The Mortician

Fear like he’d never known before enveloped Steven Jones as he sat on the hard-backed plastic chair outside the foreboding wooden door. Steven was a good kid really; the class clown with a cheeky grin and a cheekier turn of phrase. His teenage wit didn’t come without its risks, and on many occasions he’d found himself on the receiving end of a stern word from teachers, dinner ladies, and even the Head of Year. But this was different – this was Mr Morton.

Every kid in school knew the stories. ‘Morton the Mortician’, they called him. The 6ft, shaven headed Year 11 bully that had been reduced to a quivering wreck. The girls who had sniggered at his trouser leg being tucked into his sock – and had never been seen again. Rumour had it that his own pet dog had run away from home, preferring to take its chances amongst the city’s strays.

The door swung open, with a creak like in an old black and white horror film. Steven rose solemnly; the slow and deliberate movements of the condemned.

‘In here, Jones’. Never in the field of human language had three words managed to sound so threatening. Steven had a vision of his parents; clad in black, weeping.

‘Sit’. He did as he was told. Eyes bowed in what he hoped was received as a show of deference. When he didn’t hear any further instruction for what felt like several hours, he took a calculated risk and slowly raised his gaze to the terrifying creature on the other side of the mahogany desk. Mr Morton was reading. And what he was reading was a well-thumbed, dog-eared paperback of Lord Byron’s romantic poetry. Steven almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of the situation.

‘She walks in beauty like the night, of cloudless climes and starry skies. Really takes you away somewhere, doesn’t it Jones? Away from all this mundanity’. He let out a wistful sigh, and stared out of his window; as if transfixed by some far off twinkle of light. Steven followed his gaze, but the school playground looked much the same as it always did.

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