‘Where’s Mr Bluesky?’
It was Podium and Wagget loitering in the doorway of room 23b.
‘D’you mean Tiberius?’ asked Normal, he was now alone and kneeling by his bag, unpacking his things.
‘That’s him. Where is he, old Quinine sent us to show you round.’
Normal was a little confused. Who was Quinine exactly? He didn’t ask this though. He wasn’t sure how much you could ask second year boys about.
‘He’s gone to find his sports kit, he said it’s missing.’
Wagget raised his eyebrows and lowered the corners of his mouth.
Podium nodded. ‘Just you then.’
‘Just me what?’
‘We’ll just show you then, come on.’
They led off as if this was the weariest job in the universe.
‘Science labs, sports fields, dining room, gymnasium, language block, main hall, staff rooms, tuck shop, showers and bogs.’
Podium stood in the centre of the grey school ground and pointed rapidly at various places, rotating in a 360 degree circle as he fired the various names of venues at Normal.
‘Got it?’ he said.
‘What sports do we do?’ Normal asked.
‘The usual. Gymnastics. Athletics. Sword fights. Hand to hand combat. Dodge Ball.’ ‘Dodge ball?’
‘Yea, a couple of senior wing commanders hurl medicine balls around and you have to stay out of the way. Comes in very hand for learning about ducking and diving. You’ll get the hang of it.’
‘And what are bogs?’
Wagget raised his eyebrows again. Podium laughed.
‘You come from a good family don’t you?’ Wagget said.
Normal didn’t know. His family were just his family.
‘Toilets,’ said Podium. ‘Big fat toilets for doing your big fat ablutions. Got it?’
And he grinned at Normal with a wide, false smile which was obviously a full stop to end that particular discussion.
‘Oh, oh,’ said Podium suddenly.
‘What?’ asked Normal.
‘Don’t look now,’ said Podium. ‘It’s old Rafe.’
‘The school prophet. He’s mad. Mad as an old gargoyle. Best to avoid all eye contact. Too late, he’s coming over.’
Old Rafe was a hunched old figure, dressed in stained grey trousers and an old tan cardigan full of tears and snags.
‘Hello, sir,’ said Normal brightly.
Old Rafe eyed him over the top of his turtle shell half-moon spectacles. The lenses were so filthy Normal doubted whether he could see anything through them.
‘You boy,’ he pointed at Normal, ‘you’re new aren’t you?’
‘First year, sir,’ said Normal.
Podium and Wagget said nothing, they just lurked a few steps away, willing the whole thing to be over.
Old Rafe eyed Normal for quite a while, saying nothing. His eyes were grey, and his eyebrows bushy. They met in the middle as he narrowed his eyes at Normal now.
‘You know what I think?’ Old Rafe said.
Normal shrugged. ‘No, sir.’
‘I think there are big things ahead for you. Unusual things.’
‘Thank you, sir,’ said Normal, he presumed this was the right response, an optimistic response, rather than a negative one. Hopefully Old Rafe was meaning unusually good things, rather than unusually bad. Normal studied Old Rafe’s deeply lined face for some clues here, but the old man was giving nothing away.
‘Yes,’ he said with a sigh. ‘Unusual things.’
And he shuffled off, clutching his tan cardigan tightly to himself.