Hell is a curious child

24th September 2004 at 01:00
I pack up at lunchtime on Tuesdays. One of the perks of being part-time. I walk crisply out of school towards the bike shed. Shall I have a bun in the park? Or a herbal tea? Most agreeable. Or nip along to Honest Jon's Jazz shop?

I zip across the north playground. Someone's chasing me. Stalking me. The Borough? The Truancy Patrol? No, it's Jiri - a bewildered and luckless boy from a war zone. He is bunking. He should be in a classroom. I leg it more briskly like one of those Olympic walkers. So does he. I break into a run.

So does he. He is waving a book at me. A rare event for my 11th year.

"Sir - I need to talk to you!"

I've knocked off. I'm not paid for this kind of interaction.

"But you're bunking. Can't it wait?"

"No! No!" He keeps waving the book. "You've got to tell me about this!"

What is it? Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. I told them the story in PHSE. We abandoned sexual diseases for Faustian pacts. The existential terrors of knowledge. Not something that has overly afflicted too many of my tutor set. But Jiri went to the library and took it out and is shaking it at me.

He can hardly read English.

"You're bunking - just go back to your classroom."

I'm practically running to the bike shed.

"But if God doesn't exist, Sir ..."

Jesus. I'm too old for this kind of thing ... can't I just get a bun?

"Then how come Faustus goes to Hell?"

Indeed. Jiri is driven. He's my most intellectually curious pupil.

"Don't know. Ask me another. Ask me tomorrow."

I'm beginning to feel like Mephistopheles. I put on the bike clips. Jiri still waxes passionate about Hell. I get on the bike. He's still yelling about Hell. I tell him again to go back to class. I won't grass him up to his tutor.

"You are my tutor, Sir."

There is that. He wanders off. He is caught by the Truants' Patrol.

"What have you been doing?"

"Talking about Faustus with Wigwam."

That's us both done for. His name is entered into the Dissidents' File. His mother will get a letter home. His mother died in a war. He is carted off.

I peddle off. I feel guilty. But it's outside hours. I don't do Extra Mural stuff. I get home. I still feel guilty. I look up Marlowe and Machiavelli.

I will give Jiri a special tutorial tomorrow on the limits of Renaissance Humanism.

But I don't. He's not in - suspended for packing up at lunchtime.

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