“Lazlo practises J.I.T. teaching,” Loreta Soreen, his TA, doesn’t so much say as ooze with an easy Lancashire drawl, “He’s where the kids are: that’s where you’ll find him. Just. In. Time.”
True to her description of him, Lazlo Musk (three time winner of the Financial Times Educational Supplement’s Online Resource-preneur of the Year Bitcoin Virtua-Rosette) is to be found, on his Reiss pinstripe-pantalooned knees at eye-level with Connor, an eight-year old student at Bracewell Primary.
“Connor,” says Lazlo, without blinking. “C’mon. Track me, dude.” (Connor sits up a bit straighter so that he is level with Lazlo.) “This sentence. What’s missing?”
“Ninjas?” Connor starts to chew the eraser on the end of his Avengers 2: Age of Ultron pencil.
“Are there ninjas in Lord of the Flies, Connor?”
“Flies?” Connor looks over to the Playmobil Lord of the Flies diarama in the centre of Lazlo’s classroom.
“Dude,” says Lazlo, still not having blinked, “Granted, there are some flies in the text, but are you seriously telling me that what’ll up-level that sentence is the addition of a fly?”
“Zombies?” Connor’s lip is curling and his tracking is starting to slip.
“Man, it’s always zombies with you, dude.” Lazlo clicks his fingers and Connor’s tracking perks up along with the tracking of several students adjacent. Lazlo looks at the other students: “Guys, surplus tracking?” They look back to their descriptive pieces. “So, Connor-tron. What’s missing?”
“Er, fuck off?” Connor smiles.
“Conn-ster. We’ve been down this road many times, you and I.” Lazlo has still not blinked his dark, Spanish eyes. “Where does this road lead?”
“Got it in one. The Garb-meistress, indeed.” Lazlo looks down again at Connor’s sentence. “Seriously, little man. Say the sentence out loud. What’s missing?”
Connor shrugs and looks back at his spidery writing. He opens his mouth.
A muffled shreik comes from somewhere beyond the corridor. Glynnis Hardacre, the TA of Michael Benzine (two time Wizards of the Coast Waterdeep Teacher-in-residence) bursts into Lazlo’s classroom: “Loreta, come quickly! I need all hands on deck!”
Loreta smiles and glides out of the room across to Michael’s classroom, where we see Michael clad in virtual reality helmet, curled foetal on the 100-square carpet in front of his interactive whiteboard. He is sweating and uttering a low, creaking keen.
“Has he been using Pokemon GO again?” asks Loreta, making to smooth his feverish brow.
“Don’t touch him, Loreta!” Glynnis places her hands on Loreta’s shoulders and gently pulls her back from him. “He’s not stabilized.”
“It’s not my fault!” Callum, a Year 6 student sat on the Piplup’s table, calls out. “I thought we was just playing.”
“He thinks he’s trapped in one of Callum’s Pokeballs,” Glynnis explains to me, every so often looking down to the foetal Michael, who is gently rocking on his side. “We really don’t want Mrs Garbutt to have to come and free him again.”
“I don’t think there’s such a thing as a fourth strike,” adds Loreta. Glynnis walks over to the classroom door and looks down the corridor.
“Oh no! She’s on a walkabout!” Glynnis dips her head back into the classroom before Mrs Garbutt (the head of Bracewell Primary) sees her. “If she sees Michael like this, he’ll have to go on supply.”
“And be back here next week on better terms.” adds Ursula, looking up from her piece of procedural writing on how to release a teacher from a Pokeball.
At this point, Michael is uttering a back-of-the-throat moan (not unlike Rob Brydon’s ‘man trapped in throat’ routine): “Le’me out. Le’me out.”
In the nick of time, Lazlo Musk enters the classroom, flourishing his Prada waistcoat as he strides over to Michael and goes down on one boney pin-striped knee. He leans close to Michael’s glistening ear and briefly looks up to Loreta.
Loreta pushes her lips together and forward – lipstick a smouldering bruise. Glynnis touches a finger lightly to the top button of her broidery Anglais summer cardigan. Lazlo opens his lips and leans down further over the almost perceptibly vibrating Michael. He breathes into Michael’s ear.
“Benzine broke free.”
And Mrs Garbutt strides into the classroom as Michael is stood before his rapt pupils: a tableau of elation.
“Just in time,” hisses Loreta as she breezes past me.