NOW WE ARE LOOKING AT
A secondary school classroom, the late May sun casting a grapefruit light through dirty glass, onto ragtag blue/grey/white uniforms, slouched and fidget-bored pupils listening to their dull-drone RE teacher, as one might listen to the shipping forecast’s monotone Dogger on a Sunday afternoon at Granddad’s, that tickling sense of summer’s footfall a soft static crackle of promised freedom and cavort, like ten-stretch prisoners blank-staring those last few imagined dashes scratched onto grey cell walls, and ever-on the frump drone of the overweight RE teacher paper-combs as Billy’s thoughts ebb and tide, head tilted into crooked palm, gazing to his left at the occupant of the desk two desks down, tracing the small of her back, the bump of a bra strap then around to her budding breasts, the soft but insistent pressure upon her white school shirt, then back again to the snug hoop of her grey waistband, the curve down to her arse, now flattened by the press of the seat, and still the frump drone of the overweight RE teacher paper-combs, paper-combs...
MISS JENKINS (off screen): There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.
BILLY (voice over): Jesus.
Billy turns his gaze to Miss Jenkins.
MISS JENKINS (Bible in hand): And the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job? There is none like him on Earth.
BILLY (voice over): Jowwwb.
Billy turns his gaze back to the girl. The girl turns her head slightly towards Billy, makes brief eye-contact, smiles.
BILLY (voice over): I should ask Rache out.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): And the fire of God fell from Heaven and burned up all the sheep and servants.
Billy looks to Miss Jenkins.
BILLY (voice over): This don’t make sense. This gadge is one of God’s bum-chums, yet God sends the Devil to fuck him over?
MISS JENKINS: And Satan made a raid upon the camels and took them.
Billy rolls his eyes then looks to the window. He watches as a woodpigeon lands heavy in a nearby tree.
BILLY (voice over): How can anyone believe this shit?
The woodpigeon lifts a wing and starts preening itself with its beak.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house...
The woodpigeon flies off. Billy returns his gaze to the girl.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): When behold! A great wind came across the wilderness...
The girl turns her head slightly to Billy. She briefly smiles again before turning her attention back to her Bible. Billy looks to his lap. We see the pronounced outline of an erection through his grey school trousers.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): And struck the four corners of the house.
Billy slides further under his desk. He looks back to the tree. The woodpigeon is back. It sits scrunched up, with its feathers plumped out.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): And it fell upon the young people, and they are dead.
Billy narrows his eyes and looks back to Miss Jenkins, who pushes her glasses back up her nose then leans back against her desk, turning a page of her Bible. She sniffs, then rubs the back of an index finger across her nostrils. She sniffs again.
BILLY (voice over): This is fucking ridiculous. All that bollocks about how God is love. Utter shite.
MISS JENKINS (raising her voice): Then Job arose and took off his robes and shaved his head. Then he fell down upon the ground (speaks softly) and worshipped.
BILLY (voice over): What? (shaking his head) God sends Satan to shit death all over your farm, kills your servants, your animals and your kids? And what do you do? Strip off, shave your head and say Ta God? What. A fucking. Mong.
MISS JENKINS (her voice raising again, lifting her free hand into the air): Naked I came from my mother’s womb! And naked I shall return!
Billy sniggers, as do several others.
MISS JENKINS (looking to the ceiling, her raised free hand clutching at something unseen): The Lord giveth! And the Lord taketh away! (nearly shouting) BLESSED BE THE LORD!
Stifled laughter ripples around the room. Miss Jenkins snaps her gaze from the ceiling and glares angrily at the pupils.
MISS JENKINS (her nostrils flaring): SHUT! UP!
Miss Jenkins breathes heavily for a moment and surveys the classroom. The sniggers subside. Billy looks to the tree again. The woodpigeon seems to be sleeping.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): And so God said to Satan, See! Job still worships me despite these trials! To which Satan hissed, Skin for skin! And to prove Satan wrong, the Lord then afflicted Job with terrible sores.
