Of Two Minds, a short story by Rod Marsden at Spillwords.com
David Matos

Of Two Minds

Of Two Minds

written by: Rod Marsden


Ted had been the mild-mannered teacher. He had been too much the easy going, caring dolt, so he didn’t last long. Man up or leave was the choice but manning up would have meant thumping some bully-boy who richly deserved it. The law said no, you can’t do that. The law was wrong.

Way back in the 1970s, it was decided that the use of the cane, or the long ruler, to maintain discipline in class amounted to assault. And so, the canes and the long rulers were broken up and made into kindling. Sometime in the 1990s, it was decreed that, even raising your voice to God awful miscreants, was somehow a violation of their rights as citizens. So, teachers had to be careful when it came to how they spoke.

Not all was lost. If the teacher had the right kind of vocal arrangement, the muscle or the height to menace a class, he or she could still teach. If not, it was best to find employment elsewhere. Ted was short, chubby and had originally come into various classrooms with the belief that reason would triumph. Here he was dead wrong and suffered for it. He really should have known better.

It had been an uphill battle to get a proper education. The changing world of schooling in the 1970s had meant the idiot and the savage easily prevented smart kids, who might have become good students, from getting the opportunity.

The Department of Education looked at certain areas and acted accordingly. This suburb is in the heart of factory country so best to have the students at the high schools there prepped for work in the factories. These schools are in a farming district so best to get the pupils there ready for life on the land. Those schools are on the coast so the fishing trade and tourism will be the way to go for them.

The factories, Ted and his mates, were supposed to slot into, dried up and blew away. At first parts could be manufactured more cheaply overseas. Then, when the tariffs came down, everything could be done cheaper elsewhere.

The Third World countries came to be used and abused. Unfortunately for Ted and his lot, this meant metal work type employment got scarce and, the crystal balls the department heads of education had been using, needed recalibrating.

For many a young Australian, the life that was meant to be, according to one branch of government, was never to eventuate. Ted drifted from small time job to small time job until he was able to get into college as a mature age student. His first day at a lecture was a revelation. He discovered that if anyone mucked up, they were not only shown the door by the lecturer, but by the rest of the students as well. This was truly marvelous! The freedom to learn! What always should have been a God given right to get somewhere in life was at last presented to him.

He met women he could care about and who could care about him. Drinks around the college bar forged friendships he thought would last forever. It all had to end with graduation but he felt he was well armed, at last, for the so-called real world.

When Ted got out of college, he thought he could make a difference as a teacher. Filled with the ideas and ideals only college could produce, he set out to right the wrongs of the past. He had read Don Quixote but hadn’t really profited by the read. He couldn’t see how he was becoming the knight out to reform a world that did not want reforming.

As a teacher he swiftly came up against his old enemies, Mr. Dumbbell and Mr. Petty Thug. They were two generations removed from the ones he knew, as a high school kid, but that didn’t matter. Maybe they were worse because no one was trying to fool them into believing that there was a good life waiting for them if they did what they were told and studied hard.

Once again, the kids that had any kind of chance of bettering themselves were nobbled by the rat-bags who knew they had no chance at all. And Ted was in no position to do anything about it. He so wanted to beat the stuffing out of Mr. Dumbbell and Mr. Petty Thug but that was against the rules. He was physically capable of doing so but his hands were tied by legalities and so the innocent continued to suffer. He left teaching but his hatred for Mr. Dumbbell and Mr. Petty Thug went with him.

A decade later, while he was reading an ancient tome about a group of gods known only as the Old Ones, a worm entered Ted’s blood stream and then his brain. It coiled around his thought processing center, tighter and tighter. This was during Halloween.

He began to see things more clearly than he had ever done before. The time had come to fight the many manifestations of Mr. Dumbbell and Mr. Petty Thug, not just with words easily dismissed, but by other means.

Ted was on a train and a scuffle broke out. A policeman’s gun went flying out of his hand. Ted picked it up. Ordinarily, he would have returned it to the officer. The thing in his head had other ideas. The policeman was protecting a girl from being bashed by some fruit-loop with bushy hair and a smell that would wilt most flowers. Both the girl and this version of Mr. Thug appeared to be drug addicts. It seemed only reasonable to Ted that both should die. Two squeezes of the trigger accomplished this. The worm also insisted that the policeman should be eliminated to cover their tracks, another squeeze of the trigger.

With a rising feeling of elation, Ted got more bullets off the policeman’s corpse before exiting the train. He now had ways and means to cull wasteful cretins. His only regret was the death of the policeman.

