“Good morning school.”
“Good morning Mr Ellis.”
On the hall’s parquet floor, rows of children waited crosslegged.
“Mr Pryor’s asked me to take assembly today,” Martin said. “We’ve all done well collecting for the baby scanner at the hospital.”
“We can pat ourselves on the back.”
He was surprised at how easily and quickly the glossy piles of crisp packets had filled the stationary cupboard. It was as if the collection had been prearranged, waiting for someone to start it.
Day on day the crinkling rustle increased. Martin beamed when parents reported children scouring the streets, emptying hedges, clearing precincts.
Richer children brought packets thick with exotic flavours; poorer brought pickled onion, beefy, plantain chips, all gaudy, plastic thin as greased paper.
At night, he’d throw armfuls into the air like leaves, breathing in heavy meat musk and sharp vinegar. Believing was all it had taken. They believed, and he believed in them.
In the headmaster’s office, he’d stood mute, hating himself, hating Pryor’s round glasses and neat desk.
“There is no baby scanner, is there?”
Rubbing his eyes, Martin shook his head.
As he spoke, the older children understood. Looking at their faces, Martin wished they could still believe.