You’re the one who saved those kids

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He was different when he was dead, but while alive he was an idiot.
He needed money and of all the ways you can get some, legal and illegal, he chose to kidnap and hold to ransom a rural one teacher school — teacher and all. What a moron.
The minister for education volunteered to deliver the ransom — which took guts — no one considered him to be ‘just another politician’ after that. Before his phone went flat, THE KIDNAPPER didn’t turn up — couldn’t get the bus started — Miss Stephenson knew how to start the cantankerous machine, but she wasn’t about to help him. He got it going eventually, but by then the Minister and about a hundred well hidden, heavily armed police officers gave up on him and went home. THE KIDNAPPER didn’t have a plan B — didn’t have a phone charger either, so his phone died. He’d cut the school phone line — he probably saw that done on TV. With no way to contact the police, he panicked, not noticing the still functioning phone box outside the school.
He drove the bus towards the City until it ran out of fuel — parked it in a laneway and within an hour the area was awash with police. In the confusion, Miss Stephenson slipped away with five of the children. She would have gotten away with all of them but THE KIDNAPPER heard them, and she wisely left with the children she could save. He waived his rifle at her and the children, shouted at them, but didn’t fire. Miss Stephenson held her breath and didn’t look back.
The four kids I ‘saved’ were left behind. THE KIDNAPPER paced around the empty house and terrified the children before leaving by the back door when I banged on the front door — the rest has been well documented. That’s not strictly correct. You are one of the few people who know that I stumbled across the children.
Do you know how I pulled that off? The high point of my career? I was in the right place at the right time. I didn’t think they were there. I was banging on that door because someone had hemmed me in — parked so close that I couldn’t move my car. I was tired and pissed off, and I guess I sounded angry. The fuckwit must have thought I was the police and he legged it out the back door. When the front door came open, and that little face looked up at me and said, “Have you come to save us?” I just froze. I expected to get a shotgun pushed into my chest, but the kidnapper was gone. The kids were all scared and tired and grubby, and except for the boy who opened the door, they were very quiet.
I sat on the old vinyl couch with the kids and waited for the police to arrive. I’m not sure that the switchboard operator believed me when I rang it in. I left the front door open to show that we were in there and we were okay, but it didn’t stop the Special Response Squad from bursting in with the familiar sound of ‘Armed Police, get on the ground.’ I still have that fuckers knee print on my back.
They caught Stanley James Smith a few houses away, and I got a curt apology for being roughed up. ‘You know how it is Mr Fox. We can’t be too careful. Sorry about arresting you and all the rest.’
‘What’s your name again?’ I said.
‘Commander Wilson. I was in charge of the search.’ He put his hand out to shake mine — for the cameras.
‘Fuck you very much, Commander Wilson,’ was my reply — or words to that effect.
The Commander smiled at me and said, ‘Fair enough.’
We both produced our best smiles for the camera.
About a year later I won a Walkley Award for my series of articles on the Cameron Street Primary School kidnapping. The story stretched over four Saturday editions — about twenty thousand words and not once did I mention the kidnapper’s name — didn’t give the fucker what he wanted — fame.

