The Re-education of Lancing Boil

Photo by Mwesigwa Joel on Unsplash

At 8.32am precisely, Lancing Peregrine III slipped the bug into his overnight bag and slid, unobserved, from the building.  It wasn’t unusual.  There was nobody else to observe him anyway, and if there had been, none of them would have cared.  Lancing was as unloved as it was possible for a person to be.

Boil they had called him at school: Lancing Boil – as in an excrescence.  “A small and extremely annoying accumulation of pus” according to his then housemaster, now headmaster at his Alma Mater, and it was a strange kind of nominative determinism that ensured that Lancing had been a martyr to such pustules all of his life.  Pimple, boil, or carbuncle, Lancing had spent most of his life skin-side of them.  Barely a day passed him by without the eruption of a new whelk, and boy did he blame that school.  The traumas that had been inflicted on his young self had, on occasion, been so extreme that his memory had erased them: locked them away in a mental vault to which he had lost the combination.  He knew that the only way he would ever fill these gaps would be by somehow hearing the truth from someone else’s lips.

The bug he had slipped into his case was, he thought, his greatest creation to date.  A miracle of miniaturised IT, his tiny listening device lay nestled inside a minutely detailed model cockroach, perfectly formed in every nauseous respect.  Anyone finding it would, instead of investigating further, simply squidge it with a boot and sweep away the nano-remains without a second glance.  It was perfect.  All he had to do was plant it.

Exactly what he expected to discover was, at best, uncertain.  He felt sure that the now Headmaster must have skeletons hidden away, but exactly why any of them might feature him, Lancing had no idea.  Never-the-less, he simply could not resist the opportunity that the school reunion presented.  Even a weekend spent in the company of a band of now middle-aged men that he recalled more as torturers than classmates could not cool his enthusiasm.  He knew they would apple-pie his bed; he knew they would put his underwear in the shower; he knew that if they got the opportunity they would leave fake (he prayed) excrement on his pillow.  He was ready for it all.

In the event, his contemporaries seemed genuinely pleased to see him and, to his surprise he was not called Boil once; his dormitory bed went unmolested, as did his underwear.  He felt a strange contentment.  The evening of the reunion ball passed in a rapturous blur.  He was part of the gang.  They ate, they drank (Lancing himself consumed at least three half pints of shandy and felt decidedly giddy) they laughed and they reminisced.  Lancing began to doubt his own recollection of lonely and miserable schooldays.  How could he have got things so wrong?  These people were not the characters that his fractured memory recalled.  Could he be wrong too about the headmaster?  He knew there was only one way he could be ever be sure.  He would plant the bug as planned.

2am.  The dormitory was, save for alcohol-fuelled snoring and the gaseous fallout of a monster meal, completely benign.  Lancing climbed silently from his bed and crept stealthily from the room with the night bag over his shoulder.  Save for the usual shock of old building creak and groan, the journey was uneventful and his entrance into the headmasters study went without hitch.  Now, where to put the bug?  After a short mobile-phone lightened skirt around the room he found the perfect spot and returned to the holdall to retrieve his silent little ear-in-a-roach.

Excitement overwhelmed him.  He felt as though the bag was alive.  He pulled the zip and a thousand – a million – live cockroaches flooded out across the desk, the floor, his feet…  Lancing screamed in unadulterated panic and previously lost memories of a deeply buried biology-lab trauma overwhelmed his senses.  He put his hand to his mouth as behind him the door burst open, flooding light into the room, and there, silhouetted in the frame were all of his fellow alumni accompanied by the dreaded headmaster.  They were laughing fit to bust.  “Lancing,” they chanted.  “Lancing Boil the Bug Boy,” and Lancing realised, quite suddenly, that for once he had succeeded in his mission.  He had filled a gap in his memory…


18 thoughts on “The Re-education of Lancing Boil

  1. School days, they do leave their mark. Their wheal. Thier livid scar; Even after you get to leave, try put the entire rotten mess behind you, surgically remove the worst days of your miserable school life, the phantom pain lives on. Or so I’ve heard.

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