... that isn’t an obvious compliment will be taken as an insult that she will not forgive until the male has begged forgiveness. Most husbands have to ask their wives to forgive them at least five times a day if they want to live in peace. Four; women are not equal to men, they are superior to them in every way, and deserve to be treated as goddesses. Five; males were put on this earth to serve, protect and provide for females without expecting any appreciation. Males have no other function apart from providing sperm if the female wishes to breed.’

Both Mort and Fystie were staring wide-eyed at their teacher, unsure if it was a joke or serious.

‘You think I’m exaggerating?’ he laughed ‘Ok, perhaps slightly, but in essence I’m giving you good advice. Do you really want to dance around in front of those three women and the other kids with your bare bum hanging out and your cods barely covered?’

Mort blushed. ‘Not really. I’d feel silly.’

‘Good man. I may be a little unfair, but I can’t help wondering if the three harpies are hoping you’ll make a fool of yourself, to pay you back for your honesty when they asked you what you thought of them. By the way, I predict the boss will continue to wear her hair long and make all around her gag from a perfume overdose.’

Mort frowned. ‘Why?’

‘Because you broke rule one...Mrs. D is a woman and always right, even when she’s wrong. And therefore you insulted her. It’s too late to grovel for forgiveness, she’d pretend she had no idea what you’re talking about and you’d insult her again by bringing it up. It’s the same with the other two.’

‘That’s... that’s... I don’t know what to say, Mr. Brawn.

‘Then don’t say anything until you do know. And call me Todd, unless you want me to call you Mr. Aywun. I don’t want to feel like a teacher with you. Ok?’

‘Yes...Todd.’

‘Can you remember it all or shall I write it down?‘

‘Write it down, please.‘

‘Oh, innocent young man! That would make me a very, very foolish person! Remember this; never put anything in writing unless a clever lawyer has checked it. You can always deny saying something, or tell them you didn't mean what they thought you meant, but you can’t deny the written word. Tell you what, come to my place and argue with me about it... I’d be interested to get your opinion. And don’t worry, I’m not a woman so I’m prepared to accept I might be wrong.’

Both boys could hardly stop giggling.

‘Needless to say, you must seal your lips. What I’ve been telling you is top secret for our ears only, you understand? That includes the invitation to visit me. OK?’

‘Very OK. Where do you live?’

‘Not far. I’ll draw a map. Come and get it before you leave school. Talk to your father and see if you can’t talk him into bringing you both for a visit; I’d like to meet him.’ With a gigantic grin he left them to their work.

 

The sound of a car horn after the evening meal had Amy cheerfully bestowing quick kisses on her three males, telling them not to wait up before hurrying out the door.

‘What gives, Dad?’ Fystie asked. ‘Mum’s been cheerful for two weeks now and that’s the third time this week she’s gone out. Didn’t get home till midnight last time.’

‘Checking up on your mother? Not very patriotic.’

‘That’s not patriotism, that’s…’

‘I know, I’m just being silly. Before I answer your question, do you prefer your mother now that she prepares the meals cheerfully and keeps the house neat without complaining, or would you sooner she returned to her previous moods?’

‘That’s a no-brainer! I love her again now. What happened?’

‘She has a lover.’

Silence.

‘Who?’

‘Her boss from the supermarket. They sometimes go dancing or to the movies, but usually just go back to his place for sex.’

Another silence. ‘They fuck... like in making babies?’

‘The same. But there’ll be no babies I imagine.’

‘Why?’

‘Because he will wear a condom and she will be on the pill.’

‘No, I meant why does she want to have sex with him?’

‘She’s reasonably attractive and still almost youngish. Doesn’t she deserve to be appreciated physically?’

‘But you’re her husband, isn’t that your job?’

‘Should be, but it turns out I married too young; before I’d sorted out what I really wanted. I’d listened to all the songs, read the romantic stories, watched all the movies about love and marriage and sex and thought that’s what I wanted too... but that’s not how I was made.’

‘What do you mean? Don’t you also want to be loved and admired?’

‘Of course, and I am.’

‘By who?’

‘Hugh.’

‘You mean you and Hugh are... you fuck and kiss and all that?

‘Yes indeed.’

Silence.

‘So that’s why you aren’t jealous.’

‘Right. Does it worry you?’

‘No, I like Hugh, but…’

‘Yes?’

‘Will Mum be leaving us to live with her boyfriend?’

‘Probably not; and I’m not ready to commit to Hugh. But it’s fun at the moment. Are you sure you’re not shocked?’

‘Of course not. I think it’s great, don’t you, Mort?’

Mort grinned. ‘Yeah, Hugh's a lucky man. And you’ve good taste too, Leo. But we have to think about my debut as a jazzercise instructor. I need help! Do you really think I can do it? ’

‘Of course you can, it’s an excellent idea, but I’m not sure about you wearing a pouch like mine. You’re only eleven and people might think its a bit kinky.’

‘Yeah, that’s more or less what Todd said, didn’t he Fystie?’

‘Yeah. I reckon you’d look best in your speedo.’

‘That’s a relief.’

‘Who’s Todd?’

Mort repeated the little he could remember about Todd’s ideas on women, and showed him the map and telephone number. ‘Ring him now, Leo. I think he really wants to talk to you.’

