Another Extract from So What! Stories: Chloe's Story
“Sir, what are those animals called with 8 testicles?”
Chris could not help blinking, open-mouthed, at the two girls standing at his desk. His first thought was “This is a wind-up!”
But then he remembered that this was Year 8 and two of the cleverest but most naive pupils were Chloe and Samantha. No, this had to be a genuine question. They were two of the keenest pupils in this class and were always asking or answering questions in their own enthusiastic way.
With exercise books in hand and pens at the ready, they looked up at him in wide-eyed innocence. And he did not know the answer. Chris mentally rejected hydra, sea horses and anemones then replied, “Is this for your poster? " They nodded vigorously. "I’m not sure what you mean, girls. Can you tell me anything else about these animals? Do they have fur or feathers? Do they lay eggs in water or on land? Don’t forget our new topic is called Classification. So you should be able to narrow it down a bit more. Don’t you agree?”
“Well”, Chloe said wistfully, “I’m not sure. It is quite unusual. It lives in the water. In the sea, I think”.
“And it can grip things with its testicles. It can squeeze you to death with them! Or squirt ink at you to escape!" said Sam, triumphantly.
Now Chris’ mind went into a spin.
"OK, " he thought, "My subject isn’t Biology but I’ve always been interested in the natural world and I’m sure I would have read about a sea creature that can grip things with its testicles. "
Then, a pound’s worth of pennies dropped. “Oh! You mean an octopus, with 8 arms or tentacles, not testicles!” Chris tried not to collapse with tears of suppressed laughter. “It’s an octopus that has eight tentacles, girls. They have suckers on them. And, yes, it does live in the sea. You’ll find more details on it in the blue text book over there”.
He waved his left hand vaguely in the direction of the bookcase, and drew their attention towards the correct spelling, which he wrote on the blackboard for them with his right hand. Then he fished for a paper tissue from the box on his desk. They were usually for small emergencies with the children. Runny noses, cut knees and quite often for tears of sadness. But now they were to stuff in his mouth to suppress his laughter and wipe his eyes. But he could not do that easily in front of the class, so he coughed loudly, blew his nose even louder and wiped his eyes, trying hard to recover his composure.
As they went over to the bookcase Chris saw the two innocents put their heads close together and Chloe muttered, “Well, what are testicles for then?”
Chris wanted to bottle the moment and save it for their parents on Open Night.
"But that wouldn’t work. Chloe’s Mum and Dad have just split up. She had already needed some of those tissues. Why was it that kids always seemed to feel it was their fault when their parents decided to live apart? "
He came back down to earth with a heartfelt bump. The two girls were the closest of friends, luckily for Chloe since she missed her father a lot. He had moved out of the family home and into their Chinese fish and chip shop for the time being. Chloe was quite small for her age, pretty, with a shock of straight, jet-black hair. She had warm, deep brown eyes that twinkled with harmless mischief. All of the teaching staff thought that Chloe was “just so cute”. Samantha was a typical English rose; long blonde hair, blue eyes, strawberries and cream complexion. Sam was about six inches taller than her very best friend was. The loyalty between the two girls was fierce and often caused problems with their peers.
“Here’s a picture of an octopus”, said Chloe, triumphantly holding the blue book in the air. When she arrived back at her desk there was a crumpled note on top of her exercise book. As Chloe read it Samantha demanded, “What does it say? Who’s it from? Let me read it! Please, Chloe!”
Chloe started to weep silently. Sam became quiet and put her arm round her best friend’s shoulder.
“Are you alright? What does it say?” she whispered. A couple of boys glanced across at the girls in a very shifty way. Luke watched for a reaction but Martin looked innocently to the ceiling while silently whistling to himself.
Sam took the note from Chloe and waved it in Luke’s face, aggressively demanding, “Did you write this? I s’pose you think it’s funny. You’re pathetic, Pickman! I’m going to tell Sir!”
Luke Pickman tried to look innocent but he could not stop himself from giggling and glanced, mockingly at Chloe. Meanwhile, the rest of the, previously busy, class had all stopped their work and their discussions about fur, scales, number of legs and so on, to focus on the dispute.
“Mr. Cooke”, said Samantha, as she glanced first at Chloe and then at Luke. But by now Chris had become aware of the events around Chloe’s desk and was already thinking, "What on earth is going on now? Just when the whole class has started to focus properly on their project work a row has to start. " He looked irritated and demanded, “What is going on over there? Bring me that note, immediately!”
They could see from his expression that Mr. Cooke was not going to change his mind. Chloe and Luke looked horrified as Samantha slowly advanced towards Chris. Her head was down and her arm outstretched, clutching the note. Chris read it after snapping at the children, “Get on with your work, everyone!”
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