Kev the Vampire
by Phillip Donnelly
|Cast of characters|
|Chapter 2 : Diary of an English Teacher|
‘The blood is the life! The blood is the life!’ That is all the mysterious Patient K would say at first. Dr. Mac Pherson gradually pieces together the story of K’s life: his gruesome school days at the Holy Bleeding Pelican; his drug- and alcohol-induced visions; his wars with Social Welfare zombies, and his attempts to use his meagre housing allowance to rent a castle. Dr. Mac Pherson learns of K’s romantic misadventures as a dishwasher in Bavaria and how comically difficult life can be for the quixotic would-be vampire in the 21st century.
(Extract from Teacher G.’s Short Story Diary)
In the depths of spring, a sluggish sun rose slowly, like an alcoholic on a Sunday, and its bloodshot cyclops eye bled over the House of Usher. The solar wind farted on Dublin, and Dublin sniffed the atomic effluent. Vagrant bulbous brooding clouds ignored the sun — their inconstant fading lover — and they refused to change from black to white. The sun accused them of being obstinate but they ignored him.
Beneath the muddled sky, a cold wind beat the yellowed grass and the earth, which took the blows and lay frosted and forlorn, crying in dewy wakefulness. The blades of grass cried each morning on waking, but no-one cared enough to comfort them.
Worms quarried nitrogen beneath the slimy grassy carpet and sang of better times, in the days of the ancients, before the vertebrates, before the slaughter of the early morning. Rooks and ravens, listening above, plucked the doleful choir one by one and visited grisly death upon them.
The sun, the sky and the earth all agreed on only one thing: they would rather be somewhere else.
In the middle of this dreary plain, a building hunkered, like a constipated giant, hankering for minds to freeze. This prison of teens, this skull of a scoil, prepared for the diurnal apocalypse of youthful imagination. ‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’ it murmured, in the rusty faded sunlight of the dead spring morning.
Its shape was that of a cross, but without one of the arms: a truncated transept. The limb which was not severed contained six classrooms, each cell identical. The nave contained two other sets of six classrooms, one on each side of the corridor, twinned torture chambers bent on extracting confessions of heresies.
I trudged toward the Stalag of thought in the dark and dank stillborn dawn of March before the clocks could strike nine. With my head bent low in many apologies, I slipped through the glass doors of the Pobalscoil Rozminions and saw above my head the ever-watchful eyes of the Holy Bleeding Pelican, our emblem and our aneurism. ‘God is watching over you’ the pelican seemed to warn, and I wondered why those who claim to protect us always grow so keen to punish us.
I turned right, away from the eyes of the beaked and beatified bird and headed for the teachers’ room, the arse of the apse. Upon arrival, I formally recognised the zombies within, the living dead who teach but cannot learn. We took turns to dispense the stale ritualised greetings of another moody Monday.
All around us, outside the church walls, teen demons howled for admittance, so that they might snash and slash in the uterine comfort of alma mater slayer.
I shall break Teacher G.’s description there, since the following fifteen pages largely concern the rise and fall of an erection he experienced on first looking into Ms Chapman’s blouse, and he muses long and hard on how the erection mirrors the rise and fall of Rome; and while it is a curious piece and one which might prove useful in understanding Teacher G.’s own unfortunate ejection from the world of academia, it is not relevant to K’s tale.
Instead I will move forward to a description of Kev in class from later in the day.
The wall stood like a dam separating the outside world and the world within; a skin of sorts; a membrane for the no-brains. The wall kept the teen masses safely locked up during daylight hours and these citadel barbarians were denied the right to plunder until nightfall.
In room 15, I stood alone, the state-appointed and school-recruited agent of oppression, keeping an uneasy peace. Pax Romana is dead and gone, yet here I was, a lone and lonely centurion, defending the Law of the Bleeding Pelican.
The class had not yet begun proper, and the hordes of hoodies rattled their chains and shifted uncomfortable from one buttock to the other on their plastic chairs, grunting and snarling and snorting in all directions; and like Swift’s Yahoos they wanted only to destroy and to dismember, to devour and to despoil.
‘Wars are made for boys such as these,’ I thought.
But modern Ireland has no wars; instead it must fight itself, and it is just as well, truth be told, for if this mass of teen spirit were to realise its power, to coalesce and to materialise, it would throw off the yolk of pedagogic oppression and snap my spine like a louse between its grubby finger nails. Like the empire of the Anglo-Saxons, my reign depends on preventing the natives from forging an alliance. Let the masses of asses bray on.
