The Thug Meets His Match!

Another Terrific School Tale from St Ninians

"You will construe, Watler!"

Dr. Gimlet's ever-watchful eyes bored into Watler as the hapless fourth former squirmed under his lancet gaze. It was rum luck to be saddled with double Latin, when he would far rather have been at the cricket nets, but now Watler really was on the spot. Dr. Gimlet, the Kittiwake Of St Ninians, did not suffer fools gladly -especially not where the construation of Juvenal was concerned. Hesitantly, Watler began: " Frontonis platani conuulsaque marmora clamant semper et adsiduo ruptae lectore columnae...er...

" In English!" rasped irritable master.

" The stale themes are...er, giving her breasts and the skins of beasts? " offered Watler.

The angular master moved with surprising speed for a man of his venerable years, as he descended upon the boy, his black gown flapping like bat-wings behind him. The Kittiwake swiped Watler across the ear, to the accompaniment of a sickening crack from the stout cane he was famous for carrying. Man of The Nets, Watler may have been, but as his ear split open, the flaxen-haired Demon Fielder of The Fourth burst into scalding tears of pain. Gimlet strode swiftly back to the front of the class. A palpable silence hung over the room. " You will translate Juvenal's Sixth Satire, by Friday afternoon, second Latin period, Watler."

" Oh lumme!" sobbed the humiliated junior.

Upon seeing their compatriot in The Fearsome Foursome, dished up with such treatment, his friends Crook and Watler sat up straight and paid attention. The Kittiwake was obviously in a somewhat shirty mood. The pair looked wretchedly at the classroom clock and sighed as they realised there was still a full quarter of an hour to go. As they were musing upon this, events took an unexpected turn. Dr.Gimlet turned his attention to an altogether shadier figure at the Gaz, the Thug Of St. Ninians was a new face in the Latin Room. His previous school hadn't done Latin. Consequently, up until this moment, The Thug had not yet had the formidable pleasure of meeting Dr. Gimlet.

" Boy!" Gaz looked idly up from the racing paper which he'd been perusing.

" Wot?"

" How dare you answer me in that tone! You will continue where Watler left off."

The Thug Of St Ninians summoned a generous amount of phlegm from somewhere deep in the back of this throat. He arched his tongue into a groove and with a casual toss of his head, lazily lobbed a fat grolly ceilingwards.The double-headed greeny spun in the air like a miniature helicopter, until it hit an overhead light, where it slid and hung on a wet strand, like a foul Damoclean globule over the master's head. The Kittiwake of St. Ninians was, by now, volcanic.

" Boy!" he roared.

" Oh fuck off." Gaz sighed, " I really haven't got time."

" You will come out here!" thundered the Kittiwake.

Gaz snapped his pencil in half and gazed intently at the incandescent Latin master: " Let's get this straight." Gaz drawled. " If I have to come out there, it will only be for the purposes of tearing your fucking head off and shitting down your neck. Don't be a cunt all your life, Prof. Take a day off for once -like yesterday, for instance."

At this juncture, Watler, who'd previously been occupying himself by dabbing at the vermillion stream of blood from his head wound, interjected: "Please sir,-if I may have permission to be so bold sir. I wouldn't tangle with him sir." The Kittiwake regarded his earlier victim contemptuously: "You do not have permission Watler. And I will tangle as I see fit." he snapped.

With that, the master moved rapidly up the aisle of desks, stout cane swishing through the air as he approached The Thug. Gaz hardly batted an eyelid as the angular form of Dr. Gimlet advanced towards him, the afternoon sunlight glinting on his spectacles. As the Kittiwake's bony arm shot out to seize the boy, the vice-like hand on the end of that arm closed on thin air. This in itself was unexpected enough, but the stunned Latin master could only utter a stifled gasp as the wily thug, deftly side-stepped him, producing as he did so, a Chinese rice flail, which he wrapped around that respected classicist's patrician neck.

