The Cup Bearer
Wednesday 15 th February 1995
Emilio stood in front of MacCaffrey's desk; hands clasped in front, eyes fixed on a point just above and behind the Beak's head. The elderly English teacher, Mr Bartholomew stood at the window, engrossed in what was going on the playing field beyond. Ba-Ba, as the pupils called him, expected him to receive a severe reprimand. Angus Bartholomew terrorised the whole school, including some of the staff, and it took some nerve to stand up to him. Emilio decided he had the nerve.
MacCaffrey's eyes twinkled with amusement. "Mr Bartholomew tells me you've been answering him back in class."
"I didn't answer him back, sir. I queried his remarks about my work."
Bartholomew spun round. "You see what I mean?"
MacCaffrey held up his hand. "All right, Mr Bartholomew, you brought the matter to me so please let me handle it. Now, Gomez, no matter how much you dislike the way British schools are run, I will not have my teachers cheeked, especially in front of the class, is that understood?"
Emilio glared, stony eyed, at him. "When I first came to this school, you said if I didn't understand something I could ask for an explanation. I did that and he called me a damned foreigner."
"What was the question you asked?"
"Mr Bartholomew was criticising our homework. He made disparaging remarks about some of the compositions, including mine, and -."
"Just a minute," MacCaffrey broke in. "What were the compositions about?"
"What we wanted to do when we left school. I wrote about my intentions of becoming an entertainer. You know I wanted to keep quiet about it. Now, because of him, it will be all over the school. I asked him why I should throw ten years of training away just to get a job pushing a pen in an office. When I refused to sit down, he said he wouldn't have a dammed foreigner interrupting his class. You wrote all my details down in a file the day I started school. Why don't you tell Mr Bartholomew, where I was born; he obviously doesn't believe it from me."
"Have you quite finished?"
"No, I haven't." Emilio's anger was up and he didn't care if the Beak expelled him for his 'so called cheek'. "Mr Bartholomew only read out the first sentence of each essay, which took them completely out of context, and made an offensive remark about each one. I don't think he has the right to insult pupils like that."
MacCaffrey raise a hand to his mouth to hide a smile and glanced towards Ba-Ba to make sure he had turned back to the window. "Now have you finished?"
"Yes, sir." Emilio threw Bartholomew an angry look. "How's your wrist, Senor? Not hurting too much is it?"
Bartholomew spun round from the window, ready to explode. Then he looked as if he remembered something, and his mouth snapped shut, the colour rising in his cheeks. Emilio wondered if MacCaffrey would guess that the altercation in class contained more than just a verbal argument. In front of the class, despite MacCaffrey's warnings against corporal punishment, the man had raised his hand to deliver an old fashioned 'clip round the ear' as Emilio passed him on the way out of the classroom. Emilio had grabbed for the offending limb, leaving Ba-Ba with a numb hand and the class with something to gossip about. Ba-Ba didn't seem anxious to admit to the incident. Served the man right!
MacCaffrey cleared his throat to gain their attention, and raised a questioning eyebrow at Bartholomew before addressing Emilio. "All right, let's get one thing straight. Arguing with a teacher in class is not tolerated in this school. You should have approached Mr Bartholomew with your complaint, after class and in private with perhaps one other pupil to witness what was said. Now, as there seems to be a question of hurt feelings on both sides, I'm going to ask you both to apologise."
Bartholomew started to object but MacCaffrey raised a hand once more for silence. "I should support you on this, Mr Bartholomew but, as the boy only wanted a reason why you did not accept the contents of his essay, I don't see how I can. His story about his theatrical training is true and I know he is looking for a place in a stage school or a music theatre college. As far as the insult is concerned, Gomez was indeed born in Manchester. Gomez, as you are still somewhat new to British School discipline and this being your first offence, this won't go in your record, but I'm giving you a verbal reprimand. You must learn to be more co-operative when in class, do you understand me?"
"Yes, sir," Gomez replied. Like Hell I will.
"And are apologies in order?" the Beak glanced from Emilio to Bartholomew and back.
Emilio waited for Bartholomew to make the first move. The English teacher came to the desk, looked him up and down. "Perhaps you should concentrate more on your schoolwork instead of dreaming of stardom. Even the best of actors need to be proficient in English language and literature. According to your other teachers, your marks are way below the standards of 5B, and your French is abysmal to say the least. I wonder if you would be so cocky if you were sent down to 5C?"
Emilio turned to Bartholomew and addressed him in perfect French. "What I have in my head, m'seur Bartolome, and what I choose to put down on paper, is my own affair."
Both teachers gaped at him. MacCaffrey recovered first and responded in French, "I'm surprised your excellent command of the French language doesn't show in your schoolwork. Why hide your abilities?"
"If I didn't, I'd be moved up a form." Emilio reverted to English and said, "I've no interest in schoolwork so I'll stay where I am till I can leave school and my career takes off. And as for the one in a thousand who reaches the top, as you so kindly informed the class, Mr Bartholomew, I'm the one who's going to get there."
"You're in dreamland, boy!"
"You've heard of Julian Bream?"
"Of course I have, why?"
"By the time he was sixteen, he was playing concerts all over the UK. I don't think he was in dreamland."
