Gussy

Angus (Gussy) Edwards was an old man, but his mind was razor sharp. A graduate of English Literature from Oriel College Oxford, he was tall with a temper as fierce as his hairstyle. His long index finger could pinpoint the source of any disturbance amongst his A-Level students and poke the offending boy with precision from the other side of the classroom.

The creases in his pale linen suit, oversized shirt collar, baggy trousers and odd socks, reflected the time he spent studying the subject he loved. He did not have a computer so marked his papers by hand. He was the best English Teacher the School had ever had, and whilst his methods were old-fashioned, they were never in doubt.

His tiny study was annexed to the side of the Library that backed onto the stage of the School Hall. It was the perfect pocket-sized place for his small group to discuss Bleak House during the last lesson of Michaelmas Term.

‘Now Timms, yes describe to me…yes describe to me Timms…Mr Tulkinghorn without using the word lawyer…’

Timms squirmed in his seat. Everyone was silent. They were supposed to read Chapter Twelve by today.

The bell sounded his reprieval and the boys filed out into the twilight. It was time for tea and biscuits in their Common Room so they dispersed through the dark quadrangle towards their separate Houses.

This was Gussy’s time, his favourite part of the day. He cleaned the bowl of his Louis Blumfeld pipe and lit the moist tobacco. Chuntering to himself, he puffed his way down the tree lined avenue, like a steam train disappearing into the fog. The aroma of Burley and Virginia apple flavoured smoke lingered in the cool November air.

He would take a walk around the school grounds; it was his only exercise of the day; mental and physical.  He had a confident stride. His tan leather brogues with blakeys and Mahogany Derby walking cane with brass plate on the tip made a tap-tap sound on the pavement, a signal to his students to sit up straight and be silent.

Half way down the path, he stopped to listen to the water dripping off a huge overhanging Linden Lime Tree.

‘My lady…’ he began in a pretend speech addressing Lady Dedlock. ‘I hear the rain drip on the stones…and I hear a curious echo…’

To the group of giggling boys that were watching Gussy from a distance, it looked as if he was talking to the tree. But he was in another world, improvising the Ghost’s Walk at her ‘place’ in Lincolnshire.

He finished his speech, turned and tapped his way down the path, disappearing into the night.

They found him the following day, slumped and stone cold on a wooden bench on the far side of the Cricket Pavilion — pipe in one hand and Timms’ shoddy essay in the other. His heart and mind had finally stopped working.

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