The Lesson

by Eleanor Hooker

Winner of the Bare Fiction Prize for Flash Fiction 2015

When Brother John lumbers into class on Monday morning, the boys sit straight at their desks. They measure his mood by the range of his limp.

Brother John scans the room. His jaded grey-green soutane amplifies the sickly hue of his skin.

‘O’Shea, do I hear buzzing?’ he asks, his head nodding slightly, as though keeping time with the sound.

‘You do sir.’

Brother John gathers the cane from behind his desk and shambles towards O’Shea.

‘What don’t I like to hear O’Shea?’

‘Buzzing, Sir.’

‘And yet, I do hear buzzing O’Shea.’

‘You do Sir, yes Sir,’ says O’Shea.

‘He tried to kill it Sir, but he’s afraid a wasps,’ says Hennigan, from the back of the class.

Without looking, Brother John flicks the glass with the cane, killing the insect. He picks it up by its wings, opens the window and throws it out.

‘Ah now Sir,’ Hennigan says, ‘trying to make it look like suicide, so y’are.’

Brother John’s head nods more fitfully.

‘Hennigan is it? Yes. Scholar Hennigan. Hennigan, if ever a time should come, you need not stamp your foot to get your neurons to synapse, that Hennigan, will be the day you cease to hee-haw like the ass that you are. Do you understand me?’

‘No Sir’

‘Excellent.’

Bull-Ryan arrives in class as the clock strikes ten. At the door he takes off his wellingtons.

He casts a nervous glance round the class, looking for Brother John.

‘So good of you to join us Ryan.’ Brother John says. ‘Stay where you are, stay where you are.’

Brother John limps to the front of the class.

‘Education is wasted on you, Ryan’

‘Yes Sir.’

‘You will never amount to anything. You, and those like you, will remain forever the poor, ignorant peasants you are.’

‘Yes Sir.’

‘I will prove this. I will empty my pockets and you will count.’

‘Eighteen pounds Sir.’

‘Now you.’

Bull-Ryan empties a wad of notes onto the desk.

‘Seven hundred pounds Sir.’

Hennigan hee-haws.

‘I sold two fine heifers at mart Sir, ’tis why I’m late.’

 

Eleanor Hooker

The Lesson was the winner of the Bare Fiction Prize for Flash Fiction 2015, chosen by Richard Skinner, and appears in Issue 7 of Bare Fiction Magazine in April 2016.