The rest of the world needed a hero that week, and cynically, I cashed in on their need. I thought it would be good for my career. The truth of it weighed me down over time. It certainly did help my career, but it did nothing for my heart.
I interviewed Miss Stephenson for the series of articles I was writing. In a sane world, she would be the hero, but she made one mistake — she chose wisely and left with as many of the children as she was able — but not all.
THE KIDNAPPER walked into the well kept little one teacher country school on a bright Spring morning. Strangers are noticed quickly in rural communities, but although he was new to the area, THE KIDNAPPER didn’t raise suspicion. His appearance and demeanour made him look like any rural worker. His battered utility, just like a thousand others. Even the rifle he was carrying was not out of place in this environment.
People worry about their kids, but never in their wildest dreams would they expect them to be involved in a ransom attempt.
It didn’t take long for the press, of which I am one, to work out that Miss Stephenson was not going to sell newspapers beyond the usual five-day window — she wasn’t interested in being famous. “I was just doing my job. The parents entrust their children to my care, so I was doing my best to keep them safe and get them home to their parents.”
When I asked her how she kept the gunman from hurting any of the children she said, “I treated him like one of the children. I spoke to him firmly but gently and reminded him that people would not be happy if anything happened to the children.”
“Weren’t you frightened?” I asked.
“Yes, but I had a job to do, and if I showed fear, it was only going to escalate the situation.”
What a woman.
THE KIDNAPPER had a predictable background which was laid out in minute detail by his defence counsel at trial. His father beat him regularly, which caused some brain damage and he didn’t do well at school — which had nothing to do with his decision to hold an entire school to ransom, apparently. His defence team worked hard, but in the end, he was found guilty of kidnapping and a bunch of other stuff — all window dressing, the main charge was the big one. The sentence didn’t surprise anyone — life in prison, which meant that he would be out in about thirty years as long as the government of the day didn’t see the need to make some ‘hard on crime’ mileage and keep him inside.
In the end, it was all academic, as they say. THE KIDNAPPER got into a discussion with a big bloke who had kids — lots of them. The big bloke wasn’t allowed anywhere near his kids, for obvious reasons, but that did not stop him from striking a blow for parents everywhere. The resultant blow ended THE KIDNAPPER’s life after a few days in a coma.
His death was front page for a day, and my paper reran the series of articles I had written more than a year before and I became ‘the bloke who saved those kids’ all over again.
I never visited THE KIDNAPPER’s grave, and I never mentioned his name in print.
I don’t know where Miss Stephenson is these days although I believe that she got married and moved to a warmer climate. I’ll bet the children in her classroom will remember her and so will the parents.
Me too, if it comes to that.
She got her quiet life back, I got to be famous, and THE KIDNAPPER got to be dead — he was different when he was dead.

….. then we’ll begin.

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“Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then we’ll begin.”

Those magical words meant that mother was about to catapult us into a world of wonder. Dreamy summer afternoons with full tummies and overactive imaginations.

Naturally, there were bedtimes stories before we went to sleep, but this was different.

It was summer holidays.

Father had taken time off from his work in the city, and we were all together for six glorious weeks.

Part of the ritual was ‘dressing in our best.’

Mother and father were dressed as though they were about to dine and we were dressed as though we were going to a birthday party.

Mother always sat in the same chair and had her foot resting on the footstool that grandfather had made for her. She made the embroidered cushion, but grandfather made the rest.

From early in the morning until we had to dress for storytime, the day was ours, but even though this was an interruption to our freedom we none of us complained.

We had many happy years together until ‘The Crash’. Father couldn’t live with the shame, and our world became smaller.

We were sad, and our world was turned upside down as we settled into a small house in a different town, but one thing remained the same.

Mother kept up the story time tradition every summer holiday.

Then Billy went to war and didn’t come home.

Sally got married and moved to Australia, and my work took me to London.

I think that mother was hoping that I might give her grandchildren, but I was too busy to have children.

Life didn’t go that way.

No more story time, but no one can take away the memories.

The Money Clip.

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“I’ve never met another man I’d rather be. And even if that’s a delusion, it’s a lucky one.”

Charles Bukowski

“Never chase a pretty girl or a tram, there will be another one along in a few minutes.”

My mum was trying to make me feel better, and it worked, up to a point. She would not be the last girl who broke my heart, but she was the prettiest.

My mum had a saying for most situations.

Her ancestors were Irish, and the Irish have an interesting slant on most human endeavours.

I’m no philosopher, but it seems that we do most things for love; trying to get some, trying to buy some, or trying to forget.

You cannot have love without money.

I know that about now, some of you are howling: ‘You don’t need to be rich to be happy’.

Bollocks!

“If you are poor, and you are happy you are deluded.”

My mum didn’t say that one.

She was one of those people who believed that money didn’t bring happiness, and therein lies a story.

I grew up in a household where the belief was that people with real money probably did something wrong to get it.

Therefore, people with real wealth were probably very bad people.

Can you see how my logic flowed?

I was just a kid, but I swallowed this thought pattern hook, line and sinker.

None of my friends was wealthy.

No, that’s not true; there was this one kid.

His dad drove a Jaguar, but his wife had died, and that seemed to even things out for me, at least, it did in my young mind.