    Gaz dragged the unfortunate man across two rows of upturned desks, delivering a disabling boot to the Kittiwake's kidneys. It is doubtful whether the distinguished Latin master felt the pain of the prolonged kicking which The Thug subsequently doled out to him, since he became insensible shortly after Gaz broke his jaw with one monstrous roundhouse punch. Luckily for Dr. Gimlet, the afternoon bell rang. The Thug looked regretully at the clock:

"That'll have to do for now. Some people just don't know when they're well off do they? Christ in a bucket! -what a fuckin' cunt!"

" Crikey Gaz." gasped Watler. " That was sterling stuff."

" Whizzo! " Crook and Hartley chorused. The Thug remained poker-faced as the classmates walked down the corridor and emerged into the bright summer sunshine of the quadrangle. Watler clapped Gaz on the shoulder, who reacted by snarling viciously:

" Oi! Watch the fabric, Piss-flaps! Forty-five sovs a metre that costs in Ilford" "  

Sorry, old chap. " said Watler. " It's just...well, nice to see the Kittiwake's wings clipped."

He's a fucking cunt." replied The Thug. " And it just needed pointing out to him. By the way, how's your mate Bearcroft doing since his 'accident'?"

" He still has the nightmares, but Matron says he might be alright to leave the school sanatorium at the end of next week", Hartley replied. The Thug cackled. "Well send him my regards and tell him to be lucky. Now if you gentlemen will excuse me, I have an appointment with my turf accountant."

And with that, The Thug slouched off across the quadrangle and down the majestic, elm- lined school drive, towards the great wrought iron gates of St. Ninians. This would be bound to lead to more trouble, thought Watler. Everybody knew that St Ninians boys weren't allowed to leave school, without prior permission. No point in anyone trying to tell a chap though. Crook and Hartley discussed the pros and cons of being 'out-of-bounds'. Jiggered if they could make head or tail of Gaz. He seemed to be a law unto himself. Unknown to the three chums, however, the Thug of St Ninians, doughty as he may have been, was just about to meet his nemesis.

Montague Evans, the Divinity master, was strolling amiably along the lane back to school when he first caught sight of the surly figure shambling towards him. It was a pleasant afternoon and splinters of summer sunshine pierced the thick canopy of chestnut leaves above the teacher as he walked purposefully on. He'd enjoyed a light lunch with the Bishop of St Botolphs, followed by a stimulating discourse on matters theological. It was his custom to do this once a fortnight since it gave him valuable food for thought when he later prepared his religious instruction for those scholars in his charge.

Evans was a popular master with the boys and was known to one and all as the Elephant Of St. Ninians. This had less to do with his firm but affable manner than the fact that he actually was an elephant. His history was, it was true to say, unconventional but he was a teacher of no little integrity and substance who had arrived at his vocation only after much personal endeavour. Having escaped from a travelling circus as a youngster, he'd found himself in a small Welsh mining village called Twdr-Y-Ffinniog. Here a kindly miner and his wife took pity on the forlorn pachyderm and brought him into their home. After enroling him in the parish school, the childless couple discovered that young Montague was a gifted and outstanding scholar.

The promising young elephant was a model pupil, with a natural aptitude for Bible studies. Indeed, from the age of nine he'd been reading the lesson each Sunday in his village's tiny Baptist chapel. Shortly thereafter, when the choir master discovered that young Montague could trumpet notes from his trunk approximating a high tenor, he took the Elephant under his wing. Soon, the very hills surrounding the green Welsh valley reverberated with such stirring classics such as Bread Of Heaven and Y Sospan Bach, and as the proud ranks of the village choir rattled the chapel's rafters each sabbath, no voice rang out louder or more proudly than the celestial trumpet of young Montague Evans, the Elephant of Twdr-Y-Ffinniog.

Indeed, it was this musical talent, coupled with his prowess as a scrum half for the village rugby team, which eventually secured the God-fearing young pachyderm a place at grammar school and later, a scholarship at no less a seat of learning than Trinity College, Cambridge. Here he might have won a rowing blue had it not been for the fact that most of the boats available for his use precluded his entering many of the competitions, by virtue of their smallness and fragility. Undeterred by this, he now put away childish things and concentrated on his studies, triumphing three years later with a double first in Theology. He might have entered the Church at this point but his humble background dictated to his conscience that he pass back some of his learning to future generations as a thanksgiving for his good fortune.