Billy looks to Miss Jenkins and shakes his head.
BILLY (voice over): What? (frowns) I’ve just killed your kids but keep worshipping me so I can fuck you over again?
Billy sighs, and returns to looking out the window. The woodpigeon has been joined by another.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): And yes, I know what you’re all thinking, but Job was as confused by this as I’m sure you all are, but his wise friends gathered around him and tried to help him understand God’s mysterious ways...
The newly-arrived woodpigeon waddles along the branch towards the other. They regard each other, their necks moving this way and that. Billy looks to the girl again.
BILLY (voice over): How shall I ask her out?
MISS JENKINS (off screen): Man that is born of woman is of a few days, and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower (speaks softly) and then withers.
BILLY (voice over): Ask her to the disco this Friday?
Billy looks back to the window as the woodpigeons fly off together. Billy stares at the empty branch.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): But of course, the Jewish scriptures tell the story of Job’s trials a little differently, and feature a curious tale about Job’s wife.
Billy looks to Miss Jenkins, who places her Bible gently onto her desk, exchanging it for another book, and turning the pages roughly, she rolls her eyes and sighs.
BILLY (voice over): Jesus. Nazi much?
MISS JENKINS (clearing her throat): So. This is a bit the Jews have added on when Job and his wife have lost their farm and their livelihoods through God’s test of faith (she clears her throat again). And then Satan took the guise of a bread-seller at the market, and when Job’s wife tried to buy bread, she found she had no money, and they were starving...
Billy returns to staring at the empty branch.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): So Satan told her he would give her three loaves of bread for her hair...
On the playing field beyond the tree, Billy sees two mongrels approach each other under the goalposts. They circle each other, the bigger of the two sniffing the behind of the smaller.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): But. For the purpose of your exam, we should focus on...
The bigger mongrel suddenly mounts the smaller dog. The mongrel on top fucks faster and faster, its tongue lolling from its mouth.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): Because it’s a difficult concept that has puzzled many Christians, but considering...
The smaller mongrel underneath looks to be trying to escape.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): A question of faith in God’s...
The mongrel on top clamps its jaws around the other’s neck and keeps thrusting. Billy watches as it finally unclamps its jaws and dismounts. And as the bitch mongrel runs off across the playing field, the male sits licking its genitals in the six-yard box.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): BILLY! ANSWER THE QUESTION!
Billy jumps in his seat and looks to the red-faced Miss Jenkins.
MISS JENKINS (angrily): WHY! Do you THINK! That JOB! NEVER! SPOKE OUT! Against GOD! DESPITE! The TRIALS! He PUT him THROUGH?
BILLY: I don’t know, Miss, but I know this much. God’s like that bully in that video we watched last week in Miss Tanner’s class, where the bully gets his mate to beat that spacky kid up so he doesn’t take the blame.
The class erupts with laughter. Rache smiles at Billy. Billy smiles back.
MISS JENKINS (furious): GET OUT! GET OUT AND STAND IN THE HALLWAY!
And so Billy gets to his feet, red Adidas sports bag hiding his stiff as a crucifix erection, walking tall through the admiring crowd, collecting the sweet smile of the flowering Rache Bradwell, swinging the classroom door wide-open, now taking a bow.
MISS JENKINS (off screen): GET! OUT!
And does he stand in the hallway as directed? Of course not. Billy swaggers the squeaky-floored labyrinth to the boys toilet, secreting himself into a cubicle to masturbate, the vision of Rache Bradwell’s imagined bare arse a kite in the up-draught of his coming as the dinner bell rings, his penis now dabbed dry on crinkle-crisp toilet paper, and from his bag, a swag from the plastic bottle of orange squash (sherry, whisky, elderberry 80) and now feeling the courage of love’s lust swim his adolescent veins, he smokes a quick fag behind the physics lab before moving on, finding the girl by the bike sheds, who faced with such a heroic figure backlit by the grapefruit sun, how could she say no?