The Sacred Secret
Chapter 4 - Hit us with your rhythm stick - Gus
'Mister Sharp...Ray, I hope you won't mind me speaking in front of Miss Black
and Miss Bateleur?' said Juliet Van Weenan, resting her thigh across the corner
of her desk so that she looked down at the three of them sitting together in the
'No,' said Ray, peering sidelong briefly at the girls, who were both staring
at the desktops in front of them, before returning his attention to Juliet.
'Do you understand what just happened during the vote for Form Captain?'
'You voted against me, Miss Van Weenan,' he replied, without any form of
hostility, 'then you sorted her out.'
'Why do you think I, "sorted her out?" '
'I dunno, she probably deserved it. She seems pretty pushy. I reckon she made
some of the others vote for her.'
'Bullied them, you mean?'
'That's exactly what she did. She got to some of the class last Friday and
others this morning during assembly. She will deny that of course. Her word
against theirs.' Juliet shook her head slowly, looking down at the crumpled
sheet of paper in her hand. 'She wouldn't have made a good Form Captain.'
'But what would've happened if she hadn't backed down!' Priscilla blurted
out, before she could stop herself.
Juliet Van Weenan looked up, smiling, 'I would most likely be getting a
roasting from Miss Poe by now, and you guys would've been stuck with a bully of
a Form Captain and wanting desperately to change your Form Mistress. As it is, I
convinced Miss Poe to take a chance...'
'Miss Poe?' said Monique, 'How did she come to know of this?'
Juliet held up the sheet of paper. 'This is a scribbled note handed to me as
you all came into the room this morning. It warned me of bullying and who was
behind it. When the Head arrived with John Wynd, I had a moment outside to show
her this and together we worked out how to approach the situation.'
'But why are you telling us?' asked Monique, carefully feeling her way.
'Because, even though you've both been a couple of hot-heads, I know already
that you're on my side. I know that I can trust you, and Ray?'
'Yes Miss Van Weenan?' said Ray, a new respect in the tone of his voice.
'I'd like you to keep your eye on John Wynd, just one of your new duties as
Form Captain, he's an unknown quantity at the moment and needs to be made
welcome so that we establish him in this class as quickly as possible.'
'Is he boarding?' asked Ray, feeling rather important at being included in
school activities on his very first day.
'Yes,' Juliet answered, smoothing out the sheet of paper, 'he will be staying
on campus for the time being.'
'Well, I suppose he'll bunk in with Sinc and me. Jeff'll get him laughing at
'Mmm, Mister Sinclair is probably a good choice, and since he seems to be a
mate of yours...'
'We were both at Malvern Primary for the last three years.'
'Good, see if Jeff will do his best to make friends with John and settle him
in...and Mister Sharp?'
'Yes Miss Van Weenan?'
'I suppose they call you Sharpy?'
'Well, yere, a'course...' Ray looked a little confused at her question.
'I ask this because I don't want to hear people calling me Weenie behind my
back. Just let the others know that I wont like it if I hear it. You get my
'Er, yes, er, Miss Van Weenan. If they're going to call you that, don't do it
to your face...Um...'
'I think we'll get along just fine...Sharpy,' said Juliet, almost privately,
the faint trace of a smile appearing around her mouth. 'And now girls,' she
said, turning her attention again to Priscilla and Monique, 'I do not expect
either of you to discuss this conversation with anyone else, except perhaps with
the person on this note.' She lifted up the sheet and turned it round so that
only the girls could read the signature. 'I shall, of course, pass this back to
our Head for her safekeeping. When you leave, it would be sensible to look as if
you'd both copped a suitable lecture regarding your outburst. That way, any
flack will be laid on me as to the outcome of the vote. You are both new
students, so allow your Form Mistress and this school to sort out Miss R...that
is, Miss Roseanne Sole. Headmistress Poe and I are well aware of what she's up
to. Thankyou for your support. Now get going, all of you. I have work and so do
you. See you in class.'
'Gawd! What was all that about,' said Ray Sharp, as he and the girls hurried
down the corridor toward room seventeen; their first actual class overseen by
one Auguste Munro, Music teacher of Hopewell for first-formers.
'Phew! I'm not really all that sure,' said Priscilla, hefting her bag of
books over her shoulder with some difficulty, 'gee Monique, we've got to figger
a better way to carry all this stuff.'
