Fashion or Fiction 2: Mister Foster, the Teacher Monster

Fashion or Fiction 2: Mister Foster, the Teacher Monster

by Kelby Guilfoyle - January 2023

I was getting better at math every day. I even knew all the hundred numbers. And there’s hundreds of them. I packed my pink clip in my schoolbag, and it wasn’t a secret anymore. I would put it on during class and it found a home on my tawny hair. Like a squirrel in a tree. At first people looked at it, but now nobody really looks at it. It is as normal as the freckles on my face. That was until Mister Foster, the Teacher Monster!

Our old teacher loved my pink clip. She always wore cute cardigans with animals on them. Pink ducks in yellow water. Or milky white cows in orange flowers. They always made me smile. She had the coolest style ever. For a teacher that is. Mike saw her shop at the cheap shoe shop once, and said she was trying on bright red boots. But he said he left before he could see if she bought them or not. I am sure she did. But she never did wear them to school. Actually she never talked about fashion at all. But when she saw my pink clip for the first time, she said ‘love, love, love it’. Three loves is a lot, so I went a bit red in the face. She was the nicest teacher I ever had. But now she is gone.

I should have known by the way the sun dragged across the sky that morning. Like a sad thing. The day was already terrible, and it was only gonna get worse. He trudged in like a plasticine army man. He had thick rimmed glasses, and a fluffy moustache that surely tickled his puffy nose. He had no sense of fashion. The man looked like a catabolic reaction. We had learned about them in science class. Anyways, something about him, that truly took the life out of the classroom.

He wore a green shirt, with the top button flopped open. His belt was a bark brown, and it wrapped around navy chinos. Not that what you wear is like all that either, but he did look boring. Some of us thought, maybe he dresses like that so we don’t spend time looking at him and more time looking at the textbooks. Long division dressed better, is what Mike said.

When Foster saw my pink clip he did not smile. He said ‘hum’ and walked by. The red vessels in his blank eyes twizzling as he focused on the playfield outside the window. Oh how we played ball out there, like the greats. He coughed, and without looking at me he said ‘tomorrow, everyone is to wear proper uniform’. If Mister Foster wore a cardigan with animals on it, his would have snakes slivering in thorny bushes.

At lunch, everyone was in a tizzy. Mike said, he sucks. And I said I agreed. My head lugging like a heavy boulder. I swiped the pink clip from my hair and shoved it to the bottom of my school bag. I guess I had got what I wanted. I had been noticed and now the game was up. Anyways, in school fashion wasn’t a subject. Fashion wasn’t important.

I spent the rest of the day wondering if our old teacher had bought the red boots. I imagined she did, and maybe, and just maybe, if I could focus hard enough, she would come back and save us. Pounce in, in feverish glory. Wearing a cardigan of a unicorn eating a snake. And she would be wearing the red boots and she would banish Mister Foster from the universe. And she would declare, no more uniforms. And we would cheer and clap, because she had defeated the monster.

‘No day dreaming’. He was standing over me, tapping his metal ruler on my desk. ‘And are those golden buttons?’ he huffed and puffed and he shook his head. I kept my head down, too afraid to face him. I stayed like that until the bell rang.

When I got home I pulled the golden buttons off my shirt. I ripped off my cute laces and I put my uniform back to the way it was. Just like everyone else. My identity, taken. He was right, my clothes couldn’t be different from  everyone  else. That wasn’t fair of me. The Teacher Monster was here to stay, and I was too scared to face him, and anyways me and what army? I was just a kid.

When we played ball on the playfield, it was like war. Even though we were kicking a squishy red ball under wooden benches, that we used as goals. It was real to us. Like if we won, we really did win. But I was hogging the ball, and the ref had blown his whistle. Red card kid, is what he would say.

In the morning before school, I thought again about the red boots. And I came to a decision, to believe even though I may be wrong, that she did buy them. And they were her favourite shoes to wear. And that made me giddy, knowing that she was out there somewhere, twisting and dancing, wearing her favourite red boots.

So, in the car on the way I counted as high as I could. And I could count high. I knew all the hundred numbers. And there are hundreds of them, you know. I looked at my uniform, it was boring. I was someone else today, I couldn’t shake that feeling. I had left the monster win.

When I got into class and took my seat, I waited for him. He trudged in, and he nodded his head at us. He looked at me and he said ‘that’s much better’. I hung my head.

He told us to take out our textbooks, and everyone reached into their bags. I plonked my math book on my desk. But I was the only one. Everyone else had taken out a hairclip, and they all put it through their hair. Mister Foster started huffing and puffing. His face was turning a brick red, as he hit his hands on his desk. Me and what army, I thought.

And then I reached into my bag and pulled out my pink clip. I proudly put it through my tawny hair. A squirrel on a tree. 

Kelby Guilfoyle drinks too much tea. They are an award winning theatre maker and writer. They most recently were awarded the Creative Empowerment Award from Community Foundation for Ireland and Cork Arts Theatre, for their gender queer fairytale Bláthanna. Their theatre work has been performed all over the UK and Ireland, most notably at Electric Picnic. They are a LAMBDA most anticipated LGBTQ+ author and lover of ice cream in the rain.