Life in the Plastic Age
“We’re going to see the countryside!” enthused the
teacher. None of the pupils seemed that
excited. “No field trip enthusiasm
Molly put her hand up. “Miss Tallard, is it far?” Ah yes, Molly and her famous travel sickness.
“No Molly, it’s not far.
And yes you do have to attend.
Any other questions?” No other hands went up. “Ok then, pick up your tablets and we’ll read
about what we might see in the countryside then.”
The bus swayed along the plasti-crete strip, inside it the now slightly excited kids (and Molly, gently vomiting despite the smooth
ride). As the teacher had promised, the
trip took no more than an hour. The bus
pulled to a halt and the children piled out, their clogs clanking on the
plastic walkway below.
“Miss, do we need coats? “ asked Domina, the self-appointed sensible girl.
“No, you can put your macs away children. Weather Service is being good to us
today.” Miss Tallard waited what seemed
an age as the children folded and re-folded their plastic macs away. It was like
watching some terrible performance art about origami with plastic rain
macs. Finally it ended without applause.
“Ok. All done? Good. Follow me then, Domina, you walk at the back
and check we don’t lose anyone.” Domina smiled, mistaking the exile for
Miss Tallard walked off down the access tube to the
‘National Park’, the children sauntering behind in their usual unfocussed
manner. She would have a word about medication levels at the next parent
evening. Some kids needed more red relaxers, others more orange
organisers. The walk was a little longer
than she’d hoped, but soon they reached the viewing platform. She did a quick headcount.
“All present,” smiled Domina, doing her own headcount.
“Thank you. Can we
have you line up along the rail please.” The children complied at the rate
their morning chemicals demanded. At
least Molly was no longer green, noted Miss Tallard. “So children, get your work tablets out, and
let’s discover the countryside!”
More rummaging in bags until they all had their work tablets
“Now I’ve arranged with the Park Ranger Mister Thorpe-Ozo
for us to have a special look today at the countryside, which as you can see is
just there.” She pointed down to a small green square on the plastic plain a
hundred metres below.
“Can’t see,” someone grumbled.
“No, it is a bit far away, but give Mister Thorpe-Ozo a second. “ Miss Tallard smiled nervously.
Then, the small green square started to rise up on a column of silver plastic, climbing higher and higher, until the green square started to come
into view properly. With a hiss it stopped level to the viewing platform where the children stood. It was a square, three metres on each side, covered in dirt, grass and single small tree.
“Children, this, is the countryside.”
The kids looked anxious. They always did around nature.
“What’s the wavy stuff?” asked Molly.
“It’s grass. Before the ‘great covering’, grass was
everywhere. Even in the gardens of
houses, if you can believe that.” Miss Tallard explained slowly so they could
type. “And the large thing, that’s a
tree. They were also everywhere. Once.”
“My dad says trees were dangerous. That they caught fire.” It was Domina. Now the ‘Expert’.
“Well, wood – which is what trees were made of - can burn,
A scream rang out.
“Something moved! “ Molly was going green again, but this
time with fear. Miss Tallard turned to
look. There was something coming up out
of the soil.
“It’s just a worm. A
small creature that lives in the dirt.” She explained slowly. More screaming. More worms.
“Please be calm…”
The kids were backing away now, pushing up against the
closed access tunnel. Panic was taking hold. Fearing a crush, Miss Tallard hit the open button and the kids fled into the safety of the plastic tunnel. All except Domina, who stood looking at the countryside before walking over to Miss Tallard. “They’re not real worms, and that isn’t a
real tree. Or real grass.”
“Don’t be silly Domina, this is the countryside….”
“Worms weren’t blue.” Domina glared at the teacher, challenging her to lie to her.
Our secret, eh?” said Miss Tallard. They exchanged looks, the teacher hoping that she wouldn’t have to report this. Domina was annoying, but even she didn’t deserve to be ‘corrected’ over such a small matter as a worm.
“Nobody cares.” Domina walked off, whistling.
Miss Tallard exhaled and thought silently to herself: what colour were worms anyway?
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