I bumped into All Wrighty this morning in the Supermarket. He was on his own, looking sadder and older than I remembered him from our classroom confrontations and his trolley was full of things like reduced pork pies, one of those heart-shaped tins of processed ham, a tub of baked beans, packets of chicken soup and a half-bottle of whisky (the supermarket’s own brand). That sort of stuff.
He asked how Margaret, my sister, was getting on and I told him she was still with Boyle and Pollock, doing nicely, with a nice little flat of her own in Wakefield Street, still unmarried though. Too fussy by half, I told him. I made it sound like a joke. I didn’t tell him that her work ethic coupled with a lack of any social life worried me.
She always was a perfectionist, he said and smiled. Give her my regards. She was the brightest pupil I ever taught, but don’t tell her that.
When I told Maggie who I had bumped into, her face lit up. What a nice guy, she said. If it wasn’t for him and the extra lessons he gave me I would never have got my Maths. You should have asked him round for a drink or something.
I’d given up bringing guys from the rugby team back for a drink after a match. They hadn’t impressed her and she’d sort of intimidated them. But poor All Wrighty was different. I really should have asked him round for a drink. It was mean of me not to.
Yes, poor All Wrighty. All the boys used to give him a really hard time. Myself included. Not that he deserved it. If you wanted something explained before an examination, he would stay behind after school and give you a private lesson. I think he was secretly pleased to feel needed though guys like Rinso and Ackers had a different explanation for his offer.
I remember once just before Highers, when she wasn’t outside the gates after school waiting for me as usual, sort of worried, I went back into the school to look for her and found her standing outside the Maths classroom.
What are you doing here? I asked her.
I’m waiting for Mr. Wright, she said.
She still is.