I grew up thinking that money had a soul, and it was as dark as night.

Naturally, with the passage of time, I worked out that this is a load of old cobblers. It’s the line that poor people feed themselves to make their failure seem noble.

After many years of struggle, we finally had a good year.

We had a bit of ‘spare money’ and it felt good.

We were a long way from ‘well off’ but we were certainly not living ‘paycheque to paycheque’ like we had been for so many years.

I read somewhere that money attracts money, and to feel successful, you needed to carry more money in your pocket.

More than would generally make you feel comfortable.

A hundred dollars seemed like a lot of money to me at the time, and I was sure that there was a neon sign on my back that said, “This bloke is carrying a serious amount of cash. Hit him on the head and take it. He’s a wuss; he won’t put up much of a fight.”

Screw that neon sign.

I stood in line at the bank, and when it became my turn I asked for two hundred dollars, “all in twenties, please”.

My voice sounded funny, but I don’t think that the girl behind the counter noticed. She was cute, and I had seen her around, but I doubt that she ever noticed me; my ‘attractive single male’ neon had been turned off for some time.

“There you go Mr Rainbow. I hope you enjoy your day. Is there anything else I can help you with today.”

“As a matter of fact, there is,”

I smiled at her, partly because she was smiling at me and partly because I did not want her to see how nervous I was.

“Is there a jewellery store nearby?”

This is something that I should have known, but my brain had gone into neutral, and she did ask.

“Yes, Mr Rainbow, just across the road. The White Box has beautiful things. Are you going to use all that money to buy your wife something nice? Birthday? Anniversary? She’s a lucky lady.”

“Probably, but firstly I need a money clip to hold all these notes. I didn’t realise how bulky it would be.”

The lovely young woman smiled at me, but I know that she thought that I must be a bit dim. Had I not held this much money before? Didn’t I know what two hundred dollars felt like? She handled large sums of money all the time. It was nothing to her. It might have been other people’s money, but it was money just the same, and if her plan worked out there would be a large pile of money in the shoebox under her bed, very soon. All she had to do was not get too greedy.

“Have an excellent day, Mr Rainbow, and please say hello to Mrs Rainbow for me.”

I looked at her name badge.

“I will Joyce. You enjoy your day also.”

I jammed the money into my pocket and walked unsteadily out of the bank.

I waited for the lights to change so I could cross the street.

Typically, I would have run across the street, dodging cars and enjoying my strength and speed, but today I had visions of being hit by some bozo in a van.

The people would gather around in horror, “He’s badly hurt”, one woman would say.

“He’s carrying a lot of money”, someone else would say.

“Don’t get too close, he must be a bad man to be carrying all that cash”, a small child would say.

The lights changed.

I noticed that a few other people had joined me in my quest to cross over to safety.

The old bloke with the walking stick was trying to stop the medium sized dog from sniffing his leg.

The dog seemed to like the old bloke, either that or the old timer had stepped into something interesting.

We all made it across safely and the dog was very disappointed when its owner went the opposite way to the old man.

The old bloke looked back at the dog, and the dog looked longingly at the old bloke.

Maybe they knew each other in a previous life.

As I reached the Jewellery store, I was nearly run down by three small children who were escaping from a frazzled mother.

“Quite a herd you have there,” I said as I deftly avoided being trampled.

“Give me that wad of cash you have in your pocket and you can have them,” I thought she said.

“Pardon?”

“I said, you can have them. I’m fed up.”

I smiled, but I suspect that I looked like I had swallowed a lemon.

The shop was exactly what you would expect a jewellery store to look like — all twelve-volt lighting and satin cloth.

The lady behind the counter was about twice the age of the girl in the bank.

It occurred to me that the shop owner had employed her because she gave the premises an air of maturity.

He was right, it did.

She was well dressed and had a sparkle in her eye that had nothing to do with the lighting.

“You look like a man who has a great deal of money in his pocket,” I thought she said.

“Pardon?” I said for the second time that day.

“How can I help you, sir?”

The smile that came with the question seemed real. I liked that.

“I need a money clip. Something nice. Something that says I’m not a wanker.”

