Sunrise over Beadnell Bay in Northumberland
Sunrise over Beadnell Bay in Northumberland


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"My Turn - a day to remember". . .

A short story . . .

For once I was glad to be in school. This morning was the shop morning. The day each week when, under the strict supervision of the teacher we set up a pretend shop on the big table at the front of the class. There were scales and weights, bags of dried peas and rice to weigh out and empty packets of tea, Paxo stuffing, oxos, matches to sell and cardboard discs for money.

There were about thirty 7 and 8 year olds in the class and we had to take turns each week, two shopkeepers and half a dozen shoppers. The rest of the class did work from the blackboard in their exercise books, sitting at their desks and wishing it was the week for their turn in the shop.

This week it was my turn, I was a shopkeeper. It was great, weighing out the peas and rice, tipping them from the scale into paper bags and counting out the cardboard money. An all too rare release from the iron framed desk with its hard wooden plank seat.

The shop hour was over in a flash and it was time to pack everything away and trudge back up the long flat steps, each one just wide enough for one desk. My desk was near the back of the room and it seemed quite high up looking down on the teacher's desk at the front, although each step was only about four inches high and there were perhaps five rows of desks in the room.

The class had scarcely settled down after the excitement of the shop when there was a stirring at the far side of the room. Two girls stood up from their desks and walked toward the front of the class. One girl supported her left wrist in her right hand and seemed quite distressed. The girls spoke to the teacher who examined the injured hand which by now was covered in blood. The whole class was agog at this unexpected turn of events.

"He did it, Miss!" said the injured girl pointing directly at me. I was flaberghasted. I hadn't touched her. Yet here she was accusing me in front of the whole class.

There was no trial just the passing of the sentence. " Go stand in the corner", commanded the teacher. It was no use arguing, I climbed the last step to the back of the class and stood staring blankly into the corner of the room.

After what seemed an age the teacher instructed me to go see the headmistress. Things were clearly escalating. The headmistress was the ultimate authority. When I arrived in her office she asked me to explain what had happened. At last some semblance of justice, but what should I say. I didn't know how the injury had been caused. I had to think fast.

" I was the shop keeper this morning." I explained, " I must have put the scales down on her hand by mistake I suppose." Not very convincing but all I could think of at the time. To my amazement the headmistress seemed to accept my story completely and told me to go back to my class and get on with my work. I never heard any more of the incident.

To this day 45 years later I still do not know what caused that series of bleeding puncture wounds in the back of that girl's left hand, or why she and her friend chose to accuse me of causing them. I'd love to know what was really going on that day and what the headmistress knew, but did not say all those years ago.

Frank Firth. July 1996.