Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Sin... ink spots...

It was his own fault, he should never have insisted on looking at those ink-blot things. I did tell him to give them a miss. There was a three year old copy of FHM to flick through instead of the book of splats that invaded your head.

But he wouldn't listen. He never did. He'd been a teacher. He was used to being - or least trying to be - in charge. He was used to knowing what was best and trying to guide others. So he didn't listen.

Roger Stainsbridge. Teach, as he was called - naturally. He'd been a teacher for most of his life, respected and proud. At 54, he snapped. At 54, Mr. Stainsbridge decided he'd had enough of the threats and taunts from the children he was supposed to be helping on their way to a better life. It was only a minority of pupils, but they were relentless. They saw the chink in his armour and they crow barred it open to slash at the fresh meat beneath. The crack? A fifteen year old girl. The crowbar? A joke, a rumour, a big wooden spoon of spite.

There was nothing in it. No indiscretion or desire on either part. Teach was in it to teach and wanted only to help those in his care better themselves. The girl wanted to learn and to better herself. She wanted more than McDonalds or Tesco. She wanted a career. But she was failing. She was introverted to an excruciating level and wouldn't say 'boo' to a butterfly, let alone a goose. She was the class outsider, the one whom even the geeks could pick on. But she was an extraordinarily talented artist. Her escape from her self-imprisonment was her oils. And, of course, this was something more to fuel the fire of abuse.

Being a teacher for so many years, Teach had wings wider than an albatross, and many of his children had been taken under them to give them a boost or a tweak or a push in the right direction. This time it was the turn of the girl. History, and Mr. Stainsbridge, doesn't relate her name. She was just 'the girl' - spoken in lower case. It was enough, to this year's class, that he'd shown an interest in her. Modified photos, produced on the school's computers, showed them together. Back-of-the-class whispers invented stories ranging from secret kisses to full blown affairs. It was a joke, that's all. A schoolboy prank.

But the girl, already painfully shy, didn't find it funny. Her hanging herself with her own school tie, wasn't a joke.

Teach didn't find it amusing either. After the ring leader had taken his beating and spent his week in hospital, after Teach had been released from prison for the attack, which he freely admitted, the taunts and the slashed tyres and the egged windows began. And Teach, a teacher for most of his life, dedicated to others, snapped. It took five people to hold him down as he launched himself at the group of boys who wore their ASBOs with pride. His grief - at the girl and the tatters of his career - fed his anger.

And Roger Stainsbridge became a resident at the Nuthouse.

A year after being admitted, Teach picked up the book of ink blots. An hour after, when, in every one, he saw the girl with the tie around her neck pulled taut, he began to cry.

It's been six months. The tears still flow.

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