Un, Deux, Trois

Helen Chambers

‘Morning all – hope you’re wide awake, cheerful and ready to work hard. Don’t yawn, George, or you’ll set me off again.

Hello Mrs Smithson, I can’t talk now as I’ve already started the lesson as you can see, so why don’t you come in after school? You can’t? Tomorrow morning at 8.15 before the children arrive? Perfect – yes, say goodbye to Rupert now then go out through the playground and no one will know you were still in school after the bell.

Yes, Chanise, you can go to the toilet, which you should have done before coming here, but first please, tell me are you dinners or sandwiches today? Charlie, give Freddie his pencil back. No, I know it’s his, I watched you take it from his tray a moment ago. Freddie, do stick a new name label on your pencil like I said yesterday.

Okay, French first while we do the register, multi-tasking. Oui le multi-tasking. Oui is a French word Jonny meaning yes, it’s not rude or funny. Aujord’hui, en francais –  les numeros, s’il vous plait. Say the numbers, please.

Un, et les déjeuners, sil vous plait.

Bien fait, well done, Amy. Oh, for a class full of Amys…

Deux? Deux? Qui est numero deux? Who’s number two?

Jonny. Of course he is. Say it with me Jonny – deux. Again. Deux. Parfait.

Hello Eleanor, yes, come right in. Show me the note, please. Did anyone in this class leave this school sweatshirt outside yesterday? Has it got a name inside it, Eleanor? No, of course it hasn’t. You all wear identical sweatshirts – why would your parents think to put your names in them?

Toby – there’s Mr White – time for your music lesson. Toby’s forgotten his guitar again, Mr White. You have a spare? That’s good news, isn’t it Toby? Stop scowling.

I know what we’ll do! I’ve had a brainwave. Everyone take your sweatshirt off now – yes, this instant, you too, Eleanor, I know you’re in Class 6 but you still need your name in your sweatshirt – find the label and write your name in biro. Yes, Charlie, I know it’ll wash off, but at least when you leave it outside for the next few days we’ll know it’s yours, and most of these sweatshirts don’t get a regular wash, do they now?

Amy – go after Toby please, and find out what he’s having for lunch. Amy’s name is sewn in her sweatshirt, Charlie, that’s why I picked her and it is therefore totally fair.

Yes, Emma – I know you’re wearing your brother’s sweatshirt so just put a surname in? Oh. Different dad. Really? I didn’t know … Yes, and lend your pen to Freddie please. His is missing. Oh. Charlie – give Freddie his pen back.

Jonny, remember your numero en francais? Your French number?

It’s deux. Everyone say deux. Jonny say deux.

Tres bien, Jonny.

Hello Mrs Green, no, we haven’t quite finished the register yet. I’ll send someone along with it in a second.

Now, trois, who is trois? Oh, it’s Chanise and she’s gone to the loo.

Tell you what, we’re running late now. Start your maths. Yes, MATHS. We’re done with French, er, français. Hands up if you’re dinners. I mean déjueners. Sandwiches, hands up. Yes, Jonny, look in your book bag to see if mum packed you sandwiches today… So that’s five of you not having any lunch today. Let’s count again, shall we?’

Helen won the Fish Short Story prize in 2018, was nominated for Best Microfictions in 2019 and has short and long-listed stories in Mslexia, Strands, Retreat West amongst others. She loves walking – head in the clouds, feet on the ground. Find her on the Web at: helenchamberswriter.wordpress.com.