Toothpaste

A dormitory prank sparks a memory

By Tara Patterson

Queen Anne sixth form girl, Meryl Taylor, walked into her shared dormitory dressed in her nightie and dressing gown; she felt happy and relaxed after her weekly bath. Outside, it was almost dark on this June Friday evening. It was still muggy after a hot day and it was going to be an uncomfortable night. The school was starting to fall quiet. Many of the girls liked this peaceful time between curfew and lights out.

Inside the room, most of Meryl’s roommates were in bed. Two of the younger girls sat on a bunk close to the window and were both looking at music magazines. Rebecca Morley, still wearing her gingham summer uniform dress, her leg in plaster after her fall from the window a few weeks earlier, sat upright on her bed reading a paperback and making notes in an exercise book. Above her, Milly Robinson was already fast asleep. Meryl took off her dressing gown, kicked off her slippers and climbed up into her top bunk.

“Is the window open, Lucy?” She asked the brown-haired girl in the top bunk nearest to her.

“Yep, has been since supper,” Lucy replied. “Have you heard if the wake-up bell has been fixed yet? I hate it having prefects wake us up. What is it with Hapwood and that cold flannel? I heard she chucked a cup of water at a girl in 234 this morning.”

“She’s a bully, Lucy. A nasty piece of work,” said Meryl. “She slippered me again yesterday for nowt, as usual. If only we could get her back.”

As they talked, ginger haired Kerrie Dunderdale put down her magazine, stood up and began to clean her teeth in the small sink next to the window. Like Milly, she was still in her uniform dress but had taken her shoes and socks off. Her shoulder length hair was tied in a loose plait. Meryl looked down at her. Suddenly, she had an idea.

“Got it,” she whispered to Lucy. “Hapwood always wakes up this corridor by starting at the end near the stairs and working this way. I have an idea how we can get her back and how we can get some warning of her coming. I’ll wait a bit after lights out, till everyone is asleep, then I’ve got to pop out for a while.”

*         *          *

The following morning the girls were awakened by a commotion and the sound of someone shouting in the corridor. Kerrie was first out of bed. She stretched and made her way to the sink.

“Where has my toothpaste gone?” She asked. “I only used it last night.”

Meryl lay in bed, half asleep, just taking in what was happening. Suddenly there was a shout from outside the room door.

“Ugh! Disgusting! Not again! Who has done this? Right everyone, up and out of bed, outside your rooms now. Matron will hear of this.”

The girls scrambled out of bed and dashed out of the room. Meryl threw on her underwear and her dress, pulled on a pair of white ankle socks and a pair of blue sandals and tried to make herself look presentable as they stood lined up with the rest of the boarders in the corridor. She stood between Lucy and Kerrie, a smile of satisfaction across her face. Kerrie leant against the wall and lifted her foot as she tried to buckle up her sandals. As it was so hot, the girls were allowed to wear sandals in place of their normal black Mary Jane shoes. As Lucy tied her long hair in a ponytail, she looked at Meryl.

“So, go on, what have you done? And what have you done with Kerrie’s toothpaste? I saw you go to the sink before you snuck out.”

“Put toothpaste on all the door handles from Hapwood’s room down to Matron’s surgery,” whispered Meryl. “I didn’t have enough of my own to do them all so I borrowed Kerrie’s. We have got to make the most of this. Let’s wind up Hapwood a bit more. She will guess it’s me that has covered the handles if I say anything. Why don’t you ask her which brand of toothpaste she likes? I’ll make it worth your while, I’ve got chocolate.”

With that, a very angry looking blonde haired prefect came marching round the corner. Her normally immaculate navy blue blazer had large patches of toothpaste on the front where she had wiped it off her hands. Behind her, dressed in a dark blue uniform, paced the Matron. Matron Routledge was already flexing a thick leather strap in her hands. The Matron paused at the end of the corridor and began walking along the line of girls. She looked at each door handle and made the occasional remark to some girls about their uniforms. The prefect walked ahead. As she drew level with Meryl and Lucy, Meryl nudged her roommate.

“Jennifer, we were just wondering if you preferred Colgate or Aqua fresh?” Lucy asked, an innocent look on her face.

Meryl started to snigger, as did a few of the others. The prefect’s face turned red. She was fuming. She turned and faced the two girls. That made Meryl lose all sense of self control; she broke out in a fit of uncontrolled giggling.

“I might have known,” snapped Jennifer Hapwood. She grabbed both girls and dragged them into the middle of the corridor. “I’ve found our culprits, Matron. I might have known you would be behind this, Taylor. You won’t be giggling like that in a moment. And Moore, how dare you cheek a prefect like that.”

The matron paced briskly down to the two girls. Meryl could feel the eyes of every girl in the corridor watching them. She tried her best but she couldn’t stop sniggering. Even Matron’s shouting made the giggling worse.

