Authors: Tricia Bennett
At the time of this rather unexpected and most hostile uprising, Polly had felt secretly pleased that for once it was other pupils and not just her showing a bit of what was likely be perceived as “rebellious and absurdly unacceptable behavior” by Mr. Edwood Batty, the school's omnipotent, hard-nosed headmaster.
Mrs. McGillicuddy had, of course, gone nuts! “How dare any of you question what I, your teacher, ask you to do,” she shrieked, lengthy strands of her spittle flying through the air before landing on Polly's already badly stained blazer. A horrified Polly, who had been standing slightly to the left of her teacher as she prepared to hand in her overdue homework, hurriedly took a few steps backward, for she knew that once Mrs. McGillicuddy worked herself into a frenzy, well then, there was clearly plenty more spittle on its way, for this lady could produce more frothy foam than a large cup of Italian cappuccino!
Polly had always felt sorry for this teacher, and she could not help but wonder how the dear lady ever became a biology teacher. There was never any question that she loved all creatures great and smallâand I might add, with an absolute passionâbut was this the only essential criteria required that granted her the necessary permission to inflict her teaching skills on young, very innocent pupils? Polly was not on her own in her belief that Mrs. Prunella McGillicuddy was way out of her depth and therefore entirely unsuited to the post, although she remained at a loss as to what post, if any, would be suitable for their desperately high-strung teacher of biology.
Prunella, or rather, Mrs. McGillicuddy, was of an undeterminable age. She could have been thirty, or she could just as easily have been sixty. Polly had tried very hard to work out the poor darling's correct age but had finally conceded that to guess right was clearly an impossible task. The poor woman lived up to her name, for Polly sadly noted that her heavily lined face was indeed as shriveled as a dried-up prune, with lips as cracked as a tight walnut as they did their utmost to hide her distressingly prominent buck teeth. She always had her greasy, unkempt hair haphazardly stacked in the most untidy bun, which appeared as though it might well be home to families of mice, if not other unwelcome visitors, such as head lice. Many a time Polly had noticed odd and sometimes very large bits of twig and bark intertwined with her straggly, wispy hair, and so she naturally presumed that her teacher lived in a log cabin in the heart of a forest. For why else would she have small parts of a tree sprouting from her head daily?
Her gaunt face was framed by the thickest and most unfashionably square glasses ever created, which turned her eyes into hideously monstrous saucers. Add to this thick, sprouting nasal hair, as well as a dark, defining shadow over her lips that bore much resemblance to a mustache, and it was sorely evident that nature had not been the remotest bit provident or kind to this extraordinary woman.
It also had Polly wondering how on earth her teacher had ever managed to get hitched and go from Miss to Mrs. In the end she could only presume that Mr. McGillicuddy likewise must also be in receipt of some equally thick and very distasteful optic lenses that happily prevented either party from viewing the other clearly. But at the end of the day, Polly wondered, did any of this really matter? For as every old sock finds an old shoe, they had rather miraculously found each other.
There had in the past been a disturbing number of occasions when this wholly unpredictable woman had flown into such a scary rage that it had forced each and every member of the class to seriously question not only her age but also her actual origins. I mean, did she really have the same human characteristics as the rest of us? Or had some very thoughtful extraterrestrials concluded that for the higher good of man and science they would generously bequeath this good woman to Planet Earth? And more to the point, if this was found to be the case, how had she been assigned their biology teacher?
So Polly felt very sorry for Mrs. “Warts and Whiskers” McGillicuddy, because to be born looking quite this ugly wasn't nice at all, and Polly sincerely believed she understood this more than anybody else, what with her own personal connections to Quasimodo, better known as the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
As Polly made her way to the bus stop to catch the bus to school, she wondered what if anything she could do at this late hour to lay her hands on some eyeballs and thereby save the day. If you rightly remember, she had started the day feeling so very optimistic, but now all that was a thing of the past, for as soon as she stepped out of the door, those mischievous black clouds had, as usual, come out of hiding with only one cruel intention in mind, and this was to spend the day stalking her and making her life as miserable and downcast as they possibly could.
But this was not her only problem, for as she sat on the bus looking out of the window, she pretty soon became aware that none of girls from Snobbits Preparatory School for Young Ladies were on the bus. She found this very puzzling, as they always took the same bus for at least part of the journey. Had the school closed down? She sincerely hoped not. Polly decided to get off the bus early and head into the village in the forlorn hope that the village butcher might just happen to have a few spare eyeballs that maybe had been hidden from view and were therefore still lying around in his huge walk-in freezer.
As she stepped off the bus she prayed hard for a miracle, for she knew she had little or no excuse for not turning up at class without them. There could be no denying that her teacher had gone to great lengths, even advising all pupils to pay a visit to their family butchers over the weekend with the intention of ordering some, just in case they were not readily available. “Upon receipt of the goods, these items should immediately be refrigerated or at the very least stored in a cool pantry for the remainder of the weekend, as this will keep them both fresh and moist,” she had dutifully informed the class.
“Failure to refrigerate these specific items will most certainly cause severe deterioration, and before too long they will indeed be transformed into highly pungent, rubberized Ping Pong balls. As you can well imagine, in this event there is a high probability that they would begin bouncing off the table long before your surgical knife has even the privilege of making the smallest incision into the retina. I therefore strongly advise that you all follow my instructions to the letter, and this will go a long way toward making this latest assignment hugely successful. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, miss,” the whole class answered back in depressingly rehearsed monosyllabic tones.
