Bone Deep by Anita Goveas

No-one’s sure what going to happen next. Today, its ‘acids and bases’. They’ve dipped litmus paper into milk and ketchup and written down the results. They’ve got the left-over chicken bones from the morning’s biology lesson and soaked them in vinegar, Mr Bangura promising a surprise on Friday.  They’re now dropping baking soda into Sarson’s, and taking selfies with the resulting volcanoes. Nadia, with the shiny brown bob and purple Doc Martens, is brushing her hair by the window when she starts coughing.

“Mr Bangura, something smells weird.”

From the plastic cups containing chicken bones, there are wisps of green smoke emerging.

Dominic raises a tentative hand. “Erm, my chicken bone looked cooked. Does that make a difference?”

Jaya scrunches her nose. “I used this bottle. The one that says hydrochloric acid. That’s bad, right?”

Mr Bangura’s face turns greyer than aluminium.

“Right, open a window if you’re near one, then go to the school nurse. I’ll see you in five minutes.”

He’s draining the chicken-bone-carbon-possibly-chlorine-gas mixture into the sink, handkerchief pressed over his face, when Mr Peckersniff charges in.

“I knew you were up to something. We’ve had to evacuate the classrooms above here.”

“A bit of improvisation that went wrong, sir. I’m fixing it.”

“It’s grooming, that’s what it is. I googled your funny tattoo, I know it says “Death to Infidels.”

He shouts “I play golf with the Chairman of Governors” as he storms off. Mr Bangura stares at his retreating back, but there are twenty cups left and he’s already light-headed. He’s got eighteen to go when a gas-masked fireman bursts in.

“Is that a chemical bomb? “

“Um, chemistry experiment?”

The fireman backs away, hands raised. Mr Bangura blinks, but carries on. He’s pulled over a chair, the room’s started spinning, when the door flies open for the final time.

“Nobody move!”

The gas has affected his brain, because that’s apparently a red-haired woman wearing a jacket saying ‘Bomb Squad’. He should have listened to his dad and stayed in Hounslow.

“It’s ‘I love my mum’ in Arabic’, he says, waving his wrist. “It’s henna?”

Black-clothed people in tactical vests start removing bits of the lab to control-detonate. One is carrying his lunch-box.

He’s sitting outside, head in hand-cuffed hands, when the SAS helicopter lands on the Jungle. Mr Peckersniff plays golf with a lot of important people.

Anita Goveas is British-Asian, based in London, and fueled by strong coffee and paneer jalfrezi. Her stories are published and forthcoming in the 2016 London Short Story Prize anthology, the Word Factory website, Dodging the Rain, Rigorous, Pocket Change, Haverthorn and Riggwelter Press. She tweets erratically @coffeeandpaneer.

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