I wasn’t sure whether I had said that out loud, but the woman didn’t blink. She brought out a small tray.

“We don’t get a lot of call for these. Our customers don’t seem to appreciate such things.”

That sounded vaguely like a compliment to me.

The limited selection was predictable and a bit garish with the single exception of the brushed steel clip with a shiny leaping jaguar. I’d always wanted to own a Jaguar, ever since my mate’s dad had driven us to football practice, all those years ago.

“I’ll take that one, please.”

“Do you have the car to go with it?”

“Not yet, but it’s on the list.”

I removed the wad of twenties from my pocket, and the woman behind the counter reacted as though people did that every day. I peeled off a couple and handed them over. I took my change and slid the notes into the clip and put it into my pocket. I imagined some rich bloke in a good suit, with Martini stains on his tie from the three-hour lunch he just had with the bloke from Mad Men.

The book said that you should treat money as a tool.

It has no magic powers; it’s just a tool.

As I walked back to my car, I noticed a slightly scruffy looking bloke selling The Big Issue. He was standing near the pedestrian lights. I reached into my pocket and got out my money clip. I peeled off a twenty and gave it to him. He gave me a magazine and fumbled for the change.

“Keep the change mate; it’s been a good day for me.”

He looked at me and grunted, but I know that he thought I was a wanker.

Only wankers have a money clip.

I didn’t care.

When I got home that night, the kids were in the backyard playing. Our dogs met me at the door, and they sniffed me all over. There was something different about me, and they were determined to sniff it out. They followed me around for ages, trying to work out what had changed.

I told my wife what I had done, and although she looked a little bit concerned, she was aware of what I was trying to do, and she had always been very supportive of my hare-brained schemes.

“Can I see the money clip?”

I’m pretty sure that it was the wad of money that she really wanted to see, so I handed over the clip and the money.

I tried to look nonchalant as I took it out of my pocket.

She held it for a moment, then removed the money and proceeded to count it.

“Two hundred dollars is a lot of money to be carrying around Brett Rainbow. Weren’t you scared?”

“A bit, but I felt better after I spent a bit of it. I know it sounds funny, but it seemed lighter, and that made me less concerned.”

“How much did you draw out?”

“Two hundred dollars. All in twenties. Just like the book said.”

“You said you spent some?”

“Yep. Bought the money clip and gave this scruffy bloke a twenty for a Big Issue.”

“I’ve counted it twice, and there are exactly two hundred dollars here. Did you have other money in your pocket?”

“No. Just the money I drew out.”

She handed me the clip, and I counted it.

Two hundred dollars.

It didn’t make sense.

“Did you include the twenty that’s on the floor?”

“No, I didn’t.”

It must have fallen off the bed when Betty was counting it the first time.

I pulled out two twenties and threw them on the floor.

I slid the clip over the remaining notes.

I took the clip off and counted again.

Two hundred dollars.

The two twenties lay at my feet.

The book was right.

Money attracts money.

I looked at my amazing wife who had stuck with me through all the bad times.

She had that sparkle in her eyes.

I was pretty sure that there was a neon sign on my back, but it did not say “this bloke is a loser.”

Whatever it said and wherever this was leading us, I was pretty sure that it was not going to be boring.

Recent Visitor.

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I didn’t encourage him, I guess he was curious.

We had that in common.

My world had been reduced to these four walls about four months ago. I listened to the medical mumbo-jumbo. “Stay quiet, take it easy or meet your maker.” He didn’t actually say the last bit, but it is what he meant. I was sick and tired of living, but I was still curious, so I did what they said.

Naturally, the family came to visit, at least for the first few weeks. Then, they slowly drifted away. I didn’t help much; they get on my nerves, and I guess I don’t hide it well.

The little bird turned up about a week ago.

The weather has been improving, so I’m allowed to have the window open.

My grandson said he thought that my window was like a big TV screen.

Him, I like.

He’s funny, and he doesn’t set out to be. He doesn’t expect anything from me, he just likes to hang out and tell me stuff. He’s more like a dog than a kid. I guess his mother told him not to wear me out and this is him dialled down to one. He must be something when he dials it up to ten.