'We'll have lockers to use down there,' Ray pointed, as they hurried past an
intersecting hall, 'all we need to do is go to the office and get our keys at
'Umm,' said Monique, as they reached the tail-end of Form One B. who were
filing into class while the school siren signalled recess end, 'our Form Captain
is a boy, and yet he knows things!' She winked at Priscilla as Ray, grinning but
not responding to her tease, stepped back to allow them to enter.
'OhhKayy Guyyys an' Grillls! How arrreYa?' said a tousle-haired fellow, arms
drawn back behind his head, fingers interlaced, reclining in something that
looked like a computer chair. He was wearing an olive green suede jacket with
leather elbow patches and an open necked purple shirt beneath. 'Take a seat
anywhere ya like, just settle in. Ya got a minute ta get done an' dusted.' He
propelled himself across the risen platform in a lazy motion that took him from
his desk to a whiteboard positioned beside a complicated-looking audio console.
'My name is A U G U S T E M U N R O.' He stroked out the letters on the
whiteboard in red pen, but what amazed the assembled group was that he did this
with his right hand outstretched behind him as he slowly pushed along with a
languid left foot. 'In this class...come on now, get yer butts down... that's
good...ohhkayy...we're in for a roller coaster musical ride, yeahhh!' He rattled
to a halt and dropped the red marker onto his foot where he neatly hooked it
into a wastepaper basket at floor level. 'I'm a hockey nut, but don't let that
get in your way, we've got the world of music at our feet and that's what we're
gonna do all this year! Everything from Bach to Beatles, Ragtime to Rap,
Madonna, Minogue and Mussorgsky. We're gonna get inta Hip-Hop, Reggae and
Rachmaninov. Crosby, Elvis and Caruso. Tchaikovsky and Britney Spears, The
Beachboys and the Eagles, and Hendrix, Brubeck, Harry Connick and ooww, soo many
morre! This, students of the High Vibes, is gonna be a Ruummble in the
Claassrooom! You guys don't get off until we're done, and when we're done,
you're all gonna have a new idea, a new vision of what music is all aboot! We
aint here to learn how to write or read music, we're here to appreciate it!
We're here to learn how to LListen! Not just hear a HhuMmungus, TthuMmping load
of EearSsplitting Warrpp! But...' And at that point, Auguste Munro drew breath.
Yet before anyone in the now seated class, not even Roseanne Sole who was
keeping quiet anyway, could get out so much as a raspberry of contempt he
continued, 'it wont happen without your input. You, Guys and Gals, have to be
open to it. Sure, you're gonna get Zuzzed by some of what you hear, but there's
a discipline, and it's called PATIENCE!' He shouted the last word so that
several of the students actually flinched. 'Patience. Ever heard of this word?
Well it applies to the world of music as much as it applies to every other part
of life. In music, we must all learn that we need to apply patience when we
listen so that we can come to appreciate What-We-Are-Listening-To. Let's do it!'
He flicked a switch on the console beside him, and immediately Rock Your Body at
high volume started rattling windows.
'That's Justin Timberlake!' cried Priscilla into Monique's ear. 'He's pretty
'So is Mister Munro, I think he is very cool!' called back Monique, grinning
and watching Auguste Munro waving one arm in time to the music and signalling
with the other for the class to join in. He certainly made an interesting sight;
leaning back in the chair, a desertboot resting on the desktop, his dishevelled
hair bopping about on his bobbing head, eyes half closed, his mouth forming
When the music died down, he suddenly opened his eyes wide and stared at the
class. They, in turn, somewhat shell-shocked, stared back in silence. 'That's
what it's all aboot, listening, Rrreally-Listening! It only takes a couple times
to pick up on the hot hits of the dayy! But this morning, we're also gonna
listen to some hot hits of yesterday from wayyy back last century when you folks
were all just outta diapers. That's when it might begin to hit you that music
can do-oo a lotta things. Tell me what they are, you there in the front row!
Girl with the gum, what's your name?'
Sylvia Knight got such a surprise at the lightning out-thrust arm pointing
directly at her that she almost swallowed what she was chewing. 'Er...Sylvia
Knight...Um...I don't...um...Mister Munro...' she muttered, searching for a
tissue to deposit the object.
'Name's Auguste, get rid o' that gum and don't repeat the incident or next
time I'll have you flogged Miss Knight, but most folks just call me Gus, anyone
got any idea of what I'm talking aboot?'