Polly was quick to notice that a number of the boys then quickly grouped, and despite their loud guffaws, drowning out much of their silly and very juvenile conversation, she distinctly heard them make up plans to put the eyeballs to the Ping Pong test if and when they got the opportunity. So Polly knew that if nothing else, Monday would more than likely turn out to be a very interesting day.
As the students had slowly filed out of the classroom that Friday afternoon, Mrs. McGillicuddy had most been most conscientious to repeat her warning. “Under no circumstances leave this assignment to the last minute; otherwise you may find to your peril that due to high demand, the eyeballs are completely out of stock.”
“Yes, miss,” they once more chanted in dreary unison.
“May I also use this occasion to remind all present that failure to bring eyeballs to Monday's lesson will, I assure you, result in a most severe reprimand,” she had harshly warned. So although Polly did not relish this latest assignment at all, she still had the sense to acknowledge that she would need to show that she had exhausted every possible avenue in her attempt to get hold of some eyeballs, and so without further delay she headed into the shop of Brutus McClintock, the village butcher.
Her visit was sadly cut short due to the fact that the last set of eyeballs had only minutes earlier been purchased by Billy Blunkett, who had the good fortune of pipping her to the post, as his bus had rolled into the station five minutes earlier than hers. As Polly and Billy were for some unfathomable reason sworn enemies, Polly had little hope of coaxing or persuading Billy to part with even one of the gory little monsters. So as she stood most forlorn at the butcher's counter, she knew those miserably insufferable clouds that hung over her head were, as usual, up to no good as they sought to wreck this day in a manner similar to that of every other day of her doomed life.
“Sorry, luv, you're right out of luck today, for they've all goon, deary, for let me tell ya we've 'ad such a run on sheep's eyes this weekend. But tell yer wot, we still 'ave loads of pig trotters, as well as a fridge full of kidneys and lush livers, and more sheep's heads than I care to count, all minus their eyeballs of course! So, my sweetie pie, would any of these other items be of any use to yer?”
“I am altogether ruined!” she glumly grunted, shaking her head as she wondered what, if anything, to do next.
Polly made a further deep groan, and after thanking the young butcher's assistant for his help, she made haste to leave the shop, as she now needed to run as fast as her legs would carry her, for she knew with much certainty that she stood to be in further trouble if she turned up late for school assembly.
Ten minutes later witnessed a very hot and sweaty Polly racing full pelt down the long corridor as she ran with all her might toward the main hall for the usual Monday morning assembly. Polly screeched to a halt outside the hall entrance and quickly placed her ear up to the door in a desperate bid to determine just how late she was. “Phew! I just made it in the nick of time,” she loudly gasped before prying open the door to creep in and find an empty seat on which to perch. Luckily nobody important noticed her sneak in so disgracefully late, as all eyes were closed for the start of morning prayers. Polly shut her eyes tight and joined in as though she had been there all the time.
After a few well-meaning prayers that were mainly concentrated on petitioning God to mercifully send as much help as He could possibly muster to each and every perilous corner of the globe where both strife and conflict abounded, they were all then instructed to once more stand to their feet to sing Hymn 102, “Onward Christian Soldiers,” from the thick hymnal. As was customary and much to the annoyance of all those around her, Polly, as a matter of habit, immediately filled her lungs to capacity and then sang out heartily, mustering all her might behind each and every verse of the stirring hymn, which never failed to inspire her. But then most of the rousing hymns found her singing robustly louder than those around her, and so like most things, this too deeply aggravated and troubled many other concerned individuals when it came to the subject of Polly Brown.
When the hymn finally came to an end, the pupils were then ordered to remain standing for a continuance of morning prayers. Five minutes laterâand thank goodnessâMr. Batty was almost finished.
“Dear God, we finally bring before You all the poor and less fortunate children around the globe who face terrible struggles such as poverty and hunger, as well as many other unimaginable trials every day of their young lives, and we ask that You may grant them supernatural comfort in their hour of need. Amen.”
“Amenâ¦amen,” Polly excitedly roared, again much to the annoyance of all the other staff and pupils in morning assembly.
One of her forlorn teachers shot her a stern look, which Polly completely ignored as she happily slumped down onto her chair, for the headmaster now wished to address the whole school as a matter of urgency.
As Polly sat back in her seat, her eyes began surveying the long lines of pupils, and she made a loud distressing gasp. As she continued to look down the aisle, a look of pure disbelief etched across her face. She could not fail to notice that Billy Blunkett had not only unwrapped the brown paper bag but was now proudly handing around his personal set of gunk-filled eyeballs as though they were a pair of highly prized marbles. Polly watched on, feeling most indignant. Moments later all his mates were giving the eyeballs a good, long sniff before squeezing them between their fingers, quietly guffawing amongst themselves as they took it in turn to think of new and ingenious things to do with the eyeballs that might get them a cheap laugh. Needless to say, Polly was not the least bit amused. In fact, she remained thoroughly peeved as she continued to watch, for she rightly believed that had her bus arrived five minutes earlier, then those eyeballs would certainly have been in her rightful possession and not Billy's. How jolly unfair everything in her life was.