|The Evening Class
Richard K. Walker
2003 by Richard K. Walker
Holy Michael, pillar of the Holy Church, sidesman spectacular, and not, as holy as his nickname implied, slipped sheepishly through the main door of Cowshed College. He tiptoed, on patent leather shoes, over to the roughly written notice board, and pulled the front of his black pin stripe suit jacket down to allow his manicured hand to check, without unseemly notice, that the fly was firmly zipped shut on his elegantly cut trousers. Outward decorum was everything to him, except when fate tweaked his nose to anger.
`How to Write a Novel and get it Published," he read. "Only a pencil and paper required. Hut, 212." `
He sighed, and put a thumb in his mouth to ensure that his Civil Service pattern false teeth were firmly anchored over the 2 B.A. studs that had been drilled in his upper jaw. He was satisfied that his investment of over eight thousand pounds had ensured that his teeth would not fly out. Not like the old pair had when he read the lesson in church one Sunday. He turned his attention to a group of students. They were of obvious foreign extraction.
"Can you tell me how to ascertain the whereabouts of Hut 212,Please?"
"In the bleedin'field, Grandad. Outside and round the corner."
Holy Michael was mortified by such an assault on his dignity. No retired Chief Immigration Officer should be treated in such a rude fashion, he thought. Funny how they soon caught up with all our rough language. If I had my way I would have deported the lot. Back to their country of origin for bad manners. Grandad indeed! Why I'm as trim as I was when I was twenty. I don't look old, six foot, and still upright, no pot belly at sixty three, what more could a man want?
He took a sideways glance at the women in the group. Not bad. Not bad at all. One of those would warm the bed quite nicely, and perhaps do all the housework as well. Just what the doctor had ordered. I'd keep a couple of those in the luxury of the Asylum Seekers and Foreign Students Hotel. They looked just right to be taught the rudiments of Bridge as well. Especially on a wet Tuesday afternoon, when office routine palled. The thought of Bridge saddened him as he walked through the door of a scruffy hut bearing a crudely painted 212,in dirty white letters. If only I had not boasted about writing my memoirs to the new girl at the bridge club, he thought, I would not be in such a fix now. All because she might think me too busy to bother with mere laundry, and offer to do the lot. Now I've got to have a go for forms sake.
A vision of the lady, in question, floated into his mind. Blonde, possibly divorced, nice figure, about fifty five, and a face like an old frying pan. But this defect in Holy Michael's eyes were more than compensated for by the new B.M.W. that she drove and the large amount of gold about her person. One thick chain actually separated the magnificence of her pure white bosom. He liked the feel of money about him. Expensive women aged at a slow rate.
"Are you writing a novel, or a story based on fact?"
Holy Michael jumped. He had been so lost in the heady remembered scent of the new Bridge girl, that he had not realised that he had wandered into the hut and had sat down at a row of tables at the back of the room.
"All my stuff is factual." Holy Michael said stuffily." Except for the financial reports for the church. That has to be somewhat fanciful, otherwise the Bishop complains. I had thought of writing my memoirs."
"Oh! I thought you were important. You look kinda wassername. You know, svelte."
Michael looked at the young woman beside him. Her dark hair framed her pear shaped face, and tickled the front of her throat through the open collar of her thin white polyester blouse. Her pink brassiere could be dimly seen in all its glory of thin white tapes.
Ten quid at Debenhams.Michael thought. Still, such pink flowering should have its brief day.
"Are you writing a novel, my Dear?"
"Oh yes." The girl said breathily, blushing to the roots of her dark hair. This highlighted the patches of punk-pink over spray that was her colourful statement of being way above the crowd." It's about love in a supermarket. It's a bit explicit."
"Factual?" Holy Michael's interest flared. Perhaps he would not have to bother with the Bridge girl after all. One could have too much of wealthy elderly ladies. They could be too set in the ways of luxurious living to readily revert to the grind of house work. Anyway, the Bridge Girl had that old besom from the Pub, three mornings a week. Lucky to afford it. Still, younger women might only need some encouragement. The kind of poetical seduction that filled old gentlemen's souls with delight.
