Legal Widow

There’s been a problem with bullying at Subjudice’s school. Unfortunately, it appears that Subjudice is the one doing the bullying.

She managed to keep hidden the alarming amount of sweetie packets, tattoo’s, Barbie accessories and assorted children’s paraphernalia she had extorted from her victims, but when she started collecting jumpers the game was up.

“But that’s all they had left to give to me!” she wailed, when I asked her about the jumpers. I called Mrs Freighter, her teacher, whereupon I discovered that the cashmere pashmina in the collection – a surprise to me, as Subbie’s uniform is red v-neck – was actually Mrs Freighter’s. This is why I had heard nothing, hitherto, about the bullying.

The Lawyer was so impressed and busy that he found it impossible to make time for a meeting en famille with the head of year, Mr Dredger. I threatened him with six months of Heinz spaghetti unless he took his responsibilities seriously, so he cancelled his session at the driving range and turned up for the inquisition. Never having put in an appearance at school before, he was wearing only his third best suit, unaware that Mr Dredger wears severe pinstripes of rather better quality than his own. Thirty seconds after we got through the door both Subbie and the Lawyer were hanging their heads and kicking their chair legs in a sulk. Subbie spent a few seconds whining denials but Mr Dredger isn’t head of year for nothing and she was soon ‘fessing up.

She had been a normal happy schoolgirl until they made her prefect. They gave her a badge, put her in a position of authority, and suddenly everyone was asking her for advice.

Playtime saw a queue of children in front of her as she sat by the netball post. Soon she was advising on how to get a detention reduced; how the girls could get their Boyzone records back when they split with their junior sweethearts; settling disputes over who owned the seat by the window; and negotiating compensation when Josh Whiting cut off Cassie Dory’s pigtail. Her breaks disappeared under a snowdrift of pre-pubescent problems, and she started charging fees. After a month she hiked up the fees and until recently her charge-out rate has been three mini-Smarties packs for a five-minute consultation. No child could keep up.

Soon the other prefects got in on the act and started offering cut-rate advice, but not before Subbie had caused several pocket-sized bankrupts and amassed earnings equivalent to the tuck shop stock. It was time to collect, and this is where it got nasty.

The kids complained to Mrs Freighter, but when she tackled Subbie she found herself asking how she could deal with the unpleasant advances of Mr Trawler, the maths teacher. Subbie’s advice put Mr Trawler in hospital with a ruptured spleen and earned her Mrs Freighter’s undying gratitude, dedicated silence, and lilac pashmina.

In the momentary silence that followed this confession I wondered how the world had come to this, while Subbie produced a choco-vanilla Chuppa Chup which I know I hadn’t bought for her. Mr Dredger seemed to be steeling himself to ask something difficult. I feared he wanted to know just how unpleasant Mr Trawler’s advances had been but it turned out he wondered if Subbie had any advice on going for the deputy head spot. I caught sight of the Lawyer’s face: pure, beaming, paternal pride. I despair for both of them.