The little bird came when he was here, and I was sure that he would frighten it away, but he just sat quietly and watched the bird. The bird watched him also. “It’s a little bird, granddad,” he said in the tiniest of whispers. “We have to be silent, or he will fly away.” Where did this kid get all that wisdom? He sure didn’t get it from my side of the family, most of my decedents are jerks.

My grandson has taken to smuggling in a crust of bread when he comes to visit. I’m not sure if it is the bird that keeps him coming back or me, but I don’t care, I like both of them.

“If I leave the crust on the window sill, the birdy will have a reason to come back.”

“If you leave the crust there, your mum will know that you did it because I can’t get out of bed.” I wanted him to know that his kindness might get him into trouble. I was curious to see what he would do.

“She might sound a bit mad, but she won’t be, not really.”

This kid’s got spunk.

Maybe I will get better.

I’m curious to see how this kid turns out.

What Came First?

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It’s hard to say.

I’m pretty sure that the chicken was there when we arrived.

I’m not sure if I was the prop, or the chicken was there to make me look good.

Either way it didn’t work; for either of us.

Obviously someone thought it was funny.

I didn’t; I was fed up and I don’t think the chicken was any too pleased either.

I’d been in what was laughingly called ‘show business’ for a bit over eighteen months.

It was my mum’s idea.

She entered me into one of those baby contests that were all the rage back then and I aced it.

You probably think that the cigarette was a prop; part of the gag, but it wasn’t.

I was a two pack a day kid by then.

Everyone thought it was so cute.

They didn’t have to put up with the cough.

Frankly, I preferred cigars, but my mum said I looked ridiculous.

This shot is an ‘out-take’ of sorts, and also the only shot that survives from the session that seemed to take forever.

I still don’t know how they got the chicken to stay in frame for so long. Personally, I think it was pissed.

I remember that Hitchcock had a lot of the birds drugged with grain soaked in alcohol.

I’ll bet that this chicken was on single malt whisky.

Her fee was more than I was getting for making silent movies and I was a star.

A very small star, mind you, but a star none-the-less.

I guess cute little kids were easier to find than a chicken who would stand still for hours and take direction.

She didn’t even need a dressing room and there was a bloke employed just to clean up after her.

What a life.

Permanently off her face on expensive whisky; she must have enjoyed being a chicken.

I, on the other hand, was fed up with show business.

I’d made twenty-eight movies that year alone and it was only August. My dead-beat-dad would run off with a script girl in a few months and take with him, all the money I had earned.

A few years later they found him naked and passed out next to a dead starlet in an expensive house in the Hollywood hills. The starlet was wearing only a smile and the studio paid a fortune to hush it all up.

My dead-beat-dad took the rap and died in prison when a very large convict fell on him during a particularly rowdy bout of Yoga.

I made a couple of hundred movies the next year but my career went down hill when sound came in.

Apparently my voice sounded strange, and mix that together with my growth spurt and I was out of a job.

I limped along for a couple of years doing cigarette commercials but it wasn’t the same.

I missed the big-time.

Within ten years I’d been forgotten and most of my movies went up in flames when the studio used them for special effects in ‘The Burning Of Rome’.

The photo you see here is pretty much all that is left of my early career. There are still a few old posters floating around but none of my films survived.

I heard that the chicken’s owner invested wisely and ended up running the largest chicken ranch in the south-east.

I’m gonna look him up and see if I can get a job.

I like chickens and it seems that they like me.

All I’ve Ever Wanted to Do.

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It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

Everyone else sees noisy little kids, I see rapidly evolving people with fears hopes and dreams.

They do their best to drive me crazy but we seem to have an uneasy truce going. That’s probably not fair; they don’t really want to drive me crazy and they don’t want to take over ——- some of my colleagues actually think this —— they just want to be happy, get through the day with as few hassles as possible. 

I think they like me, at least most of them do. 

I know that I like them.

Teachers are not well paid in my country but that does not bother me. 

I love what I do. 

I’m alive when I’m amongst them. 

They soak up knowledge faster than I can hurl it at them. 

They learn, I don’t teach. 

I pretend to teach, it keeps the higher-ups off my back but what I actually do is make it easy for the kids to pursue the things that interest them. Sometimes I have to be very creative to stop the school administration from finding out what I’m doing. 

