It was a warm sunny July afternoon outside Ratisbury School for seven to eleven year olds. In the Music Hall, there was the sound of the school choir practising for a concert on Saturday and the rustle of papers in the fifth year classrooms as the older pupils turned over their end of year exam papers. Birds sang in the trees outside and there was the faint sound of the school gardener mowing the sports field beyond the Gymnasium. Outside, it was a very peaceful afternoon.
Inside the Science building however, things were very different. A group of boys and girls from the top year were exercising their out-of-class privileges and were chasing a small blond-haired boy wearing a torn white shirt and mud-stained trousers along the long corridor on the ground floor.
When they were caught later, they would accuse the boy of breaking the rules and running away. The teachers knew they had a problem with Ratisbury’s out-of-class privileges getting out of hand. They knew these students called themselves the “Rat Catchers” empowering themselves to police the school. They also knew that the Rat Catchers terrified the younger students into giving them lunch money, homework answers, anything the Rat Catchers fancied.
In turn, the Rat Catchers knew that on the last day of term, the teachers could do absolutely nothing about it.
At the end of the corridor, the boy ran faster down the narrow hallway. Notices flew off the notice board as he brushed past them. A group of the youngest pupils in the school leapt aside as he ran past.
‘Get him!’ yelled one of the Rat Catchers. ‘Don’t let him get away!
The boy dragged the glass door open and ran, puffing, out of the Science building. The Rat Catchers were about twenty paces behind him, shouting about how they would take his school bag, his money, even his shoes and socks. The boy ran faster than ever, the school gates in sight.
A large green Range Rover was parked on the kerb next to other cars where mothers and fathers were waiting for their sons and daughters.
The boy jumped the three steps down to the gate and heaved open the passenger door.
‘Hello Sammy,’ said the woman in the driver’s seat.
‘We have to go Mum,’ said the boy with dirty blond hair. ‘Please.’
The woman gave her son the same concerned look that she had given him the day before. She pulled the gear stick out of “park” and swung the car off the kerb. The suspension creaked as they joined the road.
The boy looked back in the mirror. The Rat Catchers were at the school gates shaking their fists. One of them was holding a hockey stick to the throat of another boy, someone from his class. Another Rat Catcher held up a school bag, the contents scattering on to the floor.
‘I have to leave that school Mum,’ said the blond haired boy, ‘I have to go.’
‘I know Sammy,’ said the woman, ‘I know.’
Listen to Chapter One of Sammy Rambles and the Floating Circus read by Tracey Norman of Circle of Spears here.