Pilchards

“Miss Clee will see that you sit here until all the food is eaten.” Sister Margaret-Elizabeth reached for the door handle. Eyes down, I imagined her little finger slipping under her starched wimple. It happened whenever God’s instruction to love little children became vexatious. “This wilfulness will stop.” She strode out on silent rubber-shod feet. Her knotted rope belt followed milliseconds behind her. The sound of girls not-running-in-the-corridors bloomed and then faded as the door shut.

I picked at the hem of my brown and white gingham apron. Shirley Ashbridge’s mother had sewn a giant pocket onto her apron. Shirley never had to stay behind after lunch.

“Try one bite.” A podgy hand nudged the stinking dish of pilchards towards me. I scratched at the table edge. Grime collected under my nail. Shirley claimed that their vet was James Herriot. I wished James Herriot was our vet. I bet Sister Margaret-Elizabeth wouldn’t make him stay behind to eat pilchards.

The red, plastic framed clock ticked and a bell rang. Miss Clee looked at her watch and sighed. The tip of her too-pink tongue slid across her lips.

“If you take just one bite I will finish the rest. It will be our secret.”

Coiled eels of vomit slithered in my throat as I pinched my nose and scooped a forkful of the fetid mass into my mouth. I bolted for the door and the bathroom beyond.

“Penny!” I gagged, anticipating being called back. “No running in the corridor.”

P.S: Did anyone else sing this song?

School dinners. School dinners

Concrete chips. Concrete chips.

Sloppy semolina. Sloppy semolina.

I felt sick.

Doctor Quick!

Happier at Work

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