‘It was Thursday,’ Fasial complained, ‘fish and chips day, so why are we having shepherds pie?’
‘I don’t know?’ said Umar. Fasial and Umar were twins and went to the same school. Umar spent half his time at school keeping his brother out of trouble. He swallowed large portions of the pie
‘Its very tasty anyway. Try it,’ said Umar to Fasial. Fasial tried it, it was good, but he wasn’t going to admit it, because he was looking forward to fish and chips and shepherds pie wasn’t the same. He pulled a face, left most of his dinner and went to the playground. Fasial made a rap in the playground and it was about the school cook and it went something like this:
” Jones is a useless cook
If you eat school dinners it’s your hard luck
They either kill/ make you ill
If the meat don’t do it, then the custard will”
It wasn’t true. Mr Jones did good dinners, but the rap caught on and a long snake of chanting children wound its way about the playground with Fasial at its head. Umar did not join and hoped Mr Jones wouldn’t hear it.
On Friday after school, Fasial and some of his friends practised the rap and they were meant to chant the rap again at break on Monday, but at the end of the morning assembly, the principal had bad news and he said, ‘I’m sorry to have to tell you all that Mr Jones was ill over the weekend and will not be attending for a few days to cook dinner’.
After the news, some of the students grinned and pushed one another. Fasial whispered into Umars ear, ‘he must’ve eaten some of that shepherds pie.’ Umar jabbed Fasial with his elbow.
‘However the principal continued, we are very lucky to have with us Mr Terry, who will cook our dinner till Mr Jones returns, Mr Terry is not only a first class chef, but an explorer as well. He has travelled as a cook on a number of expeditions and is famous for his ability to produce mouth-watering meals from the most unpromising ingredients.’
‘He’ll feel at home here, “muttered Fasial,” because we have the most unpromising ingredients in Europe’.
Morning lessons seemed to go on forever, it felt like three o’clock when the bell went, hands were washed in two seconds and everyone ran into the dinning area, which was filled with delicious aroma. Dinning tables were covered with white cloths and each table had a pot of flowers. ‘Wow’ breathed Muneeb. “It’s like a posh restaurant.”
First came the soup, which was green but tasted absolutely delicious. To follow the soup was beautiful, succulent nuggets of tender-white meat in a golden, spicy sauce with baby peas and crispy roast potatoes. For pudding, there were giant helpings of chocolate ice cream with crunchy bits in it.
Fasial licked the last smear of ice cream from his spoon, dropped the spoon in his dish, pushed the dish away and belched. Some of the boys on his table giggled, but his brother stared at him across the table. Fasial smiled ‘sorry, but what a meal, I’ll probably nod off in biology this afternoon.’
He didn’t though; Mr Chotia didn’t give him the chance. The class was doing pond life and when the class walked in the room, the teacher said ‘Fasial ; Umar, take an empty jar and the net, go down to the pond and bring back some beetles. Quickly now.’
The school pond was in the corner of the playground. Rushes grew thickly round its rim and there were tadpoles, newts, dragonflies and beetles there today. It was Fasial’s favourite spot, but all the creatures seemed to be hiding. Umar got the net and trawled the net through the pondweed and when he lifted it out, it was empty. ‘Try again,’ said Faisal, “and faster this time.”
Umar sent the net through the pondweed, but all he got was a plump of weed.
‘Everything is gone and sir is waiting,’ said Umar.
‘I know’ said Fasial. “He’ll think we’ve scrap school.”
When Umar told sir that there was nothing in the pond, Mr Chotia said That only this morning Mr Terry was saying that pond is ‘well stocked’. Mr Chotia told the twins to sit down and told Sameer and Nawaz to try their luck.
‘Hey Umar!’ Whispered Fasial, his brother looked at him and he had a funny look on his face ‘I have a thought’
“Listen, you know what sir said about Mr Terry?”
“What about it?”
‘He said the pond was well stocked, right? And now it isn’t, and we had the delicious dinner, only we did not know what it was? “What’s dinner got to do with it?” Umar looked at his brother.