But all empires fall. How much longer can this one last? Who will take from me the thorny crown of office? For how much longer will I be the anointed sovereign of Year 5?
It will last until the end. We are freefalling through what the French call ‘Terminal’. It is late spring and my charges have but three short months of their stretch to serve.
Only a quarter year separates them from the chimera of adult freedom, and this has left them restless and insolent.
Something else is making them particularly edgy today. Why do their noses twitch so? What is it they smell?
Ah yes, it is the scent of a woman, wafting over their own deodorant-saturated armpits.
The teacher in the period before my own was a female, Mrs O’Connor; a science teacher as indisposed to showering as the clots before me are to reading. What is it about the inhabitants of the British Isles that makes them believe that deodorants have the power to dissolve stale sweat and the bacteria that live off its excretions? A mask does not dissolve the face beneath it.
But to the dogs before me, the cocktail was a powerful one. The young hounds had caught the scent of sweat and perfume and certain other menstrual secretions their nostrils are sensitive to.
Oestrogen carriers their own age are banned in this boys-only school, but that only makes the young bucks all the more desperate; and in their isolation they have developed an almost superhuman sense of smell. They may not be able to think, but by God can they smell!
Left uneasy by female fragrances, seasonal pheromones and the springs of testosterone welling up within them, and the knowledge that the paddock gates would soon be opened, they looked at me, their aged jailor, and would have pounced if they had had the wits to.
And how did I defend myself and pre-empt the assault? Through weapons of whelp destruction, of course. I attacked to defend, as I have done these long thirty years.
As to strategy, it can be summarised as follows: First, Confuse them; second, Berate them; and third, Asphyxiate them. This is the CBA of their ABC: CBAABC. I would publish and patent it, if it weren’t heresy.
But to the war, the dry dull war. The tedium of the textbook is every teacher’s weapon of choice, the opening salvo of every 40-minute battle; and so I instructed the apes to open their book of past exam papers and to direct their thoughts to the question from 1998; and I prepared myself once more to discuss the dead prince of Denmark with the living dead of Dublin.
Today, I informed them, we would consider the issue of whether the Hamlet who returns from England is a changed Hamlet and one free of the curse of indecision that has plagued him thus far. Has his fatal flaw been vanquished? Is he now the master of his own fate?
If I had taken off my shoe and announced that we were going to study my corns, I would have been greeted by similar looks of disgust and groans of contempt. Before they could form words around their displeasure, I hurled myself into the fray, limping into the breach; not for England, but for English.
‘Mr Brennan, what is your opinion on this thorny issue?’ I asked a gormless teenager with a permanently vacant look in his eyes; a bully who shall soon no doubt soon labour under the state’s pleasure: Robert Brennan, aka, Bob the Bully.
‘Your opinion, Mr Brennan. Your opinion.’
‘On the question, Mr Brennan. The question I asked while you were talking to young Mr Clark.’
‘Say what? What question? I didn’t hear no question.’
‘You didn’t listen, Mr Brennan. You didn’t listen. Do you hear me? You never listen! I repeat: is the Hamlet who returns from England qualitatively different?’
‘Yeah, sure he is.’
‘In what way, Mr Brennan. Elucidate. How is he different?’
‘He’s got an English accent, sir!’
The gibbons guffawed at that one and I closed my eyelids and rolled my eyes to heaven. How many daily visits they make starward, these creased and bloodshot eyes of mine. I moved on to the boy’s partner in crime, the eternally snotty and egregiously vituperative Colm Clark.
‘Mr Clark, perhaps you could deliver a more in-depth analysis for your peers. Deliver unto us your esteemed opinion?’
‘Don’t know, sir. It’s all Greek to me. And in anyways, why has we gotta study this ole muck? Why can’t we do proper books, like? Books in English, y’know. Useful books. Books about real stuff, like celebrities. Or rap songs, the voices of the ghetto. I say we will have no more plays. We should be studying Big Brother, real modern culture, not old fart shite. New words for a new century! That’s what I thinks.’
‘And the world of literary criticism thanks you for your erudite critique, young Mr. Clark. However, the unfortunate who has to correct you examination paper in three months time may not share your utilitarian vision.’
‘Don’t care. I’m goin’ on da scratcher, me. Two hundred sponduliks a week for sitting on me jacksee. Workin’s for biscuit-heads and ponies, if’n you ask me.’
