It's open mourning for staff

17th June 2005 at 01:00
My cat Aslan died this morning. We've had him for 20 years. He was a source of much solace and quite the most handsome creature in the world. He conked out watching all-night TV. Was it Teachers' TV which made him lose the will to live? He's on the sofa in a state of advanced rigor mortis. His limbs stick out like electrocuted twiglets. How can I possibly go teach Dave Mania?

Wife and daughter are in trauma.They phone in sick.

I cart the cat off to the garden. I dig a shallow grave in the pale light of dawn. Too shallow. I can't quite stuff him in. His tiny paws stick up through the soil. I whack them with a spade. They still stick out - just like in that film Blood Simple. I whack him again. He disappears. The wailing women are too lachrymose to notice. I'm in shock.

My pupils get special treatment when their pets die. Exam boards respond to "severe emotional distress". They quantify it. Five per cent extra marks for dogs, 2 per cent for budgies and a mere 1 per cent for hamsters. Or the pupils can go absent. Dave Mania took the day off when his pit bull Brains was put down. Both went rabid. The poor boy could never do homework again "Mournin', sir! Trauma!"

Teachers - especially delicate and poetic English teachers - get trauma too. I'll ring the line manager. I'm surely not fit to be in a classroom. A conclusion she seems to be moving towards anyway. She wasn't too moved by previous distress. Hunter Thompson's death didn't cut it. Nor my sebaceous cyst. Nor existential doubt. I got zilch on the stressometer.

I must be professional. I must go in ... but I might take it out on the pupils. When QPR went down I became quite unhinged during silent reading. I nearly defenestrated the gloating Crumlin. And Aslan's demise would just upset the more delicate pupils. They've lived with my cat too. I've always droned on about him. He's on the wall, under Rhapsody's rather sensitive haiku. He's a pedagogical aid. Pupils have written lovely poems and haunting stories about the little fellow. Sabrina and Decibelle will blub worse than when Busted broke up. They'll still be on the F grade even with the grief bump up.

I'm in a long literary tradition like Dr Johnson. His cat Hodge helped him write a dictionary. When Hodge died the Good Doctor took the day off.

"Mourning, sir!" he told Boswell.

My cat Aslan helped me teach generations. Now he's gone. Yes ... I'll take the day off. I leave a message. "Mourning!"

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