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Top of the Class: a short story

Top of the Class: a short story

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Published by Tony
Staying late to help the school’s janitor, we hear a general knowledge quiz on the radio. Later, a teacher gives us a test and the questions appear familiar. Do we own up, or milk the situation?
Staying late to help the school’s janitor, we hear a general knowledge quiz on the radio. Later, a teacher gives us a test and the questions appear familiar. Do we own up, or milk the situation?

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Published by: Tony on Jun 12, 2011
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03/10/2015

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Top of the Class
Miss Battleaxe entered the classroom. Strangely enough, she didn’t suddenly appearout of the blue, but came down the corridor slowly, and sat quietly at her desk.Perhaps she was unwell, or the police had refused to return the metal ruler they hadconfiscated from her on our trip to the zoo? Whatever it was, she wouldn’t have toldus anyway.‘Now,’ she asked, ‘Do we have three volunteers to help Mr Brush, our caretaker (or janitor), after the parents’ meeting tonight? You’ll only need to be here for an hour orso, and there may be some treats for those who stay behind.’At the sound of the word ‘treats’, Basil Burlap perked up, as did Danny Dingbat, theclass dunce. And then, before I knew it, they had volunteered and included me intheir work party.‘Why did you volunteer me?’ I asked Basil.‘Well,’ he said’ ‘We were coming back to have a kick around on the sports field thisevening, and we can still do that. Then we can help old Brush, and get our reward.’The guests, that evening, were parents who were undecided about which school tochoose for their children. Several older girls had volunteered to escort them aroundthe school. After that, they would be given a talk by Mrs Whiplash, the head teacher.‘Why can’t we do that kind of work, Miss?’ asked Basil.
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‘Because girls are far more intelligent, smarter and cleaner than boys,’ replied MissBattleaxe. ‘Mrs Whiplash wants us to make a good impression on our visitors. Shedoesn’t want to see a queue of parents edging towards the fire exit. ’‘But it’s not a
girls
school,’ protested Basil.‘I know that, dear boy,’ added Miss Battleaxe, ‘And more’s the pity.’Later, that evening, the three of us came back to school and knocked a footballaround on the sports pitch until the parents started to leave. Mrs Whiplash stood onthe stage looking very pleased with the way the evening had gone. At least someonehadn’t stuck a sign saying ‘Visitors WC’ on her office door. The four girls stood atthe entrance to thank the visitors for coming and to wish them a safe journey home.Among the first to leave was a tall man in a grey suit. He stood watching us for abouthalf a minute and then asked in a rather pompous voice,‘Do you children have permission to be on the sports field at this time of night?’‘Yes Sir,’ replied Basil, ‘We are part of the school’s security team, and playingfootball is just a disguise.’‘Explain yourself, young man,’ demanded Grumpy Grey Suit.‘Well, we keep an eye open for anyone damaging or nicking cars from the car park.’‘Yes,’ added Danny Dingbat, ‘It’s a bit rough around here. Even his dad’s in jail.’He was, of course, pointing to Basil Burlap and not me. The man in the grey suitlooked stunned and headed off in the direction of his car. He was probably havingsecond thoughts about sending his precious child to the Martin Bormann Academy.With the hall emptying, we began to move chairs back to their classrooms. The realflowers at the front of the stage were placed in Mrs Whiplash’s office; the rows of 
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fake flowers, which included some plastic cannabis leaves, were stored backstage.Then Mr Brush gave us a couple of large brooms and we swept out the hall, the stageand the buffet area. Mrs Whiplash said that there was a pile of cakes and sandwichesfor us in Mr Brush’s workshop. On hearing this news, Basil Burlap perked upconsiderably and insisted on carrying all the rubbish sacks out to the bins.Mr Brush had a radio in his workshop. While we were greedily tucking into creambuns and ham sandwiches, the radio announcer introduced the next programme whichwas called ‘Top of the Class’. This was a general knowledge quiz for teams fromdifferent schools. Mr Brush said he liked the programme and listened every week butfound most of the questions quite hard to answer. We’d never heard of it because werarely listened to radio in the evenings, and were much more likely to be watchingTV. That evening, there were three teams competing to be ‘Top of the Class’, theRoyal Victoria and Albert High School, Ponsonby Manor Science College, and PegsLane Community School. It didn’t take us long to work out the losing school eventhough the quiz hadn’t even started. We decided to stay and listen which pleased MrBrush as he thought he might get a few more questions right.‘Don’t count on it,’ said Danny Dingbat.The questions were set for students a year or two ahead of us and we found themquite hard. Sometimes, they were multiple guess questions, such as What is thecapital of Finland: (i) Oslo (ii) Madrid or (iii) Helsinki? or, Which planet is nearestthe sun: (i) Mercury (ii) Jupiter or (iii) Mars? We liked the multiple guess onesbecause at least we had something to offer even if it was wrong. With other questions,however, you either knew the answer or you didn’t. What is the cube root of 27? Howmany squares are there on a chess board? How many players are allowed to score in anetball team?We learnt that a cyclamen was not a roman soldier or a mechanic, but a flower, andthat a mosaic was to be designed, not danced or eaten. At one stage, the presenterasked one of the teams to name the miller’s daughter who had to spin straw into gold.As quick as you like, Danny Dingbat answered Rumplestiltskin and was the first one
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James McCarthy added this note
Loved the ending makes you wonder what will happen when its not a repeat of the questions.

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