Rough Diamonds

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Chapter 26

Mike Retief

Twenty-three pupils sat in the Grade Eight class. They were all congregated in the prefab classrooms, which were built on half-metre columns, and the class had to climb the stairs to enter them.

The teacher, Miss Abercrombie, was a tiny woman with a slight build and she was not much of a disciplinarian. The class ran riot. They were waiting for Miss A (they didn’t use her full name) when Mike had an idea.

“Come and help me. I want to balance the blackboard so it’s close to the edge.”

“I see. Miss A will knock it down,” chuckled Peter.

Mike felt honoured. He’d been “rewarded” by being accepted into S.E.T - The Society for the Extermination of Teachers. Peter and Jurgen quickly helped to balance the board precariously right on the edge of its stand.

“Let’s move back to our desks as quickly as we can,” Mike urged. They heard Miss A approaching.

“Act as if nothing is different.”

The teacher entered the classroom to muted greetings.

Miss A took her place directly in front of the wobbly blackboard. Mike and the class held their breath.

“Let’s begin with your Geography lesson,” she mumbled nervously.

No one really heard what she said. Mike and the others were watching the blackboard to see if would topple on Miss A. Mike thought: She’s going to get a big fright when it does.

Miss A shuffled to and fro. The impact on the floorboards was enough to cause the board to wobble loose and fall on to Miss A.

However, the unexpected happened. The impact knocked Miss A completely off her feet. Mike ran to see what happened. Miss A was out cold.

“Oh, shit! Come and help me to pick her up.”

Peter helped Mike to right her on the floor - not that one guy couldn’t have managed.

“Let’s get help from the teacher in the next classroom.” Mike felt a bit sheepish about what he’d done.

The teacher came in and said: “This is not looking good.”

Miss A was a bit out of it, so the teacher, Mike and Peter helped her to get to the staff room.

When they got there she was still semi-conscious, but she had begun to stir.

Miss A let out a confused moan: “Where am I...?”

Mike answered: “The blackboard wobbled when you walked up and down, that’s all,” he answered innocently. He sensed the others in the class would support him.

“Thank... ” Mike was going to say: “God”, but he censored himself: “...goodness.”

That is a relief, he thought to himself.

They continued to support her and keep her upright while she grumbled and slurred. They couldn’t make out what she was saying.

Mr Coetzee asked her what she said.

Miss A repeated it, and it was something like “My back’s sore.”

Mike stole a concerned look at Peter, who returned the look. What have we done? Mike thought.

He had mixed feelings about whether or not to own up. I’d better not, he thought, fearing for his backside. He glanced across at Peter and saw that he nodded slightly imperceptibly in agreement. Peter had made his decision and Mike stood by it.

Mike and Peter returned to the classroom, only to be met by questioning looks from their fellow classmates.

“We took her there and she regained consciousness, and said: ‘My back is sore.’” They discussed it and undertook to all keep the secret.

He wondered who would be tempted to rat on them.

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