Lessons in Fuzzy Felt

by Janet Lees

In a mobile classroom with sticky lino flooring, Mr Ackroyd gave Religious Instruction using Fuzzy Felt.
   He talked us through each tableau in a tight monotone, his face perpetually red under dense pitchy hair – as if he’d swallowed too much wrath and vengeance, and sealed it in with grim forgiveness.
   Sometimes it seemed we’d be stuck there for eternity, made two-dimensional by boredom; shrunk down and added to his armoury of matt vermillion kings with blunted swords, toothless yellow lions gurning at clouds of lambs.
   We wanted no part of it. We wanted edge: the thwarted roar of Babel, the stink of burning sulphur, thorns tipped with Mr Ackroyd’s blood.
   Two years into the next school, his daughter Rachel told me he’d died of a heart attack. She cried and I touched her hand; caught the echo of six-inch nails hammered home under a pitiless sun.