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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Avoid Kids Like the Plague!

I’ve been particularly wanting to tell you about my student, Phineas.

My student, Phineas, is of the seventy-five-year-old man in a seven-year old’s body ilk.

Phineas is the type of ‘elderly’ gentleman who always displays an inordinate sense of polite etiquette but can’t stand silliness. Phineas merely furrows his fuzzy wise eyebrows at me when I make a joke. 

He’s a tough crowd.

Phineas is a bit of a dobber. I imagine when he grows up he’ll be a curtain twitcher, monitoring the neighbours like a hawk and ringing the police when he notices the people across the road have put their recycling bin out on the wrong day.

Phineas brings many interesting ‘facts’ to the classroom. He likes to share his knowledge of the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 and how many people died. He can even describe the symptoms. I pray he doesn’t find out about Ebola.

Phineas brought show and tell last week, before the schools were semi-shut down. I watched him dig around in the crumpled Woolworths plastic bag for all the goodies he’d brought in to share with us.

“This is some Chinese money my Gran gave me,” he announced gravely whilst holding up a fistful of yuan. He seemed to have a daredevil air about him. It was almost as if he was being overtly controversial.

There was silence. A slight shuffling of bottoms away from the speaker took place, including my own.

“Before you say it’s got the Corona Virus,” he said with all the seriousness of the Queensland Chief Medical Officer reading out the latest death toll, “let me assure you, my Gran went on holidays BEFORE the Corona Virus, so this money is okay. Who wants to hold it?” he said, flapping it around under my nose.

Everyone wanted to hold it except me.

“Corona Virus doesn’t hurt kids,” pronounced little Ephraim, blowing his nose noisily with a tissue.

“It only gits old people,” added another boy.

Some of the students glanced self-consciously at me. I know what they were thinking; the old bat’s gonna get it for sure.

The boy who’d been blowing his nose tossed the tissue on the floor beside the bin and meandered past my desk on his way back, trailing his hand along its edge then picking up my water bottle and caressing it as he went.

“Can you go and wash your hands after blowing your nose, Ephraim?” I pleaded. “Go pick up that tissue and stop touching my water bottle.”

“I did wash them,” he said.

“No, you didn’t. I just watched you blow your nose then.”

He shrugged grumpily, went to the hand sanitiser on the wall and gave it a desultory squirt.

The handwash has no alcohol in it. Just aloe vera, for what it’s worth. 

Last time I checked, aloe vera does nothing for virulent pathogens except for perhaps granting them a radiant glow and softer skin. 

Teachers can’t have alcohol products in the same room as the Super Spreaders, you see. They might drink it.

The teachers, not the kids.

“The tooth fairy didn’t come last night because of the Corona Virus,” blurted one little girl as she fished around in her mouth with a finger looking for the vacant space in her gums.

“The tooth fairy has Comona Virus?” lisped another in consternation.

“No… ,“ came the disgusted reply from the first girl. “She was held up in traffic because of the Corona Virus.”

Or, Mum and Dad conveniently used the virus as an excuse because they forgot to leave out the tooth money, I thought.

Is nothing sacred? Fancy blaming your parental lapses on a pestilence.

The bell rang and as I ushered Phineas, clutching his filthy lucre, out the door, he stopped abruptly. Turning his small face up to me, he gazed pitifully into my eyes. “God keep you safe, Mrs Poinker,” he said.

I shuddered. That child knows something.