Bartholomew's eyes narrowed with undisguised resentment. "If you're determined to waste your academic talents and you're so good at this singing lark, happen the lead boy in the school choir has broken his leg. Miss Wayne is looking for a replacement. Now back to class with you."
"Not just yet, "MacCaffrey said, "I'd like a private word with Gomez first."
Bartholomew left the office, closing the door a bit harder than necessary. MacCaffrey rose from his chair and went to look out of the window. In the playing fields across the road, a group of first formers toiled round the running track, urged on by Sweetnam. As the Beak watched them, Emilio in turn watched the Beak and felt uneasy. MacCaffrey addressed him without turning round. "You'll have to make a choice between the stage and the ice rink; you know that, don't you?"
"Professionally, the stage is my first choice, sir. Skating is just a hobby at the moment."
"Hmmm! Perhaps I can help. My nephew, Brian, runs a show band called 'High Street'. You heard Bartholomew mention the lad with the broken leg? He's their lead singer as well as Miss Wayne's rising star. He went mountain climbing in Snowdonia last weekend and fell forty feet down a ravine. He was lucky to survive with just his leg broken in two places. He'll be out of action for some time and Brian's looking for a replacement. I could speak to him if you like, and arrange an audition."
"What's in it for you?"
MacCaffrey swung round with a bellow of laughter. "Goodness, boy, he's my nephew! He's got bookings from the end of May onwards and if he doesn't find someone soon, he'll be in a lot of trouble." For a moment he was silhouetted against the brightness of the winter sun outside, and all Emilio could see was an enormous menacing shadow that reached to the ceiling. Panic gripped him as it triggered a memory from his past.
MacCaffrey moved away from the window, and the menace faded. "Brian's a good trumpet player, and I'd like to see him and his band, get on. Everyone deserves a break." He placed a large hand on Emilio's shoulder. "I'm here to help my pupils get on as well. This might be the break you're looking for. I'll give Brian a ring tonight and see what I can arrange, but don't be disappointed if he's already found someone."
Emilio shrugged his shoulders, more to ease MacCaffrey's hand away than any sign of indifference. "All right, I'll give Brian a try, sir."
MacCaffrey gave his shoulder a squeeze then dismissed him. He stood for a moment outside the door, telling himself he was stupid to think ill of the man. But the feeling of unease didn't leave him till he was back in the classroom with the eyes of all 5B on him, expecting him to be downcast and miserable or at least angry. Bartholomew turned from the board to look at him for a moment and awarded him a curt nod. He sat down and studied the essay Ba-Ba had left on his desk with "Sorry" scribbled at the bottom in red ink.
"What happened, then?" Sandy wanted to know.
"Nothing." Now my secret's out, I'll be hounded till I tell all. Well, let them hound me, It's time they found out how tight lipped a Scorpio can be. When the home bell rang, the class made their way out of the building and, as soon as they reached the open yard, they surrounded him, clamouring for details. Emilio shrugged off the questions. "I want to entertain, end of story."
"Oh yeah?" Ball said. "Just who d'you think you are, Roy Castle?"
Vetch laughed. "Hey, fellas, he doesn't know who Roy Castle is."
Sandy planted himself between Emilio and Vetch. "What's that got to do with you?"
Gaskin pushed Vetch aside. "We want to know what he gets up in his spare time. We don't see him around town; he's never seen at the flicks, and he certainly doesn't go round to your place all that often does he?" He turned to push his way through the crowd and shouted over his shoulder, "We're watching you, mystery boy."
They finally reached the school gate, and most of the class dispersed in different directions. From the look on Sandy's face, Emilio knew he was in for a grilling. "Where do you get to most nights, anyway? I've rung you several times and Perquita's told me you weren't back yet, but back from where?"
"That's my business. Now, if you don't mind, I have to rush." He sprinted for the Visick Street bus and jumped abroad just as the door began to close. Sandy stood and fumed as the bus moved off. Someone nudged him and he turned to find the three nerds standing beside him.
Gaskin wore a leering grin. "Boyfriend left you on your own again, Lurch? I'll tell you something for nothing; the buses aren't good enough for him at night. If you want to know what he's up to, come with us tonight.
"Yeah," Vetch chipped in. "Looks like your Latin willie-warmer's got a sugar daddy. The guy drives a big green Volvo and brings him back late at night."
"Yeah," Gaskin said, "very late. And every Tuesday morning as well, in time for school from wherever they've been."
Sandy felt his anger rising "How d'you know?"
"I started a new paper round last week," Vetch explained. "Visick Street's on my patch. I saw that Volvo last Tuesday morning and again yesterday, around eight fifteen? My brother Mike works four-to-midnight and takes a short cut home down Visick Street. According to Mike, this guy brings him home at least three nights a week around one o'clock in the morning. It gets you thinking, doesn't it, Lurch? Do they park in a dark lane or do they go to the guy's place for cuddles in front of log fire?"
Sandy bristled even though he did wonder about the times Gomez was not home when he phoned. "You watch your mouth."
"My big bro has a Shogun," Gaskin said. "He'll do anything for petrol money. When Pretty Boy goes out tonight we're going to be right on his tail, aren't we boys?"
"I still don't believe you."
"Come with us tonight and find out for yourself."
Sandy's suppressed the urge to punch Gaskin in the mouth. "Right, then, you're on."
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