Thursday, May 25

The Different Types of Fruit & Vegetables

The form room belonged to Mrs. Addison and so it belonged to Food Technology, the class that she taught from her worktop in the centre of the room, the centre from which all other worktops radiated. There were no windows. There were ovens and hobs and utensils and measuring cups and chopping boards and scales. The classroom was imbued with the smell of a hundred cookery lessons, each smell mixed into the other so that it was neither pleasing nor unpleasant, rather it was a nuisance as it caused one’s stomach to growl for an indeterminate food. Every surface shone with a thin residue of butter and grease so that students seldom rested their arms on the tables. Mrs. Addison’s form was registered there every morning and afternoon, the latter being the most uncomfortable because at least the room was cleaned and aired overnight. There was also an hour a week for Personal & Social class, during which the teacher would drift off to suit her own business, marking papers, preparing classes and so on, while the form chatted and made spare attempts to study whatever Personal & Social class entailed.
Mark Goode had wedged the door open, as he was closest to it, so that the smell of the room would lessen slightly and a breeze from the bright spring day outside was allowed to permeate in through a nearby door to the playground. Next to him sat Glynn Rutherford, who was sketching very small drawings in the back pages of a notebook. There were many sketches dotted about the last dozen of notebook pages; mainly pairs of eyes separated by a nose, sometimes the line of hair, others a closed mouth; not a particular pair of eyes, but eyes as drawn by someone who has a general penchant for drawing eyes and nothing else. If he became famous, his autograph could well be accented with a pair of eyes, so quick and efficient was he at drawing them.
‘I understand why you like her,’ Mark said—‘But I don’t get why you like her that much.’
He looked up briefly from a sketch to see her, then, worried it may appear as if he were drawing her, looked at a poster on the wall that colourfully denoted the different types of fruit and vegetables. Her name was Maria and all worktops radiated from her. Ah, yes, strawberries, part of the rose family. She was sat next to Mrs. Addison’s desk and her name was Maria. All of Glynn radiated away from her. She was in all of the sports teams and was well-read. In winter she wore trousers but as soon as the sun sprung she would wear short skirts. Blue eyes. Her cheeks were bright red. Pink lips. Her hair was blonde. Her head was strawberries and cream, part of the rose family. When she laughed her eyes disappeared. Glynn was looking at her but her eyes were down at her own notebook and she was not drawing eyes. Maria was talking to her friend occasionally and her voice got lost in the hubbub of the room so that it was difficult to pick out.
‘Fuckin’ hell, how am I supposed to know how many Houses of Parliament there are?’ He abandoned the worksheets before him. ‘She is pretty, but she don’t really seem your type. I heard she got-off with Richard Flemming at that dance thing back at Christmas.’ Glynn dreamed of getting-off with Maria and sipping her saliva down his throat. ‘I just dunno what you see in her. Besides, Richard Flemming’s pretty hard, if he finds out you fancy his bird he’ll beat the shit out of you.’
‘Richard wouldn’t do that. He ain’t that much of an arsehole. I don’t even think they’re going out. Anyway, it’d be worth it.’
‘You’re an idiot… Miss, how many Houses of Parliament are there?’
‘Two!’ she shouted back.
‘You idiot, Goode!’
‘Fuck off, Banks.’
‘How many Houses of Partliament! Tony Blair better fuckin’ watch out.’ All the boys laughed.
‘I’ll eat your kids!’ said Mark.
‘I don’t even have any kids!’ Banks said. All the boys laughed, including Mark.
Once Goode had composed himself, he suggested—‘Why don’t you ask her out?’
He meant it. Glynn could see that he meant it. There was every possibility that she would say yes. In his friend’s face he could see that he believed it too. He would not know unless the question was posed. Her face, the contemplation as she twirled around the idea of him as boyfriend in the foolish hand-holding and wet kisses of early adolescence. It was the thing to do—
‘Will you ask her for me?’
Mark realised his friend was serious, that this was it, that it was the thing to do.
So he did. He got up, paused, spun on his feet and said—‘Well, what should I ask her?’
Glynn pondered for just a second—‘Ask her if she wants to go out with me, I guess.’
‘Okay, cool.’
He went over to her. The sound of the classroom seemed to swell around the vision of Mark leaning over Maria, putting the words into her ear. Glynn put his hands into fists, then turned away so as not to appear too eager, too interested. He looked at the poster of the fruits & vegetables.
‘She’s thinking about it.’
‘She is. She didn’t say no straight out?’
‘She’s thinking about it.’
‘That’s got to be good, right?’
‘I think so.’
The pair waited. Others in the class were looking at them, silently guessing at what was going on, and all arriving at the same conclusion, for it was no secret, Glynn’s infatuation with Maria. There were smiles, sniggers, laughs. Glynn was becoming hot. There was not enough of a breeze coming through the open door.
Then Maria’s friend, Vicky, arose from her seat and came over. She spoke quietly, at Glynn—‘Maria will go out with you if you ask her yourself.’
Glynn could not believe it, could not believe it as Mark Goode slapped him on the back and gave a cheer. Vicky smiled and retreated; she and Maria exchanged a few words.
‘Well what?’
‘Well, what are you waiting for?’
Glynn’s hands had unclenched, but his body was heavy, anchored to the chair. There was naught to do but get up and ask her, to leave the sketches for a moment and confront Maria with the question that would answer his sole fantasy. So much he had dreamed of her, had stared from afar and wished that she were his and he were hers. His legs trembled slightly, his hands on the table, standing up. ‘Good luck, mate.’ He walked over and she grew. All the noise that had been there before died down to an absolute hush. Mrs. Addison remained oblivious. The whole class was tuned into him. Maria was waiting for him. She allowed him a small shy smile and he smiled back. At last, closing the distance between them, he asked a question to which he already knew the answer.
‘All right, Maria.’
‘Hi, Glynn.’
‘Do you want to go out with me?’
She shook her head—‘No.’
He did not understand. She could see that he could not understand so she shook her head and repeated—‘No.’
Some classmates gasped, some laughed, some did nothing at all because they didn’t care.
Glynn was certain the blood had drained out of him through a hole in his foot. He moved his mouth, stammered. Vicky and Maria were looking at him, with smiles on their faces. Glynn turned around away from all the worktops that radiated away from her. He sat down. Mark Goode was trying to speak to him but Glynn just stared at Maria, who was sharing a joke with Vicky, because they were both laughing. Maria looked so beautiful when she laughed.

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