The Punch by Richard Gibney

Three weeks into the last term, the substitute teacher stormed into class in a pair of slippers, his eyes ablaze with a magnetic look, his pupils tiny pinpricks in grey irises, wispy comb-over falling off his head and hanging over one ear. It was – as both he and we were aware – his last class before the return of Ms. Maryn, who had been on maternity leave. 

He scanned the students with his hypnotic gaze, our hubbub and banter appearing to anger him. He wasn’t going to tolerate any fun on his last day. 

“Shut up, gentlemen!” he insisted as he tottered up to the front of the room, calling us all to attention. 

Mr. Doyle had seemed a little too uncouth for teaching, his language and even his demeanour a little flowery – if unkempt – for a conservative academy such as our institution. His paisley shirt all but hid the narrow black leather tie he wore around his neck as a token of formality, one of the shirt collars up near his cheekbone. 

Mr. Doyle held the lectern with trembling hands. 

“Now, gentlemen,” he asked as the class started, “who’s going to summer camp this year?” 

I raised my hand. 

“Just you?” Mr. Doyle nodded. He knew it was just me; he had asked the same question the day before. “I’ll speak with you at the end of the day.” 

He took up a piece of chalk and – without writing a word on the blackboard – dictated a lecture until the bell rang forty-five minutes later. 

“You!” Mr. Doyle pointed at me. “What’s your name again?” 

“Martin,” I said as I packed my bag and hauled it over my shoulder. 

“Good luck, Martin,” my friend Andy whisper-scoffed as he departed. 

The rest of the students filtered out the door in a rush. The door swung closed obediently, leaving me and Mr. Doyle alone. The door clicked shut with an echoic pop. “You know what you’ll be doing at summer camp?” Mr. Doyle asked, moving towards me, those piercing eyes not leaving my face as he studied my features. “The curriculum? You’ll be introduced to some martial arts.” 

Without any time to react, he put me in a headlock, pulling me by the neck down to his ribcage. His body odour reeked. 

“Pinch the back of my knee to get yourself out of this hold,” he said, his voice calm and mellifluous. 

I did as he said, albeit with gentle respect, and he pretended that his knee buckled under the weak attempt at a nerve pinch. He released me. 

“Good man. See?” He put his face close to mine so that I could smell the tobacco on his breath. “Have you paid your fees?” 

“For the camp?” I asked. 

He took my hands in his and examined them. I nodded, then said: 

“Yes yes. I’ve paid the fees.” I pulled my hands from his, and looked at him. He hummed, and said: “You’ve got a lot of work to do.” He went to the lectern and pulled a leaflet from the bank of exercise books on the desk. 

“This is the camp. Have you seen the literature about it?” His hand trembled as he held the leaflet up. 

Then he put the leaflet away when I nodded, and came close again and stood in front of me so that we were almost nose to nose. “I haven’t been a counsellor there for a good ten years, but I had a great time when I worked there. You really will enjoy it.” He was speaking loudly, although our close proximity didn’t require it. 

He twisted me around, and next thing I know, he had my arm behind my back in a vice-like grip, his free hand on my shoulder. I heard him rasping in my ear. “Ouch!” I said, as he pushed my arm up my back. 

“You can’t get out of that, can you?” 

I tried to resist momentarily, and shook my head vigorously. 

“Don’t worry,” he said, with what I considered to be unearned authority. “You’ll learn how at the camp.” 

He released me and stared into my eyes again as I turned to face him. I stared back, trying to hide a sense of mounting frustration with him for exploiting this teacher-student dynamic. 

“I have to catch my bus,” I managed to say at the same time as he uttered the words: “Now. What about this one?” With one swift sudden movement, he grabbed my shoulders and straddled my thigh and he started rubbing his crotch against my leg and then my hip. We were close enough to kiss as he pushed his face towards mine over and over and over again, his breath rising in excitement, spittle foaming around the edges of his lips, pupils now dilated. 

“Try to get out of it,” he gasped as he rocked against me. 

Frantic, feeling a skin-crawling wetness coming from between his legs, I freed a hand and knocked him to the floor with a punch. 

“Holy shit,” I said. I had the wherewithal to snatch up my bag as I fled the room. Few had been truly suspicious of Mr. Doyle before that day. After that day, he never returned. 

Published in Issue#19

No comments:

Post a Comment