‘Oh the ambition of youth, Mr Clark. The ambition of youth. Let’s return to the Dark Dane and see if we can find a more coherent interpretation, shall we?’
I searched the room for signs of intelligent life, and my eyes rested upon a figure clad in inky black.
‘Mr O’Donghaile, how would you answer the question? Is the Hamlet in Act 5 qualitatively different?’
‘As the sea and wind, sir’, the boy replied, his voice rising and falling, like a cliché on a wave, or like the buttons on Miss Chapman’s blouse.
All around was silence and confusion.
‘In what way is he different?’
‘He’s a vampire, sir.’
An electric charge ran through the silence of the classroom and split the air. The boy lives outside the class tribe, but occasionally he does say things that interest even them. Thirty heads turned to hear Kev continue his analysis; and I too, I must admit, was more than a little curious.
‘So, Hamlet is a vampire, Mr O’Donghaile. And is Ophelia a zombie, pray tell? Is Claudius a werewolf? Is Polonius an ork from Mordor?’
‘Of course not, sir.’
‘Then please explain your hypothesis for the good of the living, or what must pass for living within these four walls.’
‘The Hamlet who returns from England is first seen in a graveyard, a traditional haunt of vampires. He mocks the gravediggers and is contemptuous of the concept of mortality, which he has escaped. He then holds up a skull and tries to convince his friend Horatio that he too should join the legions of the undead, since to remain mortal means to share the same fate as the court jester, the fool Yorick.’
‘A novel interpretation, Mr. O’Donghaile. Go on.’
‘He is waiting for his immortal beloved “the fair Ophelia,” who will rise from her grave at midnight, but he has to fight for her corpse with Laertes, a vampire killer.’
‘Evidence, Mr. O’Donghaile.’
‘The priest states that Ophelia’s “death was doubtful” and that is why he wishes to bury her ‘in ground unsanctified.” He knows she will rise again and will not order a requiem for her, “as for peace-parted souls.” Shakespeare had to hide the vampire element.’
‘Hum... and how does Hamlet not escape the death that marks the end of all tragedies? Aren’t vampires eternal?’
‘He is stabbed through the heart by Laertes, the rapier acting as a stake, and “the rest is silence”.’
The rest of the class was silent too, but silence is their natural state. The calm was pierced by the class bell, which tolled to mark the death of Period 4 and herald the birth of Period 5. Oh menstrual day of bleeding pelican periods!
I looked at the assembled scholars, shuffling their mortal buttocks off the coil of their chairs, and I noticed Kevin O’Donghaile smiling to himself, pleased no doubt by the latest scene in his feigned insanity.
I wondered what purpose he thought this antic disposition of his served and determined to study him and watch this madness grow.
As the herd left the class and humped their way into the corridor, I heard the following rejoinder and noted that I was not his only observer.
‘I’ll silence you, ya wuggie!’ K. was warned by Bob the Bully, the oaf-cum-ogre and Resident Monster of Year 5.
The clod refuses to drop out, and like an over-sized turd that will not be flushed, he clings on, the remains of the remains, pouting in the toilet bowl. I called him back to admonish him, but he denied having said anything, and he wore that look of righteous indignation that teens do so well, especially the Bobs of this world.
This thug before me was once a babe-in-arms, I thought, and in his gurgling smile rested all his mother’s hopes and dreams. Every wretched low-life; every prison rapist; every denizen of every hell: they were all once vessels for the fantasies of lotus-eating mothers. It has been thus since the dawn of time and cannot be otherwise.
If we could see the horrors our children would become, we would smash their skulls against their cribs.
But the gutter libertine had an intact skull, and he jutted out his chin and stretched his arms wide and called lies truth and truth lies. He will proclaim his innocence thus to a judge soon, I am sure; but not soon enough, I fear, for Kev to escape his wrath.
(End of extract from G.’s Short Story Diary)
I shall leave Teacher G.’s diary there, since the fictional focus moves from the external to the internal, and the rest of the chapter largely concerns the ‘Birth of a Turd’ in the evening and his postulations on the similarities of the miracles of birth and defecation; but I think there is enough information in the quoted extract for the judicious reader to imagine the unusual state of K.’s mind in this period, whether it be flustered with feigned delusion, as Teacher G. believes, or the harbinger of something altogether more sinister, as I suspect.
But if minds are fragile, how much more so are bones! But I will leave that for the third chapter.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2011 by Phillip Donnelly