Saturday, October 13, 2007

The greatest teacher in Western Europe

I am the Greatest Teacher in Western Europe, Larigy said.
Under the taut skin the skull grinned. The glasses glinted
when it was time to beat the boys - his favourite time of day.
Brother Larigy never hit us straight away for our incompetence
but loved a feast of beating at the break, so he saved us up.
Once he let us off, we thought, to play in the first snow of winter
but when our frozen hands started to thaw and began to hurt
he took the leather out - a slim leather, nine inches long, and stiff -
and lined us up and slapped us, doubling our pain and his pleasure.
He liked to threaten to pull boys' trousers down and watch them squirm
but once a boy whose house Larigy used to visit turned and hissed
'I'll tell' and Larigy let him go and flinched as if he had been hit.
One day we were sent up to the water tower to see the dentist
when we came back a Higgins twin couldn't say the prayers for bleeding
- Our Lady of this pray for us, Our Lady of That, pray for us -
Larigy slapped his face until the blood poured out. We resumed praying
with blood streaming out of Higgins' mouth at each Our Lady.
The greatest teacher in Western Europe? As far as we could see,
better had he been a bachelor scratching a living up
a mountain, spending his nights muttering in the pub.

Published, 1998, in Snakeskin, February issue

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