The writing pad, stitched into nosebleed red
leather, rests on a desk the size and heft
of a galleon. Curtains, headache green,
stand guard but shield their eyes from the sad scene
that passes for a hard day’s work. I hand
over the note: crisp, clean Basildon Bond;
my mother’s curled script, light blue like her eyes,
asking for time off school, ever polite.
The Head, so called because he has no heart,
regards it like a man checking for dirt
beneath his nails. Puffed up like a bullfrog
with a hernia, he shifts his weight, clocks
me with a dead-eyed stare, and coldly says,
“What did he die of, exactly?” The way
he e-nun-ci-ateseach last syllable
has the charm of an arsenic popsicle.
Each vein in my puny frame fills with snow.
“You may go,” he says, “and now you may go.”
I leave to swap one suit for another.
I return home to bury my brother.