chapter
6 Pages

Them special needs kids and their waiters

ByHAYLEY FITZGERALD

The bell goes and a sea of pupils surge towards the school canteen, a disorderly sight of impatience as they bustle and barge to secure a prime spot, the queue already snaking halfway down the hall. Michael slyly pulls on Josh’s backpack, quickly bypassing him to join the back of the queue. As Josh stumbles, his bag and contents spill over the red tiles. On his knees he frantically grabs at football cards as they get kicked out of his grasp, a mix of scuffed shoes and dirty trainers unaware of the damage they cause to his collection. Annoyed, he yells, ‘Hey, watch it, look where you’re stepping, hey look out!’ His voice dies in his throat as he watches a departing boot leave a clear and distinguishable mark on one of his prized possessions, ‘Ryan Giggs’. Panic begins to bubble on top of the layers of frustration and irritation as he notices his dinner money has escaped, tantalizingly out of reach on the other side of the corridor. Desperately he tries to beat the next braying surge, but the stray coins roll and swirl on their edges, before finally disappearing. Frantically he scans their faces to see which one wears the smug smile, but the thief hides their actions well. ‘Come on lads, own up, whose taken it, it’s me lunch money.’ Some giggle and some laugh out loud as the waves of bottle green blazers engulf him and soldier on. Still on all fours, Josh gathers the last of his belongings, stray footy sock, planner, house keys and, as he stands, he sees a group of sixth-formers laughing in the corner. Has to be one of them, he thinks, they’ve had words before. Boldly he begins to make his way towards them, shoulders back, chest out, ready for confrontation, but Mr Taylor promptly materializes as if from the cracks in the walls. They all scurry off, their mutterings travelling down the corridor, ‘Bloody idiot, who does he think he is?’ ‘Rocky, Rocky, Rocky,’ they chant, nearly falling over themselves with laughter, punching the air as they make their way to the playground. ‘Move on quickly, Munroe,’ Taylor’s voice booms at him and eagle eyes send out their warning message. ‘There will be no trouble on my watch.’ Resignedly Josh swiftly turns round and barges his way through the canteen

doors, all of his senses suddenly assaulted. The smell of greasy burgers and

salty chips, the cacophony of shouts, laughter, knives and forks clattering, the pushing and shoving, bumping and tripping, and the sight of constantly moving bodies rushing between tables, counters, cash registers and back out to the playground. The queue steadily grows behind him, beginning to ease some of the frustration he feels at being so far at the back. Being in the front half of the queue is paramount to achieving the food of your choice. Those at the back end up with the things no one really wants to eat, like an overflowing bowl of thick stew packed with carrots or, worse still, curry, all spicy and sloppy. The thought makes Josh crane his neck to see what’s still left. Matthew Smith bags the last burger, grinning as he walks away with his prize. Still half a tray of lasagna, mounds of pies and a steaming pile of freshly cooked chips to be snapped up by the 20 or so people in front of him. Big, fat Billy Reynolds, sweat dripping off his face, red and flustered, seems to be getting agitated at the painfully slow progress of the queue. Theatrically he wafts his arm and gestures to those in front, ‘Can we get a shifty on here? I’m starving. Don’t anyone have the last chicken and mushroom or they’ll be answering to me.’ Further back in the queue a group of Year 7s snigger behind their hands at his outburst. Josh’s frustration levels begin to rise again, quickly, like a thermometer in

the midday sun. If only he hadn’t dropped his bag, he thinks. Huh, better idea, don’t let the retards in before everyone else. Make them come in when the rest of us have eaten. The thought of them beating the queue irritates Josh further. ‘Fuckin’ retards. Really bugs me how they fuckin’ queue hop. Can’t even eat properly, dribbling and slobbering. Seriously, who wants to have to look at that when you’re having your lunch?’ he mutters to himself. Reaching boiling point, Josh has to vent, and tries to engage Andy Smart behind. ‘You know, they don’t have to fuckin’ queue. It’s just not fair. Who wants to watch that eat?’ he whines, as the queue shuffles forward, inch by painful inch, getting closer to the table reserved for the special needs kids. As Josh’s vent gathers momentum, his grumblings get louder; not seeming to care who hears, he unleashes another rant: ‘Look at them, jammy bastards. No pushing and shoving for them to get their food and table. First choice of food every day, probably don’t even have to pay. And there’s more bloody staff than students. Have you seen the support workers, it’s like they’ve got their own waiters at lunchtime and footy coach in PE! Huh, not like that helps, can’t kick a fuckin’ ball if it’s lined up for them. Seriously, I don’t know why they bother.’ Andy nods, tries to say something, but only gets as far as opening his

mouth. There’s no stopping Josh when he’s on one of his rolls. ‘I mean, if they need so much help they shouldn’t be at our school, ’cause like this is a normal school, not one of them special schools.’ He gestures with his index fingers when he says ‘special school’, which only serves to emphasize his contempt at the concept. ‘They go round in their groups and just get in the bloody way. I swear, last week one of them rammed me on purpose. Wouldn’t bloody move his wheelchair to the side, expected me to walk round him. He could’ve

got out of my way. And like yesterday they were all stood waiting inside the main entrance, by the teachers’ photographs, ready to go on one of their special trips, and no one could get in or out. Like, helloooo. Fuckin’ move! None of their waiters to be seen then, was there? I think the waiters are as thick as the retards, probably do their homework and that’s why they don’t get good marks!’ As he nears the serving area Josh grabs a tray and scans the scarce

remains. Spotting the head teacher talking to one of the dinner ladies, the mean one who gives you small portions of chips and big portions of peas, even when you haven’t asked for them. He lowers his voice. ‘If you think about it, they can’t do lessons like us. They just can’t. So, why make them try? It’s a waste of our time and it’s holding us back. Look at PE. All we seem to do is practise passing and shooting and everyone has to pretend the retards have scored by letting their goals in. It makes me sick! I’m gonna refuse to do it; I don’t care if I get a bollocking from their bloody support workers. They aren’t my teacher. And then you have to “include” them in the game.’ His knife and fork stab the air as he tries to gesticulate his contempt again. ‘Inclusion? That’s a fuckin’ joke! It’s us that end up being excluded!’