the strap

a professional maths teacher
asked us
“how many right angles
in the corner of the room?”
the class dutifully responded
“three”
“no, four” she said
and claimed another
“look, right across the ceiling”
me and Kevin protested
“what about the other two walls then?
surely that’s six
or even infinity
if you allow that one”

my mistake
was in telling the truth
that she was factually wrong
she demanded silence
and restated
her ridiculous claim

a few days later
filing out of assembly
she noticed my shirt
little pictures
of bicycles or trains or something
a technical infraction
of a little known rule

she sent me for the strap
I waited outside Egen’s office
on his way in
I saw him spit
another thing
that would’ve got us punished

twice he put his back into it
leather across the palm
any semblance of integrity
they believed they had
vanished right then
never to return