– SHORT STORY –
Matchway High. It’s a strange place but there’s none more strange than the classroom of Mr Robert Beckenham.
The Badger and the Beard
Beards are like people. They come in all shapes and sizes, different colours and kinds. Mr Beckenham woer a striking beard. Or perhaps that should be a striking beard wore Mr Beckenham? However you look at it, its clear upon first sight that the Beckenham Beard was legendary.
Robert was a teacher of many things, specialising in the delicate science of electronics. His pupils would take with them from each lesson a distinct lack of respect for the subject matter due in no small part to the staggeringly dull delivery of the lesson. With his monotone voice and deadpan delivery of every single word in the English language, the teacher could put to sleep any child at a minimum of ten paces.
The children of Snatchway High, the pupils that make the whole job worthwhile could be quite cruel about the Beckenham Beard. In fact Mr Robert Beckenham was known un-affectionatly as Badger Face, on account of the fact that his beard resembled a badger that had got lost somewhere on his chin and decided that it would be a suitable place to die.
The legend of how the badger became fastened to the Beckenham face has become rightly famous around the school. It’s said that the badger, once the happy-go-lucky, wheeler-dealer of his colony had the cruel misfortune to meet Mr Beckenham one unlucky day whilst out for a walk. The two passed the time of day and struck up a polite conversation. At some point the subject of electronics had arisen and thanks to the teacher’s monotonous monotone, the pied piper of the technology department entranced the badger. In a last ditch effort to save his life, the badger leapt onto Beckenham’s face. Its ill-fated effort became final death throes as the oral onslaught continued unabated, until he breathed his final badger breath.
There are however rumors to the contrary, more believable but no less despicable.
Some say that Robert Beckenham was the youngest of five boys. Their father a proud, be-whiskered fellow encouraged his offspring to grow their own face hair at the earliest opportunity. First was Frank at the age of 16 with a full moustache. Thin but proud it stood upon his upper lip with vim and vigour for the whole world to see.
This was followed barely a year later when Oliver at the tender age of 15 sported some particularly impressive sideburns and unruly chin hair. Simon followed at age 17 with some capricious chops that made his father weep with joy. Then also at age 17 Michael unveiled his rum naval beard and had his mother hooting with un-suppressed glee. Only Robert was unable to grow a beard, moustache or anything besides the odd bit of face fluff. Oh he tried so very, very hard. Shaving twice, even three times a day in the hope he could encourage hair to grow. Every vitamin he tried, every old wives tale he attempted. He even went as far as rub seaweed on his face every night before he went to bed.
It is said that his father was so bitterly disappointed he disowned his son. Shunned and cast out from his own family at the age of 19 Robert resigned himself to the fact that his chin was never meant to be adorned and he would die a virgin because his face constantly smelt of seaweed. Then one day, or so the story goes, he hit upon the idea of gluing a small furry creature to his chin. The tech teacher went out in the early hours of the morning to tempt and trap a badger, the biggest, bushiest badger he could find. With the unwitting creature captured, he glued it to his barren chin. Returning to the family home with a victorious beard to surpass that of even his brother’s attempts, Robert was reunited with his family and the apple of his father’s proud eye.
To the bearer of the Beckenham beard, the man himself the whole thing was rather childish and silly. The notion that his beard could be a badger, whether it be living or dead was ludicrous. An idea so utterly silly and unbelievable it could only hold water within an underdeveloped adolescent mind. This was a beard, not a badger, and it contained Larry the Longhaired Hamster.
Larry was a sleepy fellow. Quite happy to nuzzle and snooze in the darkest recess of the Beckenham Beard. Free to roam the follicle face forest and forage amongst the undergrowth (or overgrowth as the case may be!). Larry was happy and quite sprightly for a hamster of his advanced years. The beard and the hamster went together like, cookies and cream – for both the aforementioned beard bearer and its occupant.
The situation has been beneficial for both parties. Mr Beckenham no longer feels lonely. With Larry as his constant companion, the teacher has a staunch ally, a good friend and something with which to scratch his occasionally irritated chin.
Larry too remains as happy as any hamster could be. Feeding on morsels of damp cornflake, crumbs of cake and anything else that may become caught in the long-haired labyrinth of the Beckenham Beard, the creature wants for nothing.
Mr Beckenham may be a crushing bore but his badger-like beard means he will never be forgotten.
Copyright Martin Gregory