‘Why? What have you two done wrong?’

‘Nothing. But he’s nice and... I don’t know. He just seems concerned about me.’

‘Your wish is my command.’

He replaced the receiver. “Sounds a pleasant bloke. I said we’d pop round about five o'clock tomorrow. Ok?’

‘Yeah, that’ll be good. Now, what’ll I do about this jazzercise thing? I’m getting nervous.’

‘Good, it’ll make you a better performer. Prepare your moves, practice until you’ve memorised them, then once you start the lesson your nerves will evaporate and you’ll feel great. The question is, what exercises? You have to be careful, those kids are not fit, most have poor balance and easily get excited, their muscles are weak, their concentration span short. Most are overweight and we’ve no idea of the health of their hearts. You’ve also got to think of those in wheelchairs. Slow, careful movements that are so easy anyone could do them, but not obviously so. Give them time to think during the exercises, don’t confuse them by moving on before they’ve mastered the move, and give praise every time it’s done right—individual, not only group praise.’

‘It’s getting a bit complicated. I’ll never be able to do it.’

‘Of course you will. Come on, lets brainstorm and make a list, then you can practise on Fystie and me.’

‘OK.’

‘‘Use some self-defence moves,’ Fystie suggested.

‘Yeah! That’ll be easy. I know lots of easy stances that look impressive.’

‘There’s a sure-fire way to make any lesson a success.’

‘Make it interesting?’

‘That’s important, but there’s a saying, “Nothing succeeds like success.” If you ask them to do things that they will definitely succeed in doing, they’ll come back for more. If they feel they’ve failed in any way, no matter how slight, they’ll hate it. Every teacher who creates a sense of failure in their pupils should be shot.’

‘Like Mrs. Pettie.’

‘Exactly like her.’

Ten minutes later they had enough suitable, simple, easy movements for several sessions.

‘Leo scanned the list and grunted approval. By the way, you’ve got to be careful of the image you project.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘If they suspect you’re showing off, that’ll be the end of you. Everyone hates a poser. Your job is to make each person feel they are the centre of the lesson, not you. When you praise you must be sincere. Never fake praise! Most people have a very good idea of their own abilities, so it’s better to say nothing than give exaggerated praise.’

‘I’ll never remember everything. But I’d better start practising. Come on, line up.’

‘What music are we going to have?’ Fystie asked.

‘Fystie, you’re brilliant. I’d totally forgotten about that. What do you reckon, Leo?’

‘Something slow and happy, not noisy pop that’s designed to make people excited. I’ve a CD of Strauss waltzes that’ll be ideal.’

‘And you can have my Ghetto Blaster,’ Fystie offered.

Half an hour later Mort was so confident in the exercises and his ability to demonstrate them, that he lost no sleep.

 

Twenty minutes before lunch Mrs. Kind helped Fystie set up his portable CD player; Mr. Brawn cleared the largest room; Miss Glee supervised footwear and excess clothing removal, and Mrs. Dominint told them Mort was going to lead them in a jazzercise class just like the one’s his stepfather took in the town gymnasium where Miss Glee went. The atmosphere became tense with excitement.

The softly soothing strains of The Blue Danube introduced a self-conscious Mort as he stood on a solid low table so everyone could see him, grinned nervously and accepted cheers and claps and shouts of laughing excitement with a modest bow. He raised his hands. His class grew silent in expectation. Fystie nodded in support. Mr. Brawn winked encouragement. The women stood behind everyone with their arms folded, faces stern, ready for trouble.

‘If you copy exactly what I do, you will become, handsome, healthy, beautiful and sexy.’ Mort’s grin was infectious and they laughed again excitedly, wanting to believe him, determined to enjoy themselves, thus ensuring they would. The music swelled, drowning their consciousness of self, and...

Success is too feeble a word to describe what happened. Everyone concentrated with all their being. They copied faithfully every move, expression, and flick of the hand. Moves were repeated until everyone could manage them, and as repetition is half the fun of exercise, that was perfect too. For a few minutes Mort became a hero to be followed, admired and emulated.

The female teachers didn’t mention the speedo, nor were they particularly fulsome in praise. Nevertheless a ten-minute jazzercise class was added to the daily program.

Copyright © 2018 Rigby Taylor; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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I love Mort, his adventures, and all the supporting characters you've created. Your name game with the characters makes me laugh every time a new one appears. Using the teachers' discussion to fill us in on Mort's background was clever! Todd's advice to Mort about women made me smile. I hope things continue to go well at Mort's new school. Thanks.

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5 hours ago, JeffreyL said:

I love Mort, his adventures, and all the supporting characters you've created. Your name game with the characters makes me laugh every time a new one appears. Using the teachers' discussion to fill us in on Mort's background was clever! Todd's advice to Mort about women made me smile. I hope things continue to go well at Mort's new school. Thanks.

Thanks - I love compliments - As for hope - it springs eternal but is seldom rewarded...:o

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Exercise and movement, whether it's organized with an instructor, or totally random is not given enough emphasis as a learning tool. Students who come from 'forest schools' into a more structured learning environment are more ready to learn. I think we'll eventually see some of the students' symptoms lessening or changing.  They're being challenged, which every one needs in order to grow and learn. Very well done!

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