Alex: Some people in my class got a sticker off the teacher.
Emma: Mm-hm, did you?
Emma: Why did some people get a sticker?
Alex: They did extra homework – Edward did six pages.
Emma: That’s a lot.
Alex: Yeah. (momentary pause for thought) I’m gonna do extra homework.
Emma: Oh, right. Good.
I collect Alex from school. The layout of the school and his new classroom requires those collecting their (and others’) children to wait on a small part-paved part-grassy embankment – something of a natural gallery – as the teacher walks the children down a short corridor and into hazy 3:15 freedom. The children can leave as their parent or guardian steps forward to catch the eye of the teacher, Miss Singh.
Alex is near the back of the queue, so he is one of the last to leave. He greets me with a smile, I ruffle his hair. I remind him about his ‘extra homework’ pledge. This calls for him to return to the classroom to fetch his homework book. Wearily, Miss Singh sees off the final child - Charlie the Chatter (he’s always chatting), and Alex and I return to the doorway.
Alex: Miss Singh, can I go back to get my homework book to do extra homework?
Miss Singh: Yes, of course you can. (Alex runs ahead) Come on in.
Miss Singh: (sighs) Oh, I tell y’, (referring to the tricky logistics of seeing the children safely on their way) home-time for me is… (scrabbling for the right word - I sense it’s been a long day)… it's er-...
Shane: A pain in the arse?
Miss Singh: (amused) Yes, but I’m not allowed to put it like that.
Shane: No, no, of course not.
Miss Singh: You’re Alex’s…?
Shane: I’m Alex’s Shane.
Miss Singh: Ah, so you’re Shane -
Shane: (intrigued, querisome raising of eyebrow)
Miss Singh: You get quite a few mentions in his stories.
Shane: Mm. We like stories.
Miss Singh: Ye-es, in fact - if I’m not mistaken, in his last one you were a pink Power Ranger (smiling, returns a raised eyebrow).
Shane: (blushing) Fiction – it’s all fiction.
Miss Singh: Mm.
Shane: I’m actually the red ‘Ranger.
Alex returns from the classroom, breezily swinging his homework book.
Alex: (holding out a hand) Come on, Shane – home-time.
Miss Singh: (amused) Bye, Alex.
Alex: Bye, Miss.
Shane: Bye, Miss.
Miss Singh: Bye.
I think it was my ‘arse’ wot lifted her spirits.