Been a while so I thought I'd post a story I wrote about four or five years back. I don't write stories as much as I used to but I was particularly proud of this one. Like all the best stories, it's partly based on real life. I'll leave it to you to work out which bits were real and which were just made up.
This Is Art
Clancy Berkshire was one of the most unfortunately named people I have ever met. He was new to my senior school, arriving in the middle of the fifth year. This was when the fifth year was the final year of “big” school, where kiss chase had become much more serious and could end in unwanted teenage pregnancy or genital warts.
Clancy and I quickly become friends during our respective art classes. I was doing pottery with Mrs Heighington while Clancy was in the adjoining class room, doing art with Miss Cubrillo.
Miss Cubrillo had a special place in the heart of every schoolboy at our school thanks to her fashion for wearing the lowest of low-cut tops. This in itself was not such a big deal. Mrs Bowers, the Home Ec teacher, wore low cut tops during most the summer months, but then she was stick thin, bow legged and in her late 60s. But Miss Cubrillo was none of these things. She was in her mid 20s, shapely like an hourglass and the owner of the most magnificent breasts to ever pass through the school gates in something other than a training bra. They often appeared to have a life of their own and she would casually rest them on her desk as she wrote reports, leaving her students to consider primary colours and what they looked like in the flesh.
Now, you’d think she’d draw the jealous ire of the pretty girls at school for upstaging them, but no, this never came about, primarily because she’d regularly take not just the cool sporty cute girls for bi-weekly sessions of hockey, but also the less-cool, less-cute, bookish ones. She would pass on her knowledge and skills, amazing them all with her deft stick control and somewhat mischievous tales of growing up in the Caribbean and the handsome young men she had known there. The boys would look on from the demountable classrooms which sat beside the sports field, with legs crossed and imaginations vivid.
Now personally, I always held a special fondness for Miss Cubrillo, and not in any way because of her breasts. Okay, maybe just a little, but mainly it was because of two very much unexpected and somewhat life-changing compliments she paid me during a pottery lesson.
She had sauntered in from her art class next door, as she often did, and airily announced she was bored with her students and wanted to see what we were up to.
Our class, taught by the wise and wonderful Mrs Heighington, was a collection of slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging students who had failed to get into any proper studious classes and were quietly dumped in the cul-de-sac of pottery. And there was me, the Oliver Twist in a room full of Artful Dodgers. I was the odd man out being classified as the boff who had strangely chosen pottery over the more suitable academic subjects of chemistry, geography and latin. We didn’t actually do latin at my comprehensive, but if we did, I would’ve been expected to take it. I would’ve been expected to even get the accent right.
While outside the lesson, I was considered fair game for the more predatory students, inside that room I was not teacher’s pet, I was King Rat. I was the boy who “could”. I could work the kiln, I could create the slip glue which put clay figures back together, I could throw a pot on the wheel and make it rise and fall like a teenage boy’s member at the school disco during the slow dance. A boy who could is in great demand in a class like that, ready to help the other students at the drop of a hat with their ashtrays and coil pots, guiding them through the tortuously artistic interpretations of ‘war’, ‘entropy’ and ‘desolation’. Yes, Mrs Heighington had been a true Sixties star-child and as such was wonderfully bohemian in her approach to setting project titles.
Anyways, Miss Cubrillo had cast her gaze across the room before she settled on my work. I was diligently engrossed in constructing a full-size Samurai warrior helmet and facemask which I had researched and designed myself during numerous lunch-breaks in the school library. Ah, the school library - the holiest of sanctuaries for any discerning boff who liked the finer things in life. Like not having their balls kicked in on the school playing field each and every lunch-break.
She sidled up to my workstation and I was alerted to her presence when her breast casually bumped into my arm, startling me a tad. In fairness, it probably startled more than just my tad. I was 15 and a half, remember.
As I coughed and tried to regain my composure, she asked me what I was going to do after school. While I very quickly reasoned this was not an invitation to join her in her hand-painted 2CV for a romantic liaison, this did not prevent a round of filthy giggles from my nearest classmates.
As I put the finishing touches to the insignia at the front of the helmet, which honours the Samurai’s master to whom he is beholden, I told her I was probably going to work in a bank or some such unutterably boring and safe environment which would please my parents hugely because it meant I would be paying them most of my wages each month. She tutted and said, in sad, almost pitying tones, that having seen my work over the past two years this would be a great waste and I should instead be going to art college.