The thought of hot dinners and washed socks, clean bed linen and a bathroom that did not smell like a cheap apology for a Chinese Pigsty, hung like a silver chalice before Holy Michael's half closed eyes. He could almost hear his long dead wife calling from the spirit world. She was urging him on to satisfy his mortal needs.
"Atta Boy, Mickey," she was bellowing from her scented cloud.
"Eeoow! We've all come back then. No. Wait I see a stranger in our midst."
Holy Michael looked up in the direction of the awful screech. Mechanical Marlene stood before the class and she was smiling directly at him. He winced. Mechanical Marlene wore a long grey woollen jumper, like an out of work Chinaman's smock. It, hung over her dumpy body, making her seem to be suffering a phantom pregnancy. Her greying hair straddled her white and lined face like a mediaeval steel helmet.
"Tell us yer name then Ducks."
"Oh! Ain't that lovely. I do like the name Michael. It goes with his shape. I always use the name Michael for someone like him. So smart and elegant. All of you take note and use it for your character biographies."
Michael felt quite faint. He let a hand stray to his mangy beard in a gesture of helpless embarrassment. He was a child again, frightened by the puffs of face powder that emanated from the cold lines in Mechanical Marlene's face, like steam from a resting volcano.
"Don't look so glum lovey. I'm yer tutor. My name's Marlene. I do Tarot on Tuesdays, Astrology on Wednesdays and this on Thursdays. It's a bit routine and mechanical like, but then so's writin'."
Michael shivered and tried to sink down low in his seat. His beard had become erect like a porcupine's quills, but he was saved from any further embarrassment by the sudden shift of Mechanical Marlene's gimlet eye towards a fat lady in the front row. "OW Ow! I din't see you there, Mavis.Did you get all those pumpkins in Sainsbury's after all? I ain't had time to read your book yet. Me old man's been up the wooden stairs with the 'flu. You know what they're like when they've got that. All whiny and baby like."
Mavis brightened visibly. She stuck her gold Woolworth pen in her mouth and began to chew it contentedly. A gentle clicking of false teeth came from behind her motorised lips.
"OOOOh.Look!" Mechanical Marlene said, swinging her grey, helmeted head towards a man in the far corner.
"There's Dave! Oooh Dave, I just read that short story of yours. It's lovely. You reeely should send it somewhere!"
Dave preened, and blew up his barrel chest with pride and looked as if he would take Mechanical Marlene to the pub for a cheese sandwich and a pint, if he were given half a chance. His long grey locks glistened with this revitalising thought, making his over fifty, workless appearance seem less of a permanent badge of office.
Holy Michael felt cold. A St Vitas dance had overtaken his legs. They jittered up and down in a staccato tattoo, like a pair of Besarabian drum sticks in the hands of a mad drummer. He put his hand out to steady himself on the side of the chair beside him. His hand inadvertently brushed the plump thigh of the girl with the explicit novel.
"Sorry, my Dear." Holy Michael croaked between clenched teeth." An old war wound makes my hand twitch, now and then."
She smiled at him as if appreciating his attention.
Holy Michael knew that he was bewitched. He had become numb. He allowed his eyes to open up to the gimlet power of the steel stair rods that flew from Mechanical Marlene's eyes. The massacred eyelids that stood above her windows of the soul, were like the dead, iron covers on an open missile silo.
"You 'ave to train men, yer know." Mechanical Marlene announced, addressing the cold vapours of damp that filled the room." Cos if yer a writer you've got to get used to rejection notices. Don't take them personal like, but make sure yer old man softens the blow."
Mechanical Marlene had the class spell bound. Even Dave in the corner, ex boxer, and black economy jailbait, stopped wondering what she would be like in bed, and had become riveted in rapt concentration.
"My postman comes when I'm still in bed." Mechanical Marlene let this sink in for a moment." I can always tell an acceptance. It goes floof as it comes through the letter box."
"Oh how wonderful to get an acceptance, Marlene."The well-upholstered girl at Michael's side said dreamily.
"Don't worry lovey. I've 'ad my rejections too. They go thump when they come trough the letterbox. My old man always cooked my breakfast for me on those days. He got to know the sound, see? Then I used to rant a bit when he came up to the bedroom with me breakfast, and he'd have to give me a cuddle...Well, you've got to find some use for men 'avent you? They can be trained, but only slowly."