No Fasial, that’s just sick. It’s impossible.
“Is it?” Fasial asked Umar “What was that green soup and the meet and those crunchy bits in the ice cream?”
Before Umar could reply, Sameer ; Nawaz came back with an empty jar.
On Tuesday, dinner turned out to be better than Mondays. Fasial ; Umar kept their suspicions to themselves. All the children sat down to eat and there was orange soup with plenty of flavour and everybody enjoyed it. The main course was Italian pasta and rich meaty sauce with maccaroni.
Tuesday afternoon was C.D.T with Mr Bobat. When the kids arrived he was in front of his cupboard, surrounded by old drawings and broken models made from balsa wood and cardboard. ‘Lost something, sir?’ asked Fasial.
Mr Bobat replied yes.’ I could’ve sworn they were in here.’
‘Pictures done by year 7’
‘What are they, sir?’
‘You know, you stick things on a sheet of paper to make picture, like seashells, bits of maccaroni…’
Fasial gulped, ‘Bits of maccaroni, sir?’
‘I’m sure I saw them at the back of this cupboard and made a note to clear it up before the mice got to them.’
‘Are there mice in your cupboard?’
‘Yes, mice, moth, woodlice, cockroaches and rats.’
That afternoon Fasial did not enjoy C.D.T. because every time he looked at the cupboard, he kept on picturing Mr Terry. When he looked at Umar he looked unwell. When the boys did the rap at the break he didn’t join in. On Wednesday, Umar ; Fasial decided they would not eat lunch at school.
At eleven o’clock Umar stuck his hand up to go toilet but instead went to the kitchen. Mr Terry wasn’t there, so Umar went to look for him but one of the students said he was in the gym.
It was twelve o’clock and all the students went for dinner. It was grey, porridge mush. Everybody was eating their dinner and suddenly one of the students fished a small flat rectangle object from his plate and held it up.
‘Why is there a size 4 tag in my dinner?’ asked the student.
‘Lets have a look’
Umar took the tag and said that the tag looks like the one that you would find inside a shoe. He started to wonder what was Mr Terry was doing in the gym, when he was supposed to cook. He put the tag on the rim of his plate and sat back with his hands across his stomach.
‘What’s up Umar?’ Fasial asked.
Suddenly all around the dinner table kids stopped eating and watched Umar.
‘ I think I know what it means’ said Umar.
‘What does it mean?’ Asked Zakir, who had almost finished eating?
‘It looks like the tag for the old P.E Kit, said Umar’
The children started to leave the table but other children on the different table looked at them leaving and carried on eating.
Nobody went for dinner on Thursday. At twelve o’clock Mr Terry found him self-gazing at 12 empty tables. At five past twelve, Mr terry went to see the head. They stood at the heads window, looking towards the playing field. All the children were in the playing field.
‘What did you cook, Terry?’
‘Epsatsc’ said the chef.
‘ Never heard of it,’ said the head. ‘What is that?’
‘It’s a Greek dish’ said Mr Terry smoothly, easily fooling the head.
On Friday everybody brought sandwiches, but they didn’t have to as Mr Terry had gone, Mr Jones was back and they spotted him crossing the playground at five to nine, all the kids cheered. The kids got their sandwiches and chucked it in the bin, Fasial’s rap was dead.
Dinner wasn’t fish ; chips, but no one complained. Everybody had the food even Fasial. Everybody felt contented. As the school week drew to a close, everybody relaxed. At half-three, the kids ran to the field with joy and happiness, Fasial and Umar were in no rush and stood at the top looking at the gardener, who seemed lost.
‘What’s up, Mr Hasan?’ enquired Fasial.
‘There were a pile of nice, fresh horse manure here this morning and now its gone,’ Replied the gardener
The twins looked at each other. Mr Jones was coming down the drive. They ran to him. ‘Mr Jones!’ cried Fasial. ‘That Mr Terry-he has left, hasn’t he?’
The cook nodded. ‘Yes, dear, I’m afraid he has but don’t worry- he left me his recipe book. Its just amazing the meals you can get out of stuff you find lying around.’