I was quite taken aback. I had never been so complimented at school before. At any school before when I come to think of it. Scratch that – I think I can safely say I’d not had any kind of compliment, anywhere, ever, which had made me glow inside. But then, just as I was momentarily enjoying this little button of warmth which was pulsating in my chest, she metaphorically hit the hockey ball into the back of the net.
Miss Curbrillo turned to our pottery teacher who was on the other side of the room, and loudly pronounced: “Mrs Heighington? I do so love Carl’s helmet...”
Needless to say, there was a two second lag of silence before the room effectively exploded. Matt Paulson had been drinking some water at the time and two jets of it erupted from his nose as he snorted with laughter. Anthony Lord guffawed so hard he fell off his stool and landed on his back, cracking his head on the ground. Christopher Selfridge was so agog he went to pick up a figurine which had been drying and, because he was looking at Miss Cubrillo with his mouth open, instead grabbed a pot which had only just come out of a kiln. He screamed, dropped the pot and ran for the sink to immerse his fast blistering hand.
I’ll never know whether Miss Cubrillo’s gorgeous Caribbean skin hid any kind of blush. But I do remember her turning back to me and smiling warmly, as if she knew full well what she’d done. Dumbfounded, I watched her sashay back to her own class, leaving me feeling more confident and around 72 places higher on the official “cool at school” list. Gareth Stone, who two years earlier had pinned me to a Home Ec cooker and grilled my back to a crispy turn, looked at me with an element of awe and gasped: “Miss Cubrillo love’s your helmet...Nice one Carl!”
Mrs Heighington cocked an eyebrow at me from across the room, so I just smiled the unexpected smile of the boy made legend and returned to smoothing out my insignia, which is not a euphemism. But it’s true I was very much thinking rude thoughts about Miss Cubrillo as I wistfully stroked the clay of my helmet. That’s not a euphemism either.
Anyway, back to Clancy. His art project consisted of paying specially chosen fifth-year schoolboys a small fortune to gurn with what they thought was their most amusingly pained face to camera. Over a period of four weeks he shot around seventeen rolls of 36 exposure 400ASA Kodachrome. What I found most intriguing was that each mugshot-like still was of a boy who had mercilessly teased or tormented him at some point since his arrival at the school. For the end of year art exhibition, which was open to all pupils and parents, Clancy had placed each image, grid-like, on an A2 posterboard, while a rotary slide projector threw huge colour photographs of each boy onto a large white sheet at one end of the main hall.
However, he received a week-long detention after shocked parents spotted how Clancy had placed additional slides into the projector which revealed the true title of his work – which was not “Nobility Anointed” as he had claimed, but “The Come-Faced Spunk-Muppets of the Fifth Year”. Not that most of his victims really understood what a Come Face was back then. Admittedly, a large number of them had had some kind of sexual exploit – usually with Daphne Fairfax who eventually found fame as Weightwatchers’ biggest failure - but invariably it was not a case of having a ‘come face’ as having a ‘shocked’ or more likely ‘startled’ face due to a not-entirely-unexpected premature ejaculation.
Shortly before we lost touch I learned Clancy was arrested at art college after leading a one-man crusade to create “quantum art”. This radical form of art mainly involved Clancy setting up an array of sophisticated laboratory equipment, which for several months misled lecturers into thinking they were cultivating the very essence of the Young British Artist. It was only when a Misuse of Drugs Act warrant was executed by the local constabulary that they realised Clancy was, in actual fact, cultivating the very essence of a methamphetamine laboratory on the campus.
The last time I encountered the name of Clancy Berkshire was from a local newspaper report about a Home Office investigation into a prison incident in the Midlands. Clancy was doing a short stretch for fraud, having sold three almost-perfect copies of Turner’s Ovid Banished From Rome to a Russian oligarch. He had escaped execution and torture by the Oligarch’s henchmen having already given them all completely-perfect copies of Banksy’s Urinating Royal Guard.
He had selflessly spent his time in prison educating the other inmates to read and write, as well as giving art lessons. He had encouraged free expression along with avant garde use of watercolours and oils. The governor was so pleased with the results he allowed Clancy to create a prison art department and order all manner of equipment, paints, brushes and thinners. It was only after the authorities learned that Clancy had been using the paints and cleaning solvents to create explosives that the art lessons were postponed indefinitely. That and the fact that Clancy had left via a hole created by the explosives, meaning there was no-one left to continue the supposedly therapeutic art work.
The report ended with a line about Clancy’s current whereabouts was currently unknown. An unnecessary repetition, if you ask me, but that’s the standard of reporting these days.
Me? Well, I did end up working in a bank. But in my defence, it was in the Caribbean where Miss Cubrillo taught me so much more than just hockey…
©Carl Eve 2012