Frank bounded up the steps and into the school as he did every day. He was smartly dressed with a tie and shoes so shiny his brother had joked that you could see the future in them. He left his identity at the door. Outside he was Frank, but in here he was Mr Jenkins. To tell the truth he would probably be Frank in the staffroom, but he never went in there. He glanced up at a clock and reflected that in mere minutes, a tide of children would wash down these corridors. Some would sink, some would swim and some would remain continually adrift.
He would have extended his metaphor further, but he had arrived. Not at a classroom as such, although he was sure you could learn a few things in here. He envied the members of staff that worked in classrooms surrounded by the sugar paper covered wall displays. He opened the door and entered. He closed the door behind him and flicked on a lurid orange lamp. He got changed out of his smart clothes and into a set of overalls. He heard children’s voices outside. In a little while he would hear the bell, followed by the frenzied running of a latecomer. The faces changed, but the children seemed to stay the same. He had a theory the every school had the same ratio of late children, bright children, naughty children, lazy children, smelly children, class clowns, bullies and bullied. If a bully left the school and the balance was disturbed, then the ratio would make another child sufficiently cruel to replace them. The natural order would be restored.
Frank positioned a bucket with wheels under a tap next to the sink, filled it with water and squirted something hygienic, yet noxious, into it. He wheeled the bucket over to the door and planted the mop firmly inside. He gripped the handle of the mop, opened the door and walked out pulling it behind him. The children were in their classrooms and the spaces in between were all his. He mimed punting down the corridor and danced back again with his mop as his partner.
Frank cleaned the school in half the time expected of him and spent the rest of his day listening. He wasn’t proud of his eavesdropping, but because it wasn’t gossip he was interested in, his conscience was clear. In reality, Frank had learnt a great deal whilst listening to lessons aimed at five to eleven year olds.
He worked his way around the school looking busy and listening to a bit of simple mathematics here or a bit of an all-consuming project about Egypt or the Aztecs. Storytime was always frustrating, because he usually had to move on before he got to find out what happened in the end.
The children were all talking about the meteorite currently flying by. Mrs Cartwright had realised that she wouldn’t get anything else out of them and changed the lesson accordingly. Frank polished the coat pegs and dusted the light fitting outside the classroom as he listened to her talk about some basic astronomy.
‘So if the weather is clear, then we’ll all be able to see meteor tonight, but you’ll have to ask your mummies and daddies very nicely to let you stay up to see it.’
Frank smiled. He didn’t think that mummies and daddies would thank her for that.
‘And make sure you wrap up warm, because it’ll be a cold one tonight.’
Frank’s mobile phone vibrated in his pocket. He rushed to the door to the outside world and rummaged around for the phone. The phone display read EMMA CALLING.
‘Hello Emma’, he said. Looking around and hoping no one would catch him on the phone.
‘Hello Frank’, came a voice, but it wasn’t Emma’s.
Frank hung up. He was immediately ashamed of himself. The phone vibrated again. He checked and it was EMMA CALLING again. He answered and instead said ‘Hello Annabelle.’
The village square was largely empty, apart from a man washing a car and a severe lady dressed all in black.
‘Can I help you?’ asked the car washer.
‘I doubt it.’, was the woman’s reply.
She passed him and thought better of it. Turning back, she said ‘Actually, there is one thing.’
‘Too late now, in’t it?’, he said as he worked a large yellow sponge over the car’s windscreen.
‘Very well.’ and with that she was gone. The car washer was taken aback. He didn’t see her leave. His attention had wavered, but she couldn’t have just vanished, could she? He walked away from the car to see if he could catch a glimpse of her down a side street. He saw nothing and returned to the car.
A few moments later he heard a familiar voice shouting, ‘We are supposed to be undercover, sergeant! What is so stealthy about getting drunk and falling asleep in the pub?’
‘Oh, that’ll be her then’ the carwasher said to himself as he scrubbed the rear number plate clean.
As always thank you for reading and this probably makes much more sense after Chapters A to E.