Saturday, 5 November 2011


Leslie daFox stood at the front of his classroom, flanked by two police officers from the Serious Crimes Squad.  They were both uniformed, obviously wearing bullet-proof vests, had refused to remove their peaked caps while indoors despite Leslie's twenty-two minute rant about the sheer bloody unluckiness of their actions, and were standing to attention with their hands neatly clasped behind their backs.  They were, Leslie felt, rather showing up his students, who were mostly slumped in their seats in the auditorium in various stages of semi-consciousness.  Two seats were conspicuously left empty in the middle of the middle row; in those two seats in his last class two women had been found murdered, which accounted for his police guard right now.  Not that they were worried that he might be the next victim, they were rather more concerned that he might be the murderer.
"WAKE UP!" shouted Leslie, feeling malicious.  That morning he'd caught the maid ironing his socks without turning them inside out first, and he'd shouted at her for fifteen minutes until she'd finally burst into tears and fled into the laundry room, where he could heard her trying to dig into a basket of wet laundry and hide.  Every time he remembered that he felt better about the day, just as every time he caught sight of a police officer out of the corner of his eye he felt angry.
"Today's lesson," he continued, in a slightly lower voice, "is about rhetoric.  Rhetoric, as you would know if any of you could read well enough to read the syllabus and know what books you're supposed to read for each lesson, is traditionally considered part of the art of public speaking.  Despite its links to oratory, the many themes and tropes of rhetoric have their uses in literature as well."
"OI!  YOU!  YOU UNPLEASANT LITTLE WORM YOU!  PAY ATTENTION WHEN THE MURDERER IS SPEAKING!" bellowed Policeman #1.  Leslie cringed, his ears ringing, and his annoyance levels rising that he'd not been able to shout at the student first.
"Alleged murderer," said Policeman #2, looking across at Policeman #1.
"Provisionally," replied Policeman #1, looking back.
"I'm not a murderer," said Leslie firmly to them both, then turned back to his audience, who were watching the show at the front as though it were a soap opera. "Are you all listening now?"  The attentiveness and shiny eyes of the audience suggested that they were.
"Do you reckon it's true that he kills off the ones that get the lowest homework marks?" said Policeman #2 before Leslie could continue.  The audience vibrated with nerves and alertness.
"You're all too thick to know where Greece is," said Leslie, trying to ignore the poorly scripted comedy routine going on behind him, "so you only need to know that our first topic shall be Epistrophe.  No," he said to the rising of a hand from the third row, "it is not an island, nor is it a nightclub.  Epistrophe is the repetition of words at the end of sentences for effect.  If anyone can tell me what the repetition of words at the start of a sentence for effect is, I shall give them a manor house in the Cotswolds, a villa in Spain, and invite them to call me by my first name."
No-one's hand rose, and Leslie sighed, though inwardly he was rather thrilled to have taken a chance and still won his bet with himself.
The door at the back opened, and a Camberwick Green security guard slipped in, looking guilty.
"Perhaps," said Leslie, remembering the sobs coming from the sodden laundry earlier that morning, "you all feel that such questions are too easy for you to answer?  Let me ask a functionary; you there!"
"STAND WHERE YOU ARE YOU HORRIBLE LITTLE FUNCTIONARY!" bellowed Policeman #1, and the security guard stopped and stared at him.
"What is the opposite of epistrophe?" asked Leslie.
"Anaphora, guv," said the security guard, to Leslie's pleased nod.  "Not to be confused with Amphora, which is the wife's sister's name, on account of her not liking being called Jug."
"Really?" said Leslie,  "It takes all sorts I suppose.  I think I'd probably have had something unpleasant happen to my parents if they'd tried to call me Jug."
"STATEMENT OF INTENT!" yelled both policeman simultaneously, and tackled a protesting Leslie to the ground.  As he struggled, his students slipped away, all worrying that their next homework submission was going to result in a death-sentence.

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