“Disgusting behaviour! Pull yourself together at once, young lady. What an immature outburst from a sixth former! Go and wait outside my surgery, hands on your head. Face the wall.”

Meryl did as she was told. Tears of joy ran down her cheeks as she stood facing the plain wall next to the surgery. She tried to think of something to stop the giggles but the thought of her enemy with her hands and blazer covered in white toothpaste was priceless; a thought to savour.

Severely loud slaps and muffled cries pricked Meryl’s conscience. From the sound of things, Jennifer Hapwood was slippering Lucy in front of the other girls. She then heard doors banging and a general chatter in the corridor that suggested Matron had dismissed the girls and that they were going about their morning routines before breakfast. Heavy footsteps, Matron’s heels banging on the floor, got closer. Then the surgery door was unlocked and opened.

“Right then, Taylor, in you come.”

Meryl turned and walked into the surgery. It had its usual medical smell. The Matron looked sternly at her.

“You can wipe that silly smile off your face for a start. I thought you had turned a corner but then this prank happens and once again you are found at the root of the trouble. It’s a shame, you are a really bright girl, not the best of pupils academically but you are not stupid. I can see that from the ingenuity of some of your mischief.”

Meryl tried to excuse her actions.

“I had to do something, Ma’am. I’m sick of how Jennifer picks on us all.”

“I think I have heard quite enough,” snapped the Matron. “Perhaps if you behaved and did as you were supposed to in these corridors then you wouldn’t attract the attention of the prefects, or myself for that matter. You know what is coming next, don’t you? This is becoming all too common an event, Meryl.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” mumbled Meryl. She walked over to Matron’s examination couch, lifted her dress and bent over the end. As she bent, she slid her white cotton knickers down her thighs. She gripped the legs of the couch and braced herself. Behind her, the Matron lined up her strap and…

THWACK, THWACK THWACK.

Meryl gasped and grunted with each stroke. Her bottom still felt tender from her slippering two days before. She bit her lip and was determined that she wasn’t going to make a sound. She looked ahead at the wall, trying to focus on something to take her mind off her punishment.

THWACK, THWACK.

Two more hard strokes followed. Despite her determination Meryl, could feel the tears beginning to flow. She gripped the couch tighter.

THWACK.

“Arrgh!” The last hard stroke made Meryl cry out.

“You are not laughing now, are you?” Said the Matron coldly. “Now, stand up, do not rub your bottom.”

Meryl knew the drill all too well. She stood, wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and put her hands on her head. She watched as the matron poured cleaning chemicals and ran some water into a large white enamel bowl. Matron Routledge then took some cloths from a cupboard and picked up the bowl from the sink.

“Once lessons finish at lunchtime, you will accompany Hapwood into Ambleside where you will pay for the dry cleaning of her blazer. But first I want you and Moore to clean every last trace of toothpaste from all of the door handles before you go to breakfast. I shall be along presently to inspect your work before you are dismissed to go and eat. If it is not done well enough, you will do it again until it is done to my satisfaction. If that means you miss your breakfast then that’s how it will be. Off you go.”

Meryl carried the large bowl and cloths down the corridor. Lucy was already wiping the worst of the toothpaste off a door handle with a paper towel. She looked rather flushed as if she had been crying.

“Sorry about getting you whacked,” said Meryl, feeling rather guilty. “Let’s get this done. It’s bacon day today. I’m not missing my bacon butty for anyone, certainly not Hapwood.

Lucy looked up.

“It was worth it, and I think I’m getting like you, used to Hapwood’s slippering. We don’t get many chances to get one over on her. Did you see the mess on her blazer? The look on her face when I asked her about the toothpaste!”

*         *           *

Deputy Headmistress, Jennifer Hapwood, was carrying out her morning tour around the school dormitories. It was a warm summer Saturday morning. The few girls she passed seemed in good spirits and wished her a good morning. She rounded the corner and began to walk down the long corridor towards the Matron’s Surgery. Two girls, one a sixth former and one a second year, were kneeling down cleaning the door handles of the dormitories. Matron Taylor stood, arms folded, behind them. Jennifer had a strange feeling of de ja vue.

“Come on then, you two, hurry up. I want those handles clean before you go for breakfast.” Ordered the Matron as she noticed the arrival of her friend.

“Toothpaste again, Miss Hapwood. Smeared on all the door handles from the stairs to my surgery. These two are responsible. They have been punished and they are cleaning up all their mess.”

The deputy headmistress sighed.

“I just wish the girls could be more creative with their pranks, or is it a sign we are getting old? This toothpaste prank is so 1968, it’s not very original any more, is it?”

She paused as her colleague started giggling, just like she did when she was a schoolgirl.

“Just what is so funny, Matron?” She snapped.

“I never did find out if you liked Colgate or Aqua fresh!”

The End

© Tara Patterson 2017