‘They sound sort of like my parents,’… He gets up and stretches out his arms and staggers around the room, saying in a sepulchral zombie voice, ‘Geoff … put out the garbage … Geoff … I can’t find my glasses … We’ve made great sacrifices to send you to that school, Geoff …’
… who live in a continuous sugar-rushed present, in which remembering is a chore left to computers, like tidying your room is a chore left for the Third World maid.
Irish people are crazy for technology. She’d thought that a country with such a weight of history might be prone to looking backward. In fact, the opposite is true. The past is considered dead weight – at best something to reel in tourists, at worst an embarrassment, an albatross, a raving, incontinent old relative that refuses to die.
She cradles a globe, which while she speaks she caresses absently as if it were a fat, spoiled housecat; it almost seems to purr as it revolves langorously under her fingertips.“.. just beneath the surface of the Earth,’ she is saying, ‘temperatures so high that the rock itself is molten – can anyone tell me what it’s called this molten rock?’‘Magma,’ croak several boys at once.‘And what do you call it, when it bursts up onto the Earth’s surface from a volcano?’‘Lava,’ they respond tremulously.
These boys’ abilities are regarded quite as highly by their peers as the more conventional athletic and sporting kinds, as is any claim to physical freakishness, such as waggling ears (Mitchell Gogan), unusually high mucous production (Hector ‘Hectoplasm’ O’Looney), notable ugliness (Vince Bailey). Fame in the second year is a surprisingly broad church; among the two-hundred-plus boys, there is scarcely anyone who does not have some ability or idiosyncrasy or weird body condition for which he is celebrated.
He tries to invent a machine of tin foil that will bring them to parallel universes, because our universe “is made of loneliness.” Love, he thinks, might look a little different if there are several universes out there at once. He also thinks the machine might bring Skippy back to life, until a fellow pupil, Dennis “an arch-cynic whose very dreams are sarcastic”, proves he can’t.
Life makes fools of us all sooner or later. But keep your sense of humour and you’ll at least be able to take your humiliations with some measure of grace. In the end, you know, it’s our own expectations that crush us.
How do you remember school? Are you undead now?