In the Lap of the Gods 17
"I heard that shanghais have been seen around the school again," Barnett said to the Head during breakfast. "Should we do a raid do you think? Might bring a few into line," he suggested, "It is the winter term and the boys could do with a reminder about discipline."
The Head merely grunted and gave a hard stare through narrowed eyes out across the assembled boys. After breakfast the boys waited for the head boy's cue to stand but instead the Head instructed everyone to go straight to the assembly hall and wait for the staff. Barnett gave a knowing smile. The fox was at the hen house.
"I want all staff to search every boy's locker for contraband while I address them in the hall. Make sure no boy leaves the hall until you are finished. Understood?"
The school hall was jammed between dormitories as a temporary measure while the new hall was being built so it was somewhat cramped.
"Rumour has it that a number of shanghais have appeared around the school and I want any boy who has one to come to the front and sit here. Those who own up will not be punished!" he added glaring at the assembled boys as if daring them to trust his word. No one had any doubt that while they might not be punished immediately, there would be retribution of some kind at a later date. Nothing was surer. No one moved. And then all of a sudden Bremner, a spotty boy who was always trying to buy friends with his tuck from home, vomited violently in the aisle. He raced for the exit retching as he went. No one moved. No one went to assist.
The Headmaster stood like a huge black monolith in his voluminous dark mantle, "You have one more chance to own up before the masters come back! I am warning you, the consequences will be severe if any shanghais are found!" everyone could feel him working himself up into a frantic state of agitation. No one moved. "Right that's it! You've had your chance! Woe betide any boy who is found with a shanghai! I'll skin them alive!" he thundered.
The masters filed one by one back onto the stage and sat facing the students their faces glum. Last was Barnett who came in holding his hands up like a praying mantis. There hanging from his fingers were the telltale spaghetti strings of shanghais. "We found these shanghais Headmaster," he said obsequiously. I've written the boys' names down on this piece of paper."
"Jesus," thought Steve some poor buggers are in for it now and he thought straight away of his friend Deighton as he searched for his face in the rows to the right. Deighton sat stoic, ramrod straight, not a flicker of emotion crossed his face. "Thank goodness I didn't have one," he sighed. "Luck is on my side for a change."
Raw hostility oozed out from the Headmaster like poison from a snakebite. He was incensed with fury. "Who are these boys?" He flashed a look at Barnett. "Give me that list!" he bellowed tearing it from the outstretched hand. "I'll thrash any boy who has dared defy me this morning!"
Steve was going to risk a look around to see if anyone had gone pale or looked guilty but he thought better of it and remained facing the front curious to know who was to be the recipient of such pent up anger.
"Treadray!" screamed the Head. No one was surprised. "Noble!" he said almost jumping off the stage. Oh no, thought Steve, not those two again. I wonder who they've teamed up with this time? "Morgan!" came the third yell from the Headmaster spittle exploding from his mouth. "You three in my office right now! The rest of you back to your classes." And he strode from the stage waving staff away unable to control himself.
"Me?" Steve looked from left to right at the boys on his side. He felt them move away slightly as if contaminated by his evilness. "I don't have a shanghai. There's been some sort of mistake!" Even so he stood on shaky legs, mind whirling, senses alert expecting to wake up any minute. But the nightmare continued as he made his way through the sea of faces turned in his direction. The whole school knew this was to be no ordinary thrashing. This was to be a flogging with no mercy.
Deighton caught him as he staggered out of the hall. "You don't have a shanghai!"
"I know! I know! I don't understand!" exclaimed Steve. "Something's not right. How could they find one in my locker? Even Barnett wouldn't stoop to planting one would he?"
"Move along boys," commanded Barnett trying his hardest to sound as if he were in control. He gave them a manufactured buddy-to-buddy smile but Deighton wasn't buying it and gave him one withering look that sent him slinking away to another part of the hall.
"I'll see you after first period, if you're still alive!" Deighton gave Steve a thumbs up accompanied by a sympathetic smile and was gone.
Chapter 18 will reveal the outcome of this travesty.....
Related Tags: education, friends, school, god, experiences, boarding school, rules, shanghai, new zealand, immigration, bullying, new boy, wesley college
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