The kids are in on it. 

They know that if we draw too much attention to ourselves the whole thing will fall apart and it will be back to everyone sitting quietly at neat rows of even neater little desks.

A couple of the parents are in on our secret as well and they are always the ones who I ask to accompany us on excursions.

We travel on trains and trams and the journey is always as much fun as the destination.

My students know that they get to do things and go places that the other kids in this school don’t get to do, so there is never any misbehaving when we go places. 

No one wants to be left behind on the next journey.

I cannot imagine myself doing any other job but I know that one day I will have to. 

No one lasts in this job; it takes its toll.

One day I’ll wake up and I’ll know that the dream is over; but until then, until my nerves give out, I’m going to enjoy every moment, listen to every story, laugh at every joke, play every game, return every smile and shed a tear at the end of the year as I watch my people head off into their future life.

I’m a teacher and I love what I do.

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Photo credit: http: //strassenfotografien.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/kindergarten/kindergartensw/

 

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Turn Left.

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 This story is now part of my new short story anthology, PASSERBY.

You can purchase a copy HERE

If you like what I do, you can help me to keep on doing it by buying one of my books.

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The small white  van dropped her off with the following instructions.

“Make sure that the children turn left and head for the top of the hill.”
This was Sarah’s assignment.
The one she had been training for.
If the emergency arose, all the children were to be taken to safety.
Taken to higher ground.
Volunteers had been called for.
“DO YOU WANT TO HELP YOUR COMMUNITY?”
Sarah did, so she came forward.
When the van left she was the only adult for miles. Sarah had not been an adult for very long. She felt the weight of her assignment.
The children must make it to safety.
The corner she was on stood at a reasonable altitude but the children needed to be higher.
By the time the van had dropped her off there were children all over the place.
It was a bit of a mess.
All day long she said the same words over and over. “Turn here and head to the top of the hill. Good people will be waiting for you.”
The same words again and again.
From her elevated aspect she could see the rising water off in the distance, and every child who went past her and made the correct turn was one more saved.
This went on all day.
A continuous stream of diminutive humanity. Many holding hands, but not a lot of singing.

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Each child was carrying a small box wrapped in brown paper and tied up, rather expertly, with string. If her job had not been so important and if she had not been concentrating so hard it would have reminded Sarah of the line from that song, “and these are a few of my favourite things….’

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Just as she was remembering the line, ‘….when the dog bites…’, the little white van stopped and out jumped a dog.
An Australian Shepherd, if she wasn’t mistaken, and she wasn’t.
Sarah wasn’t frightened of dogs.
The van sped off.
No instructions this time.
Sarah thought that they had probably sent her the dog to help her with her task.
She explained to the dog what she had to do and she used the sentence, ‘herd the children up the hill’, because she deduced that the dog would know what ‘herd’ meant and probably had a good idea what a hill was as well.
Dog took to the task with gusto. She loved herding stuff and in the city there were very few things that needed herding.
She had tried herding people but mostly they didn’t like it, and there was a bit of yelling and throwing of stuff. She tried bringing back the stuff that they threw but that seemed to make things worse. Next she tried cars, but they just ignored her and it got a bit dicey a few times so she packed that it.
But here, she was actually being asked to do the thing she was born to do.
She was gentle but firm and on more than one occasion she had to use her nose to make some small human keep moving.
Small humans smelt good, all ‘pockets full of sweets’ and sticky hands, and they didn’t mind if you licked some of it off.
She enjoyed that part but she tried to be professional.
 
It was starting to get dark and eventually the line of children dwindled down to nothing. Sarah was exhausted but Dog could have gone on a bit longer.

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There was a small park on the corner which had running water from a rainwater tank and a toilet. Sarah didn’t fancy going behind a tree but Dog did not mind, but even a dog wanted a bit of privacy.
They slept together on the soft grass, but not before they ate the food that the little white van had provided.
They never saw the little white van again but next morning, at first light, the children started coming up the hill again.
Dog kept things going while Sarah washed up and used the facilities.
“Turn here and head to the top of the hill. Good people will be waiting for you.”
Days turned into a week.