"Do you get any rejections now?" Holy Michael croaked. His voice, like his face, a grey, ponce-purple.
"Not now, Mikky, Darling. My editor knows she daren't."
"How do you work it?" Mavis, fat and full of Woolworth gold pen said.
"Seezy! yer write to the formula I'm gonna teach yer. All editors are women now and they don't mess about with all that literary stuff yer can't read. Keep to the formula, and yer git published."
Holy Michael wriggled in his seat. He had the premonition that before long Marlene would set them all a writing task in the class.
"O.K. We'll write a twenty-word story now. No time for break unless yer back teeth are floatin'. Write a story on Flower. You've got ten minutes."
Holy Michael forced his hand to feel in his inside pocket for his pen. Then he scrabbled in his Civil Service brief case for paper. He smoothed the sheet of paper on the desk and bit on his pen, forgetting his costly teeth. He began to write. His eyes had the glaze of a Born Again Evangelical Preacher seeing a vision of a Holy and rather nude female saint.
"Okey-Dokey. Stop writing now. Let's hear from our newest member first."
Holy Michael coughed, and just managed to jamb his Civil Service false teeth back on their studs. Fear overtook him as he realised that they were unfit for use at any evening class that was inter- active. He made a mental note to demand a refund.
"Come on lovey! Don't be shy," Marlene said.
"Flower power rows loud. Government takes action. Into the slammer they must go. Eee-Aye, Eee-Aye, Eee-Aye Oh."
"See ! I knew he'd got it the moment I came through the door and saw him sitting there all refined." Mechanical Marlene was ecstatic. Her woollen jumper took on a glow as if it had been washed the previous night and not more than three months ago.
"I think he has a way with words," the girl with the explicit novel and the nice chest said. It heaved in a way that suggested a divine ascendance towards some breathy peak. Her erotic novel lay open on her lap at the page where the hero gets the heroine alone on a grassy mountain top, stark naked. She turned to Holy Michael and touched his cheek with a reverence usually reserved for Dave in the corner. Dave in the corner just scowled his contempt.
"Er. Er, I 'm glad you liked it," Holy Michael said loftily, part of him not quite believing his luck. "We often have to put some words together quickly in my job."
"Oh, Michael! Oh Michael," Mechanical Marlene said, daft as a second grade witch talking to a toadstool. "What is you job? I'll bet it's ever so important."
"I'm a Chief Immigration Officer," Holy Michael said with a proud ring to his voice.
Two gentlemen of Asian appearance in the farthest corner of the room burst into a coughing fit that threatened to make them swallow their tongues. They were about to leave when the deep and holy voice spoke again.
"No. That's not quite true," Holy Michael said with a catch in his voice. "I used to be, but I only lasted a couple of years after my wife died. I had to retire and go and live with her sister. Now I live all alone, after the sister went off with our Curate. It was quite distressing."
"Oh you poor man!" The girl with the novel flashed her great and perfect big blue eyes at him as she spoke. Her bosom heaved in passion and pity, like two lace covered balloons about to burst free and bring succour to the damned. "Do you need someone to cook and clean for you? I'm free nowadays. My partner's found another woman, and moved out of the flat. I only would charge you a little. Just enough for some rent money."
"I would be eternally grateful to you," Holy Michael found him- self drowning in her eyes, all thought of the Bridge lady with the B.M.W. had evaporated in this spiritual communion. His long dead wife seemed to be saying `atta boy` again, from behind his left ear.
"Write me a story for next week," Mechanical Marlene trilled. "No sex mind. We don't go in for that sort of thing at Cowshed College. Blood and gore yes. OOOh how I love it! But all this continual sex you get these days is too fanciful and unreal."
"Not from where I'm sitting." Dave in the corner, said viciously. "The new chap's scored already! 'E must be ninety if 'e's a day. If that ain't fanciful, then I don't know what is!"
Mechanical Marlene quelled him with a look.
"That reminds me, Dave. That bloke in your story what gets his head cut off. You can't do that with a penknife like you say. Stay behind afterwards and we'll discuss it."
"Right on!" Dave in
the corner said happily.
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