Wednesday 17 July 2019

Introducing characters

Editing this novel for publishing is proving to be a very time consuming,tedious process, as any of you know who have done it....
And I have nothing new to post. 
So am going to post extracts of the novel as I go along. Any constructive feed back is welcome.
Dave was referred to in the last post by Tara, so here he is confronting a group of difficult teens. 
Set probably in the nineties or eighties when I was in classrooms.


“Where’s Miss-what’s-her-name?” asks a voice from the back of the class-room as Dave makes his way to the teacher’s podium.
 “Change in time-table, so you have me instead.”
 A cheer goes up from the ranks.
 “One down already.”  Tommy Corr punches the air with his fist.
 “You look like yer man, sir!” shouts a freckled boy from the back row.
 “And who would that be, Christopher Madden?” Dave asks the stocky red-haired boy whose feet rest on a school desk. He knows most of this crew already from detention supervision.
 “The boozer!” replies Christopher.
 “You mean the rake!” says Fred Devlin in a voice that is breaking.
 “He’s a chain smoker too!” This comment comes from a foreign accent, Miriam Abache, a dark clad girl who yanks a black leather bag onto her desk and takes out a novel.
 “Do you mind if I have a smoke, sir?” asks Tommy.
The whole of 4D hold their breath.
 “Haven’t you heard about the negative effects of passive smoking, Tommy Corr?” says Miriam.
 “Sure we’re all active smokers except for some swots I could mention!”
 “Ah, would you ever shut it Corr,” says Fred.
 “It’s against school rules and you are time wasting Corr!” interrupts Dave.
 Corr was expecting at least a detention order for his smoking request. He decides that he must be definitely onto another soft touch with Mac Fadden. The whole group of twenty fifteen year olds begins to relax; this eejit won’t last a month. Laura Smith, the H.Dip. he’s replacing has set a new record; it has taken them just three weeks to break her. Last year’s student teacher Claire Kelly had cried her way through the first term of daily baiting before she keeled over. She pleaded, begged, even resorted to her feminine wiles, but to no avail. 4D, then 3C, were relentless in their pursuit of teacher resignations. They made crosses in the woodwork class and brought them to Claire’s Environmental Studies group.

“What’s with the crosses?” she’d asked them.
“To keep vampires away, Miss.”
“Do you mean me, Tommy Corr?”
One day Fred Devlin told her not to take it personally, that they were waiting to reach the  school leaving age of sixteen before legally bolting. But she took it personally. Somebody said she had a breakdown. Others said she’d given up teaching for good. Mr. Doyle gave the student teachers their baptism of fire with the likes of 4D. If they could survive that they’d be teachers for life, he claimed.
“Rake. Now there’s an interesting word,” says Dave to the disheveled group in front of him.
 “What does it mean anyway, Devlin?” demands Corr. No response from Fred. “Sir, he doesn’t even know.” And he surveys his audience with satisfaction.
 “Something to do with chasing women,” suggests Fred.
They all laugh except Miriam Abache who seems to be absorbed in her reading.
 “Vocabulary. Now there’s a good place to start. I want you all to take out your dictionaries, and starting with the letter A, mark every word you don’t understand.”
 “Can Devlin mark the whole book, sir?”
 “Then put each word into an appropriate context,” continues Dave.
 Mouths opened. “A contest?” someone asks.
 “A sentence,” says Miriam, closing her novel.
 “Exactly!” replies Dave.
The groans threaten to escape through the thin partition walls and spill over into Miss Stewart’s Classical Studies class next door.
 “Sir, this isn’t English class,” declares Christopher Madden, who is still relaxing at full length, his arms now folded across his chest.
 “You’ll need to take your feet off that table to do this exercise, Madden. That isn’t a suggestion.”
 “What do you mean, sir?”
 “He means it’s an order Christopher,” explains Miriam.
 “Sir, I forgot my dictionary,” says Corr.
 “You can borrow one of mine; I always bring two.” And Miriam stretches a pocket sized Collins towards him which he accepts with a mock smile.
 “His is only a little dictionary!” declares Madden.
 “Show of hands for those who need a dictionary?”
There is a reluctant show of elbows, with some catcalls and whistling from dissenters.
 “I make it eight. Today you share, tomorrow you bring your own, or there’ll be consequences.”
 “Sir, we’re timetabled for Environmental Studies.”
Christopher is now on his feet making a great din about looking for his pencil case.
 “7am tomorrow morning on the playing pitch for twenty laps of the field if you don’t sit down and get on with your work, Madden. That goes for the rest of you as well.”
Silence descends on the classroom. Whatever about the detraction of detention, exercise is one activity they all shy away from.
 “Sir, I don’t know any words in this dictionary!”
 “How many words do we have to do?”
 “Thirty-five minutes worth.”
 “Sir, are you not going to teach us anything today?” asks Miriam.
 “You’re not paid to just sit there and do nothing.” declares Corr.
 “I’m watching you. That’s work enough.”
 “This is all your bleedin’ fault, Devlin. Rake, indeed!” Corr’s mood is turning ugly. More protests follow but Dave is unrelenting.
 “Early morning training for anyone I see slacking.”
Five minutes before the bell four students are ordered to turn up at the pitch the following morning.
 “Tomorrow I want everyone to bring their own dictionaries. You have been warned.”
 “You mean we have to do this bleedin’ exercise again?” asks Devlin who knows he is in for it at break-time.
 “All the way to Z, and without expletives. The young lady will translate.”
 “Without cursing, Fred.
 “Jaysus, I’m not doing this every day,” pronounces Corr.
 “Tommy, you now have the added advantage of one detention period. That should speed up your progress.”
 The bell rings. Dictionaries catapult into bags, under desks and some into the air.
 “Could our resident expert in vocabulary stay back a minute? I want a word with you.”
 “Bleedin’ smart arse, Mademoiselle Abache, now there’s a mouthful for you. Bleedin’ foreigners takin’ over the language,” sneers Corr as he returns the dictionary, slamming it on the desk in front of her. “You’re in for it now.”
 “I did nothing wrong, sir. You needn’t be giving me detention,” she says drawing herself up to her full height. At five foot ten, even in flat heels, she towers over most of the group.
 “I’ll meet you outside the DP’s office at lunch-time. Agreed?”
 “I suppose,” she manages before she tosses her long dark hair and follows the others out of the classroom and down the corridor past Miss Stewart who is making straight for Dave.
 “Bleedin’ know-all!” Dave hears Corr’s pronouncement on her as she walks past him holding her head high.
 “Mrs Mac’ll sort you out!” someone calls after her.
Only the boy with the breaking voice lingers. Jemima Stewart is writing names furiously in her black hard-backed notebook, kept specifically for the purpose of naming names.
 “I don’t know why you’re picking on her. They all pick on her.” Fred shoves the dog-eared books into his well worn school bag.
 “Devlin, isn’t it?”
 “She’s just in the wrong group.” A tall shuffling figure, Fred dips his head and lops out of the classroom. Dave watches as the shirt tail and half zipped up school bag dodge the jeers and guffaws along the school corridor.
The boy is right about one thing; Miriam Abache is in the wrong group. He needs to talk to the DP about this.
 “A word, Mr MacFadden?” Jemima Stewart’s grating voice interrupts his musings.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019