When he'd first entered the portals of St Ninians as a junior Divinity master, little had been expected of him. Indeed he'd almost been given the post on sufferance, the headmaster at the time, commenting drily: " Qualifications are all good and well Mr Evans, but an elephant without teaching experience, is like the Spartan without a spear. "

Twenty years later, the Elephant Of St Ninians was as popular as practically any master had ever been at the school and it was hard to imagine the old place without him. Admittedly, his mortar board had required some adjustments. And his trousers and gown had been cut rather more generously than those of his colleagues. But as he wheeled his bicycle under the ivied cloisters, trumpeting as he did so, the hymn, To Be A Pilgrim , Montague Evans felt in a very real sense, that he had come home.

On this balmy afternoon however, The Elephant Of St Ninians regarded the wiry figure approaching him, noticing that the boy wore his uniform, what there was of it, in a somewhat casual manner. Not only this, but he observed that the boy was smoking-an act certainly prohibited by school regulations. The master only vaguely recalled the pupil. He was a fourth former. More importantly though, he was a St Ninians fourth former who was, at this juncture severely out of bounds.

" Name!" boomed the Elephant.

" What's it to you cunt-lugs?" spat Gaz.

" You're out of bounds Boyo -and where's your school tie? the master asked.

" Fuck me!" the Thug exclaimed. " It's a talking elephant. Very funny. Now fuck off."

The God-fearing pachyderm was in no mood for any nonsense and grabbed the boy's arm with his trunk. " I think it's about time we went back to our studies don't you Bach? "

"I don't know about you, Toilet Breath, but I've got a fortune riding on a gee-gee in the two-thirty at Sandown -so why don't you just go and have a wank?"

With his free arm, Gaz produced a small spring-loaded cosh and gave the Elephant a hefty welt between the eyes. To his amazement though, the master barely flinched.

" Want to play it rough, do you lad?" With that, the Elephant picked Gaz up, by fastening his brawny truck around the youngster's waist. He hurled the surprised Thug onto the grass verge in the sun-streaked lane. Before the winded boy had time to recover, the burly pachyderm planted his huge front foot on the Thug's groin and applied a gentle pressure to that tender area. " What's it to be lad? Squashed plums -or back to class?"

The Thug realised he'd been beaten.

" Alright then mate. I've had enough. But I'll let you know right now; this ain't fuckin' over!"

The Elephant Of St Ninian's smiled: "That's better lad. Now, quick march! And when we get back to school, you'll find that tie, go to your lessons and then report to me before evening prayers."

It was a flabbergasted Fearsome Foursome, strolling in the quadrangle during their break who witnessed the humbled Thug marching back through the school gates, with the amiable four-legged Divinity master rolling along behind him, happily trumpeting a hymn.

" Oh my giddy aunt!"

" Great scot!"

" Wonders will never cease!" exclaimed Watler, under his breath. A look in the Thug's eyes told the whole story. A chap had to be a pretty tough customer to if he wanted to tangle with the Elephant Of St Ninians. But the Thug wasn't finished yet. Not by any means. He'd bide his time. No use to employ an ordinary shooter on a bloke like The Elephant. It would probably just get him annoyed. Gaz was busy thinking; an ex-squaddie he'd met in a pub had once offered him a Serb rocket launcher he'd brought back from Kosovo. Now that might do the trick. While the Thug ruminated vengefully on this idea, he felt a stunning blow to the back of his head:

"Tie!" parped the righteous Elephant.

" Alright Big-nose. Keep your fuckin'knickers on!" the Thug muttered.

There was no doubt about it, Watler thought. There were bound to be plenty of shennanigans when the Thug met the Elephant again. But right now, the dignified pachyderm seemed to have got the upper hand. Still, life at St Ninians would go on in its usual humdrum fashion,. Watler, Crook and Hartley would find out why it was that Matron polished her door handle in such an eccentric way and Bearcroft might explain to them all about the mysterious " night yoghurt" which he'd recently been discovering in his bedding.

How could term-time at St Ninians be anything like dull with all of this in prospect?

Martin Newell October 2001
The Thug Of St Ninians