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Sarah and Dog survived on tank water and the contents of those little boxes wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string.
Children being children, they would occasionally drop a box and forget to pick it up.
The boxes contained a type of army field ration. Not very appetising but it was food, about enough to keep a child alive, but only just.
If you have ever had a job requiring a repetitive action you will know that after a while your body carries it out without you having to think about it and your mind can concentrate on other things.
Sarah’s mind was thinking about those little boxes tied up with string.

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They didn’t look like they had been prepared by a machine so Sarah imagined a long table with ladies loading those tasteless food bars into those little boxes, wrapping then in brown paper and then expertly tying string around them and leaving that clever little bow that acted as a carry handle.
“Who taught them how to tie that bow?” Sarah thought.
Sarah also wondered why the little white van did not have any markings on it and why she wasn’t given one of those cool orange ‘fluro’ vests.
Maybe they had run out by the time they got to her. Maybe her task was not important enough.
They could at least have given the dog a vest.
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Maybe they would give her a T-shirt when this was all over.
 .
One week turned into two and Sarah could see that the water was still rising but not as fast. She was tired all the time and her clothes were very dirty.
She tried to wash them, especially her ‘smalls’, as her mum used to call them, but without soap nothing really got clean.
Sarah was not at all sure that she smelt good either, but it was hard to tell with no other adults around and she didn’t want to ask one of the never-ending line of children. Children always thought adults smelt bad, it was part of their thing.
Dog didn’t care how she smelt. All humans had their own distinctive odour, it made them easier to find in a crowd.
Dog noticed that Sarah’s odour was changing.
She was very weak and not very well. Dog worried about her as she was the leader of her pack now and she wanted her to be strong and decisive.
Sarah got weaker and the children kept coming.
There did not seem to be as many of them but they still kept coming.
 Sarah lay down next to Dog. She needed her warmth; she was very cold.
 .
Sarah did not wake up the next morning.
Dog nudged her a few times, the way she always did but she knew it was no use.
Her leader was gone.
Dog got up, stretched, went behind her favourite tree and headed off to work.
That night Dog lay down next to Sarah and guarded her body.
It was the least she could do for such a brave pack leader.

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PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS STORY IS NOW THE MIDDLE STORY IN A TRILOGY CALLED ‘And In The End You’ll Hear Me Calling.’ If you enjoyed this story you might want to find out what came before and what came after.

Terry

The Spotted Librarian: Somethings Don’t Change.

