Mr Humbolt

Let me explain, we were not bad pupils, or bad people. We were troubled of course but those troubles were only exacerbated by our experiences with Aubrey Humbolt. We were just the tributaries to a deeper channel of ire.

Mr Humbolt taught us what it was like for a forty-year-old man to have a nervous breakdown, the catalyst to which we honestly played no significant part. He commenced with a novel approach to the lesson, firstly by brushing his moustache between trembling fingers for twenty minutes, softly humming ‘Eye of the tiger’ and ignoring us completely. He then jumped up and booted Kyle Longfellow from his chair, threatening to beat him to death with a tuna sandwich amongst other things. With spittle foaming at the corners of his mouth, he proceeded to entertain the class with a demonstration of his gymnastic abilities. He cried briefly, before launching into an exuberant freeform rap. I only recall the line ‘You can’t be a geographer from the wheel of your car, you can’t be a geographer if you don’t know where you are’. He thumped himself on the chest twice, performed a couple of star jumps as a warmup, then leaped headfirst out of the second-floor window screaming ‘I am an isthmus’.

In the following weeks pupils detoured round the landing spot. I remembered during my exam that an isthmus was a narrow strip of land, with sea either side that joins with another land mass. It was the only question I could answer. Sometimes I dream I am walking on an isthmus, life’s pressures either side and worry how precarious happiness is. I think of Mr Humbolt, successful in teaching at least one element of geography, literally putting our school on the map.

Published by G Turner

Gavin Turner is a poet and writer of short fiction. He lives in North West England. Some of his work is published here on this site and more recently in other journals and publications.

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