The principal sat at his desk in front of his laptop. Newport School for the Gifted was a modern school, very well equipped, and he liked to keep everything neat and tidy. As a result, upon his shiny new desk there was only one paper tray, pencil pot, a small plastic tray of paperclips, and a photo of a girl with a pink ribbon in her hair, sitting on a swing.
His brown leather satchel, containing nothing other than a book and his lunchbox, sat beside the desk. His wife allowed the girl, Cherie, to place something in his lunchbox every morning by way of a surprise extra, usually a toy or a drawing she’d made. It was cute, really, made him smile.
She had settled in well since the agency brought her to his doorstep on that dark and stormy night, as he had been assured that she would. Cherie had been clutching an oval shaped grey pebble; the man from the agency said that it was important that she not lose it.
It would be a few minutes before the new supply teacher arrived, so he had time to pick up his satchel and open the lunchbox in order to take some carrot sticks and a stick of celery. As he removed the snacks, he saw a dark grey object in the box; it was Cherie’s special pebble! She knew that it was her special baby pebble; she must have put it in his box to show she cared about him enough to give him something important to her; silly billy, never mind. He put it back in the satchel which he placed back beside his desk.
There was a knock at the door; it was the clerk with the supply teacher.
The principal stood up from behind his desk and walked over to John as he entered the office, shook his hand, introduced himself, and bade John sit in the chair opposite the desk. The interview was a mere formality; the agency had already briefed both John and the Principal. Very soon, one of the other teachers was escorting him to the biology class he would be teaching that month.
“Good morning Mr Gilchrist” the children said in unison after he had been introduced. The children all had their holographic smart-desks on, and had been talking quietly amongst themselves; they were a lot more civilised than he was used to. He walked over to his own smart-desk, and placed his class card on the top right hand corner of the display. A list of student names and profiles appeared, including one highlighted as a foreign student; John noticed that she spoke English though, so that would be no problem.
The class would be comparing animal cells with plant cells today. Each of the students placed a leaf next to a blood sample onto their smart-desks; holograms shifted and formed in the air, and the lesson began.
Meanwhile, Ralph, the school’s new janitor, placed his brown leather satchel beside the principal’s desk and sat down.
“I don’t need to remind you of the circumstances under which the last janitor left us”.
“No sir, the agency told me all about it.”
The principal leafed through the janitor’s documents, then looked at his laptop screen.
“Well, everything seems to be in order. Welcome to Newport Mr Fairbairn”.
Ralph smiled, shook the principals hand, picked up the leather satchel and walked out of the office.
Ralph headed for the school office, where he knew the clerk would be busily tapping away on her typewriter, the antique keys hammering out invoices onto carbon paper which she would then use the puncher to put holes in before sending the white copy to debtors, the yellow copy to the finance department and putting the pink copy into her filing cabinet.
Nora was a bit of a luddite, but Ralph didn’t mind that one bit because she had great looking calves and a pretty face, and he loved the way she spoke in that sophisticated way of hers. When she looked up at him, her eyes sparkling and her voluptuous lips formed a smile, he wanted to grab her by the waist, haul her onto the desk and take her there and then; job be damned!
For her part, she tolerated him, but had no interest in him at all.
Ralph placed his satchel next to her desk and peered over her shoulder. She paused and looked up at him disapprovingly, only smiling slightly. “So you’re starting with us then?”
“Yes, and I thought that we could go out to celebrate after work tonight if you’re free…”
“I’m afraid not Ralph, I have to get back to my boyfriend or he’ll get jealous.”
Ralph stood up straight. “Oh, well, never mind then” he said, smiling wistfully.
Nora nodded, and went back to her work.
Ralph picked up his satchel and opened it to get his lunch, instead his hand closed around something hard and smooth.
Staring at the pebble and turning it over in his hand, he walked through the door. A light breeze touched his face and he looked up…his arm dropped by his side as he stood slack-jawed, staring at the alien landscape of another world.
Based on a prompt from CreativeWritingPrompts.com