The Eyes Have It
Cruel and unusual punishments at school:
* Cross-country running
* Making a lovely, frilly apron in needlework
* Dissecting sheep’s eyes
I had already been covered from head to toe in mud, the tram-stop of my father is already full of dogs*, my future in the masons was already assured by wonderful use of appliqué, which meant the fields of Berkshire were soon to be filled with sheep holding little white sticks.
I’ve mentioned in previous tales that the science curriculum in our school was at the wanky end of the Wanky scale of one-to-wanky, eschewing the usual fact-based teaching of physics, chemistry and biology for the “finding of patterns” and other touchy-feely crap that set my education back years. On arrival at college, my qualifications were laughed out of the lecture hall when it transpired I hadn’t been taught even the most basic principles of anything, ever.
Thanks for that, useless school science department.
Still, every now and then, we had to do stuff that normal schools were taught, and the sex education textbooks were a pleasing mess of graffiti and strategically placed speed-knobs that would bring a tear to the eye of any Viz reader.
And come the day, we were to cut up sheep’s eyes to see what made them tick. One or two of the more advanced types were already talking about reanimating the creature, and they might have got away with it too, if it weren’t for the unfortunate chain of events that was to follow.
Kathy, you see, lived in a butcher’s shop. Her dad was the village butcher (before all that nasty business with the green stuff that put them out of business and their shop under a Waitrose car park), and the entire family were, well, as well fed as a butcher’s dog. A butcher’s dog that ate nothing but enormous meat pies, forever. Kathy's dad made the generous offer of supplying the school science department with a batch of sheep’s eyes, uses for the cutting up of. And by way of a Brucie Bonus, he also threw in a pair of lungs. A fantastic way of getting rid of an unwanted corpse, if you ask me.
So, Monday morning rolled around, and young Kathy was sent to school with a bloody great plastic bag filled with frozen sheep’s eyes, lungs and assorted spare offal that had been lying round the back room, the kind of stuff they wouldn’t even sell to my mum as “dog meat”. That’s meat FOR the dog, and certainly not what you’re thinking. Though I have my doubts now… The idea of sending frozen cuts being that even on a warm spring morning, they would remain frozen long enough to get to school and into a fridge in the science block. And through years of trial, error and trips to the local casualty unit, the school had found that partially-frozen eyes were far easier to cut in half without taking young fingers with them.
What could possibly go wrong?
Kathy got to school, stepped down from the school bus, and promptly forgot all about her precious cargo for the afternoon’s lesson, left in a bag, Lord knows where.
A light Lunch came and went, and at two o’clock, we trooped into the science labs for the great eyeball adventure.
“Ah Kathy”, said Dr Jenkins, possessor of the creepiest pair of Aryan blue eyes you ever saw, and clandestine recruiter for a league of evil geniuses, “I understand you were unable to procure our ovine visual organs.”
“You what, sir?”
“The sheep’s eyes, girl. You couldn’t get the sheep’s eyes.”
“I did sir! I brung ‘em in an’ I …err… oh.”
“So where are they?”
Search parties were sent out, with strict instructions to bring back any plastic bag contain partially-defrosted offal. Ever the lateral thinker, I headed straight to the school secretary and asked if “any bags had been handed in today. Lost property, like.”
“And what, pray, is in this bag?”
“Eyes, miss. And bits of dead sheep.”
It was all I could do to escape alive.
All the obvious places were turned upside down. The cloakrooms. The dining hall. Smokers’ Gulch. But nothing could be found.
Then: barely registering above the audible – screams. Screams and shouting, getting louder and higher pitched. As we watched, a door burst open in the Old School building, and dozens of first years burst forth, several in the last paroxysms before vomiting, which they obliged in spectacular style.
Of course! Room Four!
Room Four in the French block was where we registered in the mornings. We had all trooped in there, answered our names, and then headed, like sheep to the slaughter to assembly and the weekly talking to on the subject of our sins and shortcomings from His Holiness the Reverend Ratings.
That morning, Kathy had propped her plastic bag of bits against a bubbling old radiator in Room Four, and had forgotten all about them. Four hours on a low heat had eventually defrosted this particular payload, and as they began to cook, a particularly funky smell filled the room. Some curious eleven year-old, torn away from the joys of Longman’s Audio-Visual French**, had gone to investigate, with all-too-predictable results.
We burst in to a scene of devastation.
There were at least three faintings, including Madame Talbot and her tight, tight white jumper. Several survivors were still bent double, their shoes spattered in vomit, while those who could flee were halfway home by now. And scattered across the room, like some eldritch Lovecraftian creature from the very outer reaches of the human imagination, were blood-smeared organs, guts, the wrong number of legs, and eyes, eyes, endless staring eyes.
In the distance, a siren wailed.
The room was sealed off as if someone had brought in ten pounds of plutonium for show-and-tell, and the headmaster made sure that only the local fire brigade were allowed in to hose the place down, who complained bitterly.
The next day, and in a fine example of “waste not, want not”, we each received a scalpel, and a dirt-flecked sheep’s eye.
School dinners that week, however – terrible.
* Der Förderwagenanschlag meiner Vater ist volle Hunden, or words to that effect
** “Ecoutez et rrrrrrepeter!”