Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By Harrison Abbott

I was in home economics class in high school and there was this scary, chronically angry teacher called Mrs Grierson whom we all had to respect, for some reason, despite her shouty aggressive ways. I was bad at cooking. Had no interest in it. She (Grierson) was trying to teach these kids how to make soup. We were thirteen, most of us, in this muggy kitchen; twenty kids and one woman who obviously didn’t want to be here, who hated kids, her life, her middle age, her smoking habit, her loss of good looks, her husband’s sexual dysfunction, her colleagues, the headteacher, her lack of talent, her failure as a naïve plan to become a famous cook … Umm. Yes, all these things were flashing around, but thirteen year old boys don’t really understand these things. … She gave us a tutorial on how to cut onions. (Those mightiest, most acidic of vegetables.) Then she sent us out in groups, at these broad tables, to cut said portions of onions. I had a cold and had been feeling ill all day and did not know what on earth to do with these clumpy brown objects in front of me and I hovered over this bright green tray whilst this girl in front of me started chopping merrily away at her own patch of onions and her talent made me nervous. I slashed the end of one onion off. Very timidly. And peeled the skin away. And this rash scent went up into my face and sent my eyes gushing, and the blindness/irritation made the task far more difficult … And then Mrs Grierson came along, behind my back, to inspect how well we were chopping. She was standing right behind me. Spying. (And the girl in front of me was still proudly snipping away.) And I got twitchy. And tried to knife at the onion calmly. My knife slipped with one of the twitches, and I missed the onion bulb, and the blade came down, and slashed my hand. Forefinger, rather. It was quite impressive, how gory it was. The blade just zapped the finger, painlessly, and then this moviestar blood began pumping out of the cut and it flumed over the tray. The talented girl in front of me stopped and stared. And then Mrs Grierson started shrieking, and she held her hands to her face, and everybody else in the class went silent and locked their heads on to me, with bird-like coordination. Grierson ran away to the other side of the room. The spraying of the blood stopped. And turned into a dribbling, and it mingled with the onion shards – those precious ones I’d managed to sever … And Mrs Grierson came running back to me holding a First Aid Kit. It was the first and last time I’d see her empathetic.

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