The War Alone Day One: Art Class part 1 of 3

Part 1

The sound of glass being punched over and over again, like the crunching of teeth. Spatters of blood flying up the window from bruised and cut fists, pooling down the sharp spider webs. Demented faces fractured by the collapsing pane. The only other sounds were far away shouts and screams, and the sobbing rasp of her own breath. Angela was crunched up under the shelf in the art cupboard, surrounded by spilled pens and sugar paper. Her hands shook violently as she clutched the lino cutting knife with the bloody tip. The blood mixed with her sweat and made the handle sticky and slippery.

The cupboard, like every other room on the school’s central corridor had a reinforced glass window. That had been her good fortune.

War Alone_Art Class

At ten o’clock she had realised that the class was going to run out of paper for testing their lino-cut designs out on. God forbid they should actually get something right first time. So she’d taken her keys from her desk, warned them about using the devilishly sharp lino tools carefully, and strolled off down the corridor, swinging the keys cheerfully around her own knife. For all that they couldn’t print an image worth looking at they were a decent class. Fourteen was the age when they turned though, and Angela was determined to get some decent coursework out of them before they became utterly useless.

Whoever, long ago in the mists of teaching time, had determined that sugar paper would be the principal material for capturing the creativity of children was an idiot. Angela would have killed for a reasonable supply of good quality Japanese papers. Admittedly she would then take quite a lot of it home, but it would still be better for the end results. Endless quantities of sugar paper then. Except they weren’t endless, not any more. By the middle of the spring term they’d be almost out as the insane budget ran down. Last year they had only managed because the A Level students got hooked on some really nice cartridge paper from the art shop in town. Some of them even stopped smoking to be able to afford it. So she ought to be parsimonious with the sugar paper. That sounded too ridiculous to adhere to.

With a deft flick of her wrist, Angela spun the keys off the knife and into her hand. The knife went back in a pocket, the key into the lock of the stationery cupboard. As was her ritual she traced out a smiley face in the wireframe of the reinforced glass which overlaid the brightly coloured ‘Art Room Supplies’ sign. She redrew it every year; it was just one of those small things that made her feel more at home at work.

The cupboard was a mess – exactly as she’d left it last time. The usual pretence that she had an artistic temperament wouldn’t cut it in here. It was the only room she could lock and hide herself in, and she’d made good use of it during the school fayre the previous weekend. She and her boyfriend Mark were responsible for at least some of the spilled boxes. It had been a good weekend and the tombola would supply them with enough blu-tack (or at least the white knock-off) to be able to display the GCSE and A Level work this year.

Angela tugged out a thick multi-coloured sheaf of paper and made a token effort to put boxes back on shelves. They were good kids; they’d be alright left to their devices for a few minutes. With luck, only one of them would be bleeding by the time she got back. With a fond glance at the remaining jumble of papers and paint bottles Angela retreated from the cupboard, re-locked it and headed back to class. The school’s corridors were arranged in a simple square with legs radiating out from each corner. The art room was in the back-right leg of the school, the stores cupboard round the corner on the back of the square.

A ringing phone tugged her down the corridor. It didn’t matter how many times they told the kids to turn their phones off they never did. Personally Angela didn’t care, but it was school policy to confiscate the things until the end of the day. They weren’t able to hold them for any longer than that because parents got testy about the school keeping hundreds of pounds worth of electronics that they’d given to their children. Also, someone had broken into the headmaster’s office last year and stolen the iPad and three Blackberrys he’d taken away during the day. Since then it was hard to argue the point. It was a lot of phones ringing she realised. It was shortly followed by a long lingering scream. “Shit,” she said, and began to run. Just her luck, one of the kids had probably cut his thumb off – you just couldn’t get people to cut away from themselves. Her own thumbs, with their scars running from the tips to the middle joint were plenty of evidence of that.

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