a short story by Timothy Bonis, ’22
The morning two days before A. S. was supposed to travel home to Kensington for Easter, British Rail decided to strike. Mostly it was no issue; A. S. knew he would drive back to London and one of his roommates, David Blair, was a scholarship boy from Liverpool who didn’t go home for Easter holiday. His other roommate, Weetman Harold Miller Stewart, was a whole different kettle of fish; he was already the fourth Marquis of Badenoch and was already complaining.
“Aunt Arabella’s recounting us all to her seat in Atholl for Easter.” Weetman moaned. “Where there’s just a bunch of elk and scratchy wool. Anyway, with this strike, I can’t get farther than Windsor. What am I supposed to do, go to Easter Service with the queen mother?”
David and A. S. collectively ignored Weetman; while David studied Greek in silence, A. S. tore through a Matterhorn of waistcoats, scouring them for the February 1961 issue of Playboy and stumbling across an unread letter which he tore open.
Dear A. S,
I am deeply dismayed to receive yet another letter from the headmaster regarding the trouble your puerile antics are causing. As it stands, and from my understanding of Headmaster Heseltine’s words, you presently have a G in Greek, an E in French and you are not returning punishment tickets to your housemaster. A. S, you know how much it cost me for you to stay at Henley College and you know what it will cost me at Oxford to keep this up. I want you to apply yourself and rejoin the Conservative Monday Club. I intend on continuing to send you The Times daily.
CARMICHAEL ALDRICH GEORGE ALAPAVIS-FOOT OBE
HONGKONG AND SHANGHAI BANKING CORPORATION PLC
As A. S. put the letter down, Weetman’s ongoing moaning combined with the tolling of the eight o’clock bell into an auditory slurry of Henley College horror. It was April first, so most sixth form students had grown nervous about A-Level exams; A. S. hadn’t, but he still intended on going to his morning chemical sciences class.
By the time A. S. got to the natural science hall, it was past 8:15 and he . was late; the master stood at the head of the classroom and was already partway through a lecture about methyl groups, oxygen and bizarre supercolossal chains of fluorocarbons. A. S. visibly zoned out.
“Forgot your waistcoat again A. S?” snapped the chemistry master, now standing at the fume cupboard.
“Yes! Sir!” A. S. snapped to attention.
“Do not eat these,” said the chemistry master, holding up a yellowed vile. “If you do, you’ll die. Then I’ll need to resuscitate you and then I’ll have to kill you again for being such a muttonhead nitwit.”
“Yes! Sir!” said A. S.
“Place the filter paper atop the flask.”
“A. S,” the master paused.
“ Yes! Sir!”
“A. S. Alapavis! Go to the headmaster’s office now.”
“Yes! Sir!” A. S. said as he withdrew from the class. Walking out of the natural sciences hall and into the deserted school common, A. S. decided to find Weetman practicing equestrian at the stable. Tomorrow was April first; it was Huntigowk Day.
* * *
Weetman wasn’t practicing equestrian; he was at the dormitory on the bakelite phone with his aunt. A. S. entered, puppy staring at Weetman.
“Arrrrrrabella, do you not understand; there’s no way I can get to Atholl!” Weetman listened. “This is how it is,” he said, frustratedly hanging up.
“Weetman—” A. S. said hesitantly.
“Cutting chemical sciences again?” he asked coolly.
“Than what?” Weetman asked, adjusting the strap on the back of his waistcoat.
“Kicked out, Master White wanted me outta there.”
“Sure A. S. sure”
“I’m not lying!”
“Sure” There was a very long pause.
“Weetman! Weetman, do you know what tomorrow is?” Weetman paid A. S. no attention. “Weetman it’s Huntigowk Day!”
“A. S, nobody cares about Huntigowk Day.”
“Nobody cares about Huntigowk Day.”
“I do,” A. S. said dejectedly. “We’re going to do something together. Since you can’t get to Atholl, you’ll have nothing to do tomorrow.”
“No A. S, I’ll have to find a way to get to Atholl anyway.”
“I’ve got no one else to do anything with.”
“A. S, I said no. Keep on badgering like this, and you’ll earn yourself a Glasgow kiss.”
“Weetman you arse!” Weetman began to ignore A. S. “Pleeaaaassseeee Marquis of Badenoch, do Huntigowk Day with me.” Weetman paused again.
“What do you want to do anyway?”
“A. S, you know no one trusts you whatsoever.”
“Still, It’ll be fun.”
“Say what you’re doing and then I might join you.”
“Let’s just do it.” Weetman smiled.
* * *
The following morning David’s alarm clock woke Weetman and A. S. The Thames still lapped sedately against its banks and there was only an inkling of daybreak songbirds.
“Dress, Dress!” A. S. commanded. “We wouldn’t want to miss Heseltine’s reaction!”
“To what?” David questioned. A. S. ignored him.
“Weetman, Dress!” Weetman unhurriedly motivated himself out of his sheets. “Go faster!”
“What are you two doing?” David asked again.
“David, don’t you know it’s Huntigowk Day?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Well, it is. Weetman and I have played the prank of the century and we want to see how Heseltine reacts!” David grimaced visibly but continued translating his assigned Pliny. “Weetman! We don’t have much longer.”
“Alright, A. S, alright, I’m almost ready.” Weetman said, adjusting his tie. A. S. and Weetman simultaneously set off into the foggy morning. Circumventing the main dormitories, they slipped into the center quad from the Henley town entrance and passed stealthily under the red brick arches and Georgian domes. They crept down, staring into the glazed window of the staff room while kneeling on the damp campus lawn.
“My trousers!” Weetman squealed.
“Shut up arsehole.”
The sun was just getting high enough to cast a low beam through the staff room. Shining off a smashed decanter, a stray ray woke the slumbering yak.
“There she is!” Weetman squealed again.
“Shut up arsehole.” A. S. paused. “We’re waiting for Headmaster Heseltine’s reaction. “Sod off back to Badenoch, if you can’t be shut up.”
The two boys crouched against the red brick wall for another quarter-hour. While the sun rose higher, the shadow of the staff room hall protected their cover.
“Bloody hell!” A rogue voice suddenly roared “What is the meaning of this!?” A. S. smiled at Weetman. “Get this fucking thing out of here!” Almost instantly, the area thronged with people: masters in their sleeping caps, well-dressed boys and Headmaster Heseltine. A. S. and Weetman pretended to be part of the natural commotion.
“Do not let it out until we call the Henley Police.” Heseltine howled authoritatively.
“Even the rozzers are coming,” Weetman squealed.
“Fuck off,” A. S. said, pushing Weetman aside.
It was barely a minute before the Henley police arrived and they returned the beautiful Tibetan yak to the Thames Valley Exotic Meat Farm that owned it; the glorious Huntigowk Day prank was over. Entering into the staff room, the damage the yak did was obvious; it smashed decanters, assailed portraits and soiled oriental carpets. It carved each table with deep gouges and tore books from their shelves. A. S. smiled as smugly as he could get away with.
* * *
At announcements that afternoon, Headmaster Heseltine said the School Maintenance Student Union had volunteered to help clean up the staff area. A. S. knew what this meant; David Blair, the scholarship boy from working-class Liverpool, once again had to clean up a mess made by the banker’s son from Kensington.