Different Class

Different Class by Joanne Harris

Book: Different Class by Joanne Harris Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joanne Harris
now showing the signs of the odd little man he will one day become. Here’s Jackson, the schoolyard scrapper, and Pink, the class philosopher. There’s Brasenose, a fat boy whose mother overfeeds him, and Niu, the Japanese boy, who defies every cultural stereotype by loving English Literature and hating Maths and Science.
    There is one notable absence, of course. Colin Knight, whose name I crossed off the register in November of last year, but whose silent presence still endures, sullen as the boy himself. He alone has not thickened or grown: his face is still hairless, his voice unbroken. Not that he ever speaks to me; except sometimes in my darkest dreams. Some of the boys have had counselling following their schoolfriend’s death – not that Knight had many friends, but death is always upsetting to those who consider themselves immortal.
    Even now, no one sits in Knight’s place – the left-hand corner desk at the back – though no one is really conscious of this, except for this old warhorse, of course, who remembers far more than is good for him.
    I have a new class register now; neatly printed; unblemished. Even so, I find myself leaving a slight pause after Jerome, B – before going on to Knockton, J – a tiny, barely perceptible pause, just long enough, perhaps, for a Master to clear his throat, or for a sullen boy at the back to say – Sir! – in that cold, bland voice.
    It occurs to me now that Johnny Harrington was the boy Colin Knight would have wanted to be; cool and self-possessed and bold; unafraid of authority. Was that why I disliked Colin Knight? Because somehow he reminded me of little Johnny Harrington?
    ‘I’ve heard we’re getting girls this year,’ said Tayler, whose parents are both Governors, and who hears all the news before I do.
    ‘Is that true?’ said Allen-Jones.
    ‘It’s a merger with Mulberry House,’ said McNair.
    ‘Well, technically, not a merger,’ said Anderton-Pullitt in his ponderous tone. ‘Dr Harrington says it’s all about consolidation of resources.’
    It seems that Harrington’s Crisis Team have taken a special interest in Anderton-Pullitt. Maybe because of what happened last year, when he was so nearly a casualty of the tragic events that claimed the life of Colin Knight. Or perhaps it is because this year, Anderton-Pullitt has been diagnosed as having ‘special needs’, which, his mother assures me, explains his eccentricities.
    I’d always assumed that this was true of all my boys, but nowadays some are more special than others, it seems. I have already informed Mrs Anderton-Pullitt that, as long as her son continues to fulfil all my special requirements – such as prompt delivery of homework and full attention given in class – then I shall attempt to cater to his.
    I have no great expectation of this, however. Anderton-Pullitt has been indulged far more than is good for him, and now that he has a Syndrome, I fully expect him to use it. I anticipate many meetings with Mrs Anderton-Pullitt, in which she attempts to persuade me that her son needs extra time in exams, exemption from Games (which he dislikes) and permission to ignore any homework that gets in the way of his interests. I sense a confrontation. And if the New Head has taken his side—
    ‘So, no Mulberry girls,’ said McNair.
    ‘Not for us,’ said Allen-Jones.
    ‘As if you’d care,’ said Pink.
    He grinned. ‘This class is a fruit-free zone.’
    Pink gave a snort of laughter. The rest of my Brodie Boys joined in. I thought there was an edge to the sound – something not quite familiar – and I caught Allen-Jones looking at me, just for a moment, obliquely, as if to gauge the level of my interest.
    ‘ Do Mulberry girls count as fruit?’ said McNair.
    ‘Only if you’re making a pie,’ said Pink, and they were off again into a burst of that laughter that comes so easily to boys; the almost existential mirth that simply comes of being young. The feel of it; the rib-racking way

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