In another life (the 1970s) I was a primary school teacher.
When my wife sent me this headline, I just had to tell you this story.
Teaching was all I ever wanted to do.
‘Ever’, being after I gave up on being a train driver, cowboy, spaceman, truck driver or the bloke who cuts the grass in the park.
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I had to decide at the end of year 10 what academic stream I would take, Humanities or Science. I was pretty good at Science but Humanities was the course to take to deliver me into a primary school classroom. I never considered a secondary school career, I only ever wanted to work with little kids. It seemed to me that that was where the ‘teaching’ was.
It also seemed to me that that was where the learning began and I wanted to be in on the ground floor.
Teacher’s College was fun but getting out into the world was what I was yearning for.
NO STUDENT LOANS FOR US.
In those days there was a shortage of teachers, so the government paid us (a very small amount) to complete our diploma, and in return, we promised to work for them for three years. We had to teach wherever they sent us, and for males that usually meant a one-teacher country school.
In my case, it meant a school in St Albans which, at the time, was on the extreme northern edge of Melbourne and was full of non-English speaking migrants.
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I was just happy that it was not in the country. 
I really hated the idea of being stuck in some backwater and having to play cricket and football for the local team.
I’m a city boy and grew up in a tough suburb, and the city way of life suited me just fine.
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Sitting around listening to farmers complaining about the weather seemed like hell to me.
Naturally, I have learned that country life is excellent, but you have to remember that I was young and I had a lot to learn.
I had four wonderful years at St Albans East primary school but moving to Belgrave after we bought our first house meant a two-hour journey to St Albans every day. I left in the dark and came home in the dark, slept through Saturday and got up late on a Sunday and it all started over again on Monday!
For six months I wasn’t sure what colour our house was because I never saw it in daylight!
Something had to be done, so I organised a transfer to a school on our side of town.
The school, which no longer exists (Jeff Kennett had it demolished, and it is now townhouses) was called Warrawong and was the alternate Blackburn South primary school.
Talk about a culture shock!
St Albans East was full of migrants, and the kids were great. The parents were extremely grateful for anything that we did for their children. They valued education above almost everything else, and the parents worked themselves into the ground to make sure that their children had an education.
On the other hand, Blackburn South was full of struggling middle-class families who thought the world owed them a living.
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The staff were one click this side of brain dead, and my school principal was a back stabbing idiot.
My ego was such that I didn’t see any of it coming. I thought that everyone would come to understand how wonderful I was and all would be right with the world.
It didn’t work out quite that way.
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It was possibly the LONGEST year of my life.*
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MY WIFE STOPPED BELIEVING ME.
This school was so insane that my wife stopped believing me as each night I would come home with an even more amazing story.
I will not bore you with all the stories here as I plan to write a short book about my experiences, but I will tell you two stories.
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THE SPOTTY LIBRARIAN.
Firstly, just to get you started, here is the story about the school librarian.
I really should have worked out what I was up against right at this point, but I didn’t, I was too full of myself and my grand plans.
So, at our very first assembly the Librarian notices that the children are not lining up in straight lines, so she proposes that she be allowed to paint a white dot on the playground assembly area; ONE FOR EACH CHILD!
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One white dot for each kid.
I thought it was a joke, but no, she was serious, and everyone in the meeting agreed!
Everyone!
I was the only person who did not raise their hand, I was too stunned to speak.
It gets better!
The school principal gave her permission to paint the dots, and the Library stayed closed for two weeks while she completed the task!
No one was outraged; they all thought it was a good idea!
Now comes the story that I wanted to tell you that was suggested to me by reading the newspaper article quoted at the end of this story.
It’s forty something years later, and nothing has changed!
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THE GREAT SWAP CARD RAID OF 1976
By the time this story took place I was fairly shell-shocked by everything that had gone on.
Eventually I stopped going to staff meetings as I just couldn’t take it any more. I remember working out different ways to get out of the place on a Monday night (staff meeting night). I needed to be creative as the Principal saw my absences as a form of rebellion (which it was) and she did everything in her power to stop me from getting away.
Anyway, there I was, pre-rebellion at a staff meeting with drool coming from the corner of my mouth when I hear a motion put forward to ban swap cards.
Say what?
The kids at this school were really good kids, but the staff were afraid of them. Possibly they believed that the kids would work out that they were incompetent.
The kids didn’t care that the teachers were hopeless, they had never known anything else. They just wanted to get on with their lives and maybe have a bit of fun along the way.
So, the motion passed (big surprise) I spoke against it, but by now no one was taking any notice of me or anything I had to say.
A couple of weeks later there was another motion.
This time some bright spark wants to organise a lunch time raid in the playground to catch any kid with swap cards.
Naturally, the children had ignored the ban.
The dingus who put forward the plan wanted to have teachers at every door leading out onto the playground (there were a lot of doors) and at a precise time (yes we actually synchronised our watches) we were to burst through the doors (his words) and round up any errant card swappers. These children would then be sent to the assembly area (where all the white dots were) and would be made an example of in front of the whole school.
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 THE TIP-OFF.
I was friends with a lot of the children in classrooms other than mine, so I spread the word about the raid but even, so there were about forty odd kids who got caught.
The teachers were very disappointed that the ‘haul’ was so light.
I was amazed that anyone got caught.
How dumb do you have to be to get caught after the word has gone out?
This happened in the middle of the year, and by now my good wife had started to think that I was making up some of these stories. She wondered how these crazy things could keep happening.
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HIDING IN THE BUSHES.
As I mentioned, it was not long after this that I stopped going to staff meetings and I can still see the principal staking out the car park waiting for me to attempt my getaway!
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The newspaper article that prompted this post.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/primary-school-bans-footy-cards-20130605-2npxk.html

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* The stress of teaching at this school caused a rash to break out on the side of my face which progressed to the point that it closed one of my eyes!