A childish compulsion

Vernon would have been glad of a session on the couch.

Section 121 is in awe of the prophet

Vernon was completely unprepared for the changeover of candidates when it came. Dr Gumtree escorted candidate number one away to his next engagement in the interview process, Nice and Albright, and Vernon prepared the class for the next topic. Freud. Freud; a gift for any red-blooded male teacher with a radar for drama and a sense of the absurd, a goad to any red-blooded female teacher with critical awareness and sensitivity to patriarchal condescension. There was a knock on the door and the Director of Studies entered and returned to his seat with an enigmatic smile.

Now what? thought Vernon. From the corridor he could hear the sound of sandpaper being drawn across a wooden block. It seemed to be drawing closer. Moments later the doorway was completely filled by the widest man he had ever seen. A man in a black suit, with a worryingly blue-grey face.

“So, Isn’t life great?" wheezed Mr Watts.

“So, Isn’t life great?” wheezed Mr Watts.

“Hi” he wheezed “You …  able to…  plug this… in?”

Pause. Beseeching look.

“You have …a connection for my laptop?” gasped Mr Watts.

The candidate seemed oblivious to the open-mouthed stares of the class as he squeezed himself with difficulty through the inadequate space between the desks. He sloughed off his jacket like a snake his skin and Vernon experienced a childish compulsion to try it on. The cavernous jacket, like the mantle of Elijah, was pregnant with an aura of mystery. Instead he busied himself with connecting the educator’s life-support machine.

“So, Isn’t life great? Here we are. I’m going to talk to you about Freud. While I get this PowerPoint set up, tell me in your own words what God is for. What does he do? What’s his job? Write it down for me.” While candidate number two bent over the laptop, dwarfing the student beside him, the class hastened to comply.

You might well ask what God does, thought Vernon uncharitably. What does he do? And yet, for all his cynicism, the candidate’s voice was so compelling that he wanted to join in. He wanted to fill a blank piece of paper with speculation. He glanced over at the Director of Studies and felt as if he was looking into the face of a man transfixed.

There was no doubt that Mr Watts was electric.

There was no doubt that Mr Watts was electric.

In an enchanted sing-song voice that seemed to blend Windy City with Forbidden City, candidate number two stirred the sleepy class into life from entropy into a state akin to orgasmic enthusiasm. They skittered and pranced around the task like a colt released into pasture, glad to be doing something at last. The PowerPoint was tolerable, but as the candidate elaborated on Freud’s quirky obsession about obsessional neuroses, Vernon forgot it was there. He forgot to take critical notes. He just wanted to listen. This man could have sold Rentokil shares to the Pied Piper. Vernon glanced over at Dr Gumrtree who hadn’t moved. So that’s what an Epiphany looks like he thought.

Check out how the story got this far on ‘The Novel’ page


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