…a person’s concern about a danger which is either real or imagined or a nervous disorder characterised by a state of disproportionate uneasiness and agitation
Henry, standing outside the Headmistress’s office, was worried. Henry standing, sitting or lying down and sleeping was worried. Henry walking in the park on a lovely summer’s day was worried. Henry, when he was born into this world was worried. This worry, which was such a constant companion to Henry, wasn’t the kind of worry you have when there might be a chance that you might not have locked the front door this morning. Nor was it the kind of general worry which is at the back of people’s minds during any day of every day, a vague worry about the world’s population increasing exponentially or about the rate of deforestation in South America. It was a worry centred on himself, the kind of worry which extends from the complete conviction that he is at the centre of the world, the kind of worry which has at its heart the thought that every move he makes, every brief and subtle movement, the least inclination towards one way or another, would lead, will lead, to a catastrophe which would engulf the world, a scene, of which Henry would be the centre, witnessed by the eyes of everyone, the shaking heads of everyone and the tut-tut ting of everyone and then there would be a unanimous and inconsolable disappointment in Henry himself, his own disappointment, and the undeniable disappointment of every other person he knows and who knows of him, a disappointment which would most certainly be tinged with a certain and sharp disgust, a disappointment which would distort the faces of everyone who was right then witnessing this scene which was, which is, which will be the complete and utter unravelling of the person that he is, can’t help but me, and has been proven conclusively to be – Shame on you Henry!
But to say simply that Henry was worried as he stood outside the Headmistress’s office, would be an accurate statement to make. Once he saw Oscar summoned there by the Headmistress’s secretary, and in the middle of lunch, how he was plucked out of the canteen in the middle of his meal – he had to leave his two sausage rolls and his cup of black coffee behind him – Henry was as worried as he had ever been.
As he followed Oscar to the darkly stained oak door of the Headmistress’s office, careful to stay at a distance of at least six girls behind Oscar and the secretary who led the way, a distance which Henry adjudged to be more than in accordance with the average distance between a person wandering aimlessly about the corridors of a school and any person being dragged unceremoniously through the school by the scruff of the neck, as he followed, as he waited cautiously at each corner, each door, each table and chair which he came across on his way, Henry was filled, he was smothered, he was held deep beneath the weight of the certainty that it was all to do with him. Hadn’t Henry, after all, got Oscar this job?
And it had been against his better judgement – as was everything else that he had done in this world, either through his own volition or under duress of one kind or another.
“Mr Bridgewater?” the face of a young girl momentarily presented itself to Henry.
But Henry pushed past the girl. He might not have noticed her, such was the level of his distraction, but the manner in which he pushed against the large rucksack on her back, causing the four-foot high girl to twirl around and fall on to the floor, could only have been accounted for by a maliciousness inherent in a deliberate act.
Henry stood himself at the far end of the hall, with a clear view of the darkly stained wood of the Headmistress’s office door, though in the space of the ten or so minutes that Oscar was confined within, he approached and then quickly retreated from that same door – surely he should intervene, he thought – several times. Oscar’s invariably smirking face suddenly appearing around the Headmistress’s door would surely mark the moment when Henry’s world would slowly begin to collapse around him. He would then have little choice but to walk up to the Headmistress and assure her, in the most assured of tones, that all this had nothing whatever to do with him, whatever it was, and that Mr McSweeny should be dealt with in a manner which would act as an example to the rest of the staff, and the pupils too – we mustn’t forget the pupils. Henry should knock on the door right now and, standing shoulder to shoulder with Mrs R P Merryweather, wag his finger at Oscar, tut-tut and shake his head and agree wholeheartedly in whatever sentence is to be passed – he had no other choice.
Luckily Henry’s reason reached some kind of ascendancy before he reached the other end of the hall and the darkly stained oak of Mrs R P Merryweather’s door.
When the raised voices of Oscar McSweeny and Mrs R P Merryweather began to permeate through that same darkly stained wooden door, Henry had to completely reassess the situation. This is bad, was all he could think; the fact that this was bad shouted down every other anxiety crying out for attention in his head.
When Oscar McSweeny came tumbling through that same door, Henry’s worst suspicions, that his world was about to implode, seemed to have been realised.
Henry ran up to Oscar in order to ascertain just how long he, Henry, had left in this fair and pleasant land. Luckily he had retained enough presence of mind and an inkling of his much talked about, but always on the verge of being exhausted, survival instinct to keep on running once Mrs R P Merryweather opened the door and leered at everyone and everything.
“How dare you!” she bellowed.
And, of course, Oscar dared, he dared to do whatever it was Mrs R P Merryweather might have meant – Oscar dared to walk across the main hall, head held high, stumble down the front steps and he dared to enter the bright and shining world outside.
But in this world outside Henry was a mess. “I’m a mess,” Henry said. How was he to get over this? What did this mean? What was to happen to him now?
“Nothing!” Oscar assured him as he stood beneath the window of the room from which he had just been ejected.
“Are you sure?” Henry was pleading, looking for something, anything, everything.
Mrs R P Merryweather standing at the window seemed to be just what Henry needed, and he quickly scampered off.
Behind the bushes, savaging a cigarette and further interrogating Oscar, Henry could only, would only, guffaw in reply to Oscar’s ardent requests for assistance in reclaiming his one prized possession – his weighty dictionary, which sat at that moment in forbidden territory, three floors up in the classroom he had for a brief portion of his life called his own.