Munro's rapid-fire style was making some of the class turn their eyes inward.
'Yeah? Black girl in the second row?' He obviously paid no attention to
political correctness. 'No offence Miss, just don't have a name for you yet.'
'It is Monique Bateleur, and I take no offence Mist...um...'
'Gus will do fine.'
'Very pretty, I'm keen on the French language. Very pretty indeed Monique,
and you can take that any way you want. Now what's the answer?'
'Well, music goes back into history, hundreds of years. We can still hear
what people wrote back then as if it was only yesterday.'
'Go-ood, but wait! There's more than just a set of steak knives comin', what
else? Anyone? Yes? Boy up the back there? Name please?'
'Jesus Mendosa, Sir.'
'Sir...Gus...' came the timid reply.'
'Yep! You're gettin' there. Spit it out!'
'Well S...Um...I would like to say that music without words can be listened
to by people who do not even speak the same language. And they can still enjoy
'Rightonthemoneyyy Mister Mendosa! I will make you Fishers of Men, I always
wondered aboot that when I was a kid. Why did Jesus want to turn men into fish?
But then again he did it with water and loaves of bread. So-oo, so many people
say why, I say why not?'
'Yeah! Kid on the left who's gonna get boxed if he keeps calling me Sir.
Name, my man?'
'Jeff Sinclair, I just wanted to know what part of Scotland you come
'I come from the French-Canadian sector, Mister Sinclair. Don't get the
"aboot" part of my accent confused with Highlanders. When I said
hockey earlier, I was talkin' Ice-hockey, Canada style! And speakin' of
Ice-hockey and sticks an' such, try this one for size!' He flicked another
button on his multi-mix console and suddenly a song began that caused puzzled
eyes to open around the room. 'Hit me with your rhythm stick, hit me slowly, hit
me quick, it's nice to be a lunatic. Hit me, hit me, hit...me!'
By the time that track had screeched to an abrupt halt the whole class was
whirring as Gus Munro clicked another button and Britney Spears punched into
Toxic. After that came some Debussy, 'Who does not Offenbach, Chhilldrennn!' and
Prokofiev's rousing Troika, followed by Kylie Minogue singing, I should be so
lucky. The rest of the period was taken up with discussion and the full
seventeen minutes of The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams, so that
everyone could calm down.
When the bell tolled at the end of the class the pupils rose, stunned but
intriqued, and began to file out for lunch; a couple of the girls laughing and
doing a little bop together down the aisle. It occurred to several of them that
Auguste Munro had never actually left his chair during the entire lesson, and
that his feet had barely contacted the floor. He waved the students out,
back-peddling as he wiped the white board clean without even glancing at it. Hit
Me With Your Rhythm Stick began to screech away again until the door closed,
effectively shutting down most of the sound.
'His voice is like a combination of that guy on radio, Lucky Oceans, and the
man on F.M. Classic, Karl Haas,' said Bromwyn Burns, strolling along with
Priscilla and Monique, 'really deep and rolling and mellow.'
'Yeah, don't know them, but if you mean kinda mad-sexy, though sorta'
highbrow,' I'm with you,' agreed Priscilla, as they made toward one of the
'Me too,' said a small voice behind Monique. It was Narenda Upaday, and as
she overtook Monique she whispered, 'I do hope you and Priscilla will forgive me
for my voting the way I did this morning. Annie threatened that something
terrible would happen to Nisha if I didn't do as she said...'
Monique drew Priscilla back, letting Bromwyn go ahead with Leroy Amberson who
was saying, ' This guy's alright, more like a disc jockey than a teacher, did ya
see all the heavy speakers around the room? Top sound system...and you can call
him by his first name...'
'There is nothing to forgive Narenda,' said Monique, 'except that she's now
got you calling her Annie. You were placed in a difficult situation and had
little time to find a way out. We are fortunate that we have Miss Van Weenan as
our Form Mistress...'
'What do you mean?'
'She showed Priscilla and I the warning note you scribbled and gave to her.
It was very quick thinking on your part, and she has taken any trouble away from
you and Nisha for this time. Roseanne knows nothing about it, so you can feel
'For this time,' said Narenda, looking relieved but apprehensive as a surly
Roseanne Sole shouldered her way past Ray Sharp and Jeff Sinclair, glaring at
everyone in her path.
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