Chapter 8 - School House
Miss Sharp rose quickly and strode down the tiered benches, teddy in arms, much to the amazement of many of the children, and made her way towards the monkey house. Lilly managed to duck out of sight as the teacher passed Vicky, but only just in time and only with a quick instruction for the teacher to loosen her grip. Lilly was sure it must have been many years, if ever, since Sharkey has held a teddy or did anything other than put one in a sack that she had confiscated from a child who had foolishly brought into class. This time Lilly was not headed for the sack, she was headed for the ‘School House’ where there were ‘naughty children’ that needed Miss Sharp’s expert attention. Miss Sharp sure did love her teddy and carried Lilly proudly high in her arms, snuggling her closely. Completely unfazed, in her hypnotic state that her teddy would wriggle lose at times from the tightly affectionate hug and pointing her in the direction of the Monkey House.
Nor was Miss Sharp concerned when Lilly reached into her pouch and pulled out a lock pick and proceeded to unlock the gate that lead into the treed area of the enclosure. What Miss Sharp could not believe was the scene in front of her eyes! Children misbehaving, swinging in trees, rolling about in the dirt, fighting, eating bananas and dropping the skins on the floor, chattering, shouting, and GIGGLING! In her classroom! At first she stood and surveyed the room with an iron stare, before carefully placing Lilly down on a tree stump next to her and clapping her hands loudly. “CHILDREN!” she shouted in her strictest no nonsense voice. All the monkeys stopped what they were doing and looked incredulously at the human now stood in their enclosure. She stared back at them with stern determination and waited for total silence. “You will come and sit down here immediately,” she said, pointing at two logs in front of her, one set behind the other like seats in a class room. Lilly drew her breath in and held the silence too: she had seen some strict teachers in her time but Miss Sharp was by far the strictest. But was she strict enough to make monkeys behave, and more importantly, listen to the questions Lilly needed to ask?
Miss Sharp was not about to give them time to think about it, “I said immediately! Girls at the back, boys at the front.” Slowly one by one the monkeys dropped out of the trees and got up out of the dust and sat themselves quietly down in front on the teacher. “In all my years of teaching, I have never in my life, seen and heard such diabolical behaviour!” She continued, reaching into her pocket to pull out her pen and detention book. “Name,” she said as she pointed at the first ‘child’ with the pen. “Oo-oo” was the reply. Miss Sharp diligently wrote Oo-oo in her book before moving to the next. Aa, then Ee, followed by Uu and Ii along with other strange names that only a monkey have, all entered into the teachers book. With all the names written down Miss Sharp held the class in her iron gaze once more. “I have somebody with me that needs to ask you some questions. You had better answer them honestly and quickly unless you want double maths detention.” Of course the monkeys had no idea what maths or detention were, but they did know this human was the most scary thing they had ever seen and double anything with her didn’t sound like a good idea.
Miss Sharpe looked across at Lilly who was stood on the tree stump, “Over to you Miss Lilly.” Lilly did not want to sound confrontational with her first question, it could have the effect of making the monkeys argumentative, and she didn’t want Miss Sharp get even tougher with the monkeys. She knew how the monkeys collected the crocodile tears. What she needed to know was what they did with them, and she needed to stop them doing it again. To do that the monkeys needed to understand the consequences of their action. Lilly thanked Miss Sharp and began. “Do you like living here at the zoo?” The monkeys all looked at each other, then back at Lilly and nodded in agreement at each other, the noise level rising as they confirmed their liking of life at the zoo. “And would you be sad if the zoo were to close?” The suggestion of which brought the noise level above acceptable levels for the teacher’s ear and was quelled with a sharp shush! from Miss Sharpe as the monkeys made it clear they would not want the zoo to close. Leaving the monkeys to think on the questions asked, Lilly changed the thrust of her interrogations. “What do you think crocodile tears do?” At first this question was answered with silence; it had not occurred to the monkeys that Lilly would know about the collecting of tears and were very worried that Miss Sharp might know too. Monkeys might be a little out of control, but they do know what is just messing about and what is being naughty. And they knew what they did to the ostriches and Rex was very naughty. Then out of the worried silence Uu squeaked from the back, “They’re medicine for raccoons, Miss,” and the others began talking all at once, wanting to add their little bit, drowning out anything UU continued to say. Miss Sharp chastised the monkeys for all speaking at once, whilst in the gloomy shadows at the back off the perimeter fence, a raccoon listened, furious that the monkeys were about to tell Lilly who they gave the crocodile tears to. Still, he thought, “Rex would take care of Lilly so it would be of no consequence if she knew or not.” All he would have to do was ensure Lilly and Rex would meet face to face.
At first UU’s answer had taken Lilly by surprise, she had assumed that it was the monkeys who were infecting the children with crocotearalitis, but it appeared perhaps not. With Miss Sharp having brought the class back under control, insisting that if, “a member of the class wanted to answer a question then they should put their hand up: not shout out,” Lilly continued to probe a little deeper. “Raccoon medicine. Are there any raccoons at the zoo?” Lilly had seen the list of animals at the entrance, and had noted that raccoon had been crossed out and replaced with guinea pigs. Ee’s arm was raised high and eagerly in the air, his hand waving in an ‘I know the answer’ sort of away. Miss Sharp looked over the top of her glasses and glared at him, in the way a teacher does when she wants you to know you are in the spotlight, and as such, expected to behave impeccably. Pointing her pen at Ee she nodded at him to speak. “Yes young man, you may answer Lilly’s question.” Ee went on to explain. “Yes, there is one raccoon at the zoo and we get the medicine for him, cuz it’s for his knees, they get all stiff, see Miss, and he says when his knees get stiff he can’t climb in the food store and get us extra peanuts, and we like peanuts. Lots!” “Hmm,” thought Lilly, “the monkeys were being paid peanuts for crocodile tears.” Ee’s explanation, though enlightening, didn’t answer the other part of the question fully. Clearly there was a raccoon at the zoo, but it didn’t seem that the humans knew about it. Lilly thanked Ee and was about to ask where she might find this raccoon, when another monkey appeared through the hole in the netting. A monkey who was immediately caught in the steely eyed teacher gaze. “You’re late, come here now and sit down where I can see you. Name!” The monkey sat quickly, shaking a little, not only because Miss Sharp was very scary, but because she knew she had just done something very naughty indeed. She had just let Rex out. Not only that, but the raccoon who had promised her half a bag of nuts, was nowhere to be seen. Why did she have to be so nut crazy! The other monkeys cringed in silence as they waited on their ‘classmate’ to give her name. Which she did quickly, after a nudge from Aa who was sat next to her. “Gulp Miss,” Gulp almost whispered, as the teacher’s attention drifted away from the monkeys and beyond the perimeter of the enclosure to gaze at something moving along the path towards the pool.
“Who let that crocodile out?” Miss Sharp almost shrieked. Gulp gulped, and Lilly, seeing Rex just moments after Miss Sharp had spied him, sped out of the monkey house and towards the pool to head the crocodile off before he reached the children. The raccoon followed secretively. He couldn’t wait to see the meddling teddy bear be torn limb from limb by Rex. Miss Sharp, of course, stayed behind. The monkeys had become agitated at Rex roaming free and Miss Sharp was not about to let the ‘children’ start running about in panic. “Children” she said firmly, “You will stay put until Miss Lilly has returned the crocodile to his enclosure.” Though she had no idea how a 10 inch teddy bear would manage such a feat, she somehow knew Lilly could!
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