The children are quietly writing. Over the speaker, Chicago’s ‘If You Leave Me Now’ is playing, barely audible above the scratching of pencils and a general shuffling of bodies, and scraping of chair legs.
Glynnis is stickering readers. Every so often she looks up at Michael.
“I was starving, right. You know what it’s like when you’re a kid and you’re starving: it consumes you. Your whole life becomes your empty stomach.” Callum looks up and nods.
Michael carries on: “I was starving, so I dashed out and down the concrete steps.”
If you leave me now…
Ursula is humming along to the music as she writes.
“We never used the front door – I’ve no idea why. So I dashed out of the back door, down the concrete steps and around the side of the house. The whole time, I’m thinking of this juicy apple: a russet or a cox’s pippin, I can’t remember which.”
You’ll take away the biggest part of me…
Glynnis has stopped stickering. Her glance flickers over to me and her brow furrows.
“I picked up the bottle: white, fat and freezing. It had been pecked – the foil lid punctured. But we still used to drink them in those days. And I ran back down the concrete path round the side of the house.”
Michael stops talking and rubs his wrist. Several of the children are humming along to the music:
Ooh-ooo-ooh-ooo-ooh-ooo-woo… Please don’t go.
“And I fell at the first step.” Glynnis winces. “And the bottle smashed.” He’s holding his wrist now.
“There was milk and glass, and there was blood. I must’ve been crying ‘cos mum came rushing out of the house, but I couldn’t hear anything. I just watched, dull, the blood leaving me. I even remember looking at a white cord inside my wrist (the doctor told me I was lucky not to cut a tendon) and I remember thinking that’s inside me, that is.”
Glynnis has drifted over to Michael. She’s looking down at him and two or three children are looking up from their writing at them both.
“The strangest feeling, it is. Like watching a river run and quietly fearing that it’s not flowing – it’s emptying… and it’ll never refill.”
Glynnis’s eyes are glistening in the candlelight of the Big Write.
“Me mum, she held my wrist so tight on the way to the hospital: my hand was blue!” Michael is smiling now. “The pinprick and the sickening slide of the needle as the stitches went in. Only four! I was ever so disappointed. Four.”
Glynnis’s hand moves from her side.
“I never got that apple.” Michael smiles at me. Glynnis moves closer to Michael.
The music stops. Darren’s head pops up from his VCOP pyramid: “End of playlist, sir.” Glynnis’s hand is frozen in the air behind Michael’s head.
“Thanks, Da,” says Michael, slowly rising, “I’ll pop it on again.” He taps an icon in the corner of the smartboard, a robed Keith acknowledging him with a nod from a small window in the corner of the screen.
Glynnis looks down at her hand and returns it to her side. As the music restarts, the children go back to writing and Glynnis to her stickering.
Michael adjusts the hands of his Lego man and sets a shiny black hairstyle on its yellow head. “C’mon, Truffaut. Back to the classroom.”
If you leave me now…
And he sets the Lego man back into the small-scale mockup of his classroom. Glynnis is poised to sticker another book.
You’ll take away the very heart of me…
Michael sets to patrolling the class, iPad blinking rhythmically in the crook of his arm.
And Glynnis remains – poised with the same sticker over the same book.