School 51

No one really talked about what happened to Mr Stanton.

He couldn’t miss the tell-tale sign of playground trouble. A triumphant cheer made the teacher look up from the essay he was red-penning. I imagine Stanton had been daydreaming – that is what I remember most about him - for some time already. From his first floor classroom, the children swarming together perhaps reminded the teacher of iron filings rushing towards a magnet – just as mindless, just as unstoppable.

In Stanton’s day they’d have chanted ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’ while verbal sparring took its course. Maybe it could even have been settled in the boxing ring. Now youth couldn’t wait to land the first blows. The teacher started cranking the window open. Stupid school window, don’t jam now! He leaned out the window, his wagging finger poised to direct words of reprimand to the baying crowd... and then Stanton's gaze was drawn upwards, and we shall never know if what happened next was real, or just a beautiful moment of inspiration.

‘Up there!’ yelled Mr Stanton, ‘just above the trees!’ he pointed frantically. I was standing in a classroom on the other side of the playground, and the building obscured the object of his attention.

Stupid school door, don’t jam now! If only one of the brutes had helped force it open for me – but the children were too busy warring.

Through the smeared glass I could still see the old teacher, no longer pointing, but with both arms outstretched to embrace the sky in welcome.

‘Will one of you tell me what’s happening?’ I bellowed, but my plea was drowned by the cacophony of ecstatic war cries.

As I charged at the door I can’t be sure what my inspired colleague was shouting into the heavens, but it sounded like ‘They’ve come! They’ve come! They’ve come!’

The children fought on.

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