Ted was hungry so he went to a fast-food joint for a bite to eat. Upon entering the establishment, a fat man belched, disrupting both Ted and the worm’s thought processes. Ted retaliated by putting a bullet in the ill-mannered bum’s stomach. The other diners should have been grateful for what he had done but they were not. He left, wondering what was wrong with those people. Perhaps they were secretly glad he had punished the oaf. The gun fitted neatly into his belt and he could cover it with the jumper he was wearing. He got a burger and a coke further down the road.

The police came into the venue where he was at last enjoying a meal but they didn’t pay him any attention. They were looking for a maniac on the run and he wasn’t running. What’s more, he didn’t even look agitated. The worm had eased him into a state of euphoria and there was also the natural feeling of elation over a deed done for the benefit of all.

That night, at home in his dingy apartment, Ted counted his bullets. There were twenty. This meant nineteen to help save the people from the deadbeats of this world and one to put the worm in his skull in the ground. It was so strange that the worm would agree to this. Perhaps it didn’t have the same understanding of death that he had. It did, however, have a comprehensive understanding of human history.

The question was where to start on his quest to rid his present existence of human vermin. He fell asleep and the worm spoke to him.

“Generation after generation, the noble and the righteous has slaved to make humanity more wondrous. The filth has held them back. A religious baboon once tried to stop men from looking up at the sky and seeing the stars in all their majesty instead of the heavens.

The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was forged in the blood of kings and queens, yet denied to others by pea-brained louts in classrooms throughout your land.”

“But what can I do?”

“Defend Magna Carta, the rights of your Parliament over the Queen of England, and the general precept that everyone is entitled to an education and, through an education, a better form of existence. In other words, a campaign is needed against the evil louse and the scum that should be scrapped off one’s shoe. Remember: No taxation without representation. It should be WE THE PEOPLE running the world and not the bully and the clown. There is no Bastille to storm but there are humans that must be rescued from their own indifference. Also think in terms of Religion being out and Reason being in. You have been chosen to lead the humans who are glorious to final victory. Don’t let them down.”

Morning came and Ted dressed, he had eggs on toast for breakfast and then went off to battle injustice. He passed a Catholic priest on his way to the train station and the notion of the need to keep separate state from religion came upon him. He shot the priest in the head and walked away. Further down the walkway he came upon a Muslim couple all decked out in black. He pulled the trigger four times. The notion that there MUST be a separation of state from religion echoed through his head. He didn’t even look back to notice black garb turning red on the sidewalk. Was either the priest or the Muslim couple really in favor of religion of any sort completely taking over? The worm wouldn’t allow Ted to question what he was doing.

It didn’t matter which train he caught, so Ted went for the one about to pull out of the station. As he got onboard, he noticed a middle-aged woman smoking on the station platform. Just before the carriage door closed, he aimed his gun, fired and managed to smack her hard in her smoke-filled chest. Due to the rattle of the train as it took off, he failed to hear her cry out as she fell onto the platform tiles.

“How many times have they got to be told?” he muttered. “No smoking on trains or train platforms!”

It was not only the law breaking but the arrogance of the creature that got her killed.

People had heard the gun go off but they didn’t know what to make of the sound. Was it thunder? The sky was clear. The train seemed to be moving along without any difficulty. Fellow passengers were behaving normally. So why was there a panic on at the very next station they were coming to?

Ted didn’t want to fight the police. He didn’t want to be captured by them either when he still had so much to do. Just as he was about to dispose of the gun under a seat, he spotted two of his former students. They saw him and the dumbest of them went into gorilla mode. The other smirked and got all sugary with his speech. This was the way they had of belittling those they wished to belittle. It was a pleasure to pull the trigger not once but twice. Then he gave them two more for good measure.

“You are condemned to death,” he told them. “And this is for the right of others to see the stars as stars. This is for the right of others to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And may the classroom, any Classroom, be forever free from your presence.”

Mr. Dumbbell and Mr. Thug looked surprised. For once in his life Mr. Thug had no comeback. Mr. Dumbbell looked to his pal for reassurance before collapsing. Mr. Thug tried to lay hands on Ted but it was too late. They were dead before the police arrived.

“Hey! You!” cried out a policeman.

It was time to end the worm.

“Too bad about the other bullets,” said Ted as he brought the gun up to his temple.

“No! Don’t!” yelled the policeman but to no avail.

Suddenly, astonishingly there was blood, bone and brain all over the carriage window closest to the policeman.

Much of the worm had been destroyed. Enough of it, however, was able to hibernate on the glass until a cleaner came along and absorbed the remnants of it into her skin via her rubber gloves.

It would be some years before the worm would become well enough to make its way to her brain.

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