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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 36 page 03


The windows were way too high for our small stature to reach or to be able to peer in. We didn’t know exactly what was inside the room, and our minds had long been riddled with speculations and fantasies: chips and soda and chocolate boxes, we thought, when we felt hungry. Or a theater room, or an atelier full of brushes, easels, acrylics and palettes, Sinbad babouches, the Genie of Aladdin. All in all, the mysterious room cast a spell on us.

We also knew the day when his highness was to pay his visit — not that anyone cared to inform us, since we would be tethered to our classrooms when his majesty arrived — by the intense and unceasing preparations that the entire school braced itself for on the day before, and on the very morning of, the expected visit.

All the staff, from the caretaker who would sweep the dusty schoolyard, collect the litter, and scour the corridor walls, to the teachers who must be wearing their white blouses clean and tidy, to the doorman who must never stop bowing abjectly whenever the sweet prince passed him. No one could be absent or behind schedule, no car should be parked in front of the school entranceway, the whole block in which the school was situated would be cordoned off by police lines.

If his highness decided to stay in the White Room for more than an hour, which used to happen frequently, no bell would ring and no one was allowed to absent themselves from the classrooms either. Bursting for a pee, many times we had soiled our clothes and the classrooms stunk like an outhouse pit. Getting wind of it, the principal — a veritable Zelig — raving and shuddering as he prefigured a horrific scenario wherein the damning odor wafted out of the classrooms and reached the princeling’s exquisite little nose — promptly ordered every classroom to be provided with a pot to piss in during the curfew, and made sure the chinks were well-stuffed.

Every nook and cranny of the establishment was decorated with national flags, patriotic blood-and-soil slogans scrawled on large burp cloths hung across the schoolyard, huge posters of the trademark lines of the monarch’s furrowed brow, and balloons, patriotic balloons everywhere and smiley ribbons nailed to every door. A row of carefully vetted schoolchildren, mostly girls with long hair, would be at his highness’s reception with bundles of flowers in their hands while tossing their hair from back to front. The principal and his aides would be on their guard, panting, howling orders, and checking minutely every step of the procedures.

Then on one of those days, our teacher of a newly introduced course called Technologia — it was taught on a riddled green chalkboard, and consisted simply on how to give forms and shapes more than one dimension — didn’t show up. As we were liming around in the classroom on the second floor, an uproar outside suddenly broke out. We knew it was the prince, and slowly, defying the rules, we tiptoed together out of the classroom, peering the while through the rusty guardrails, and there he hove in sight: well-upholstered just like the marvelous spongy door, his blushing cheeks protruding like the pinky patriotic balloons everywhere around, tramping down the corridor, the principal and his aides crawling behind him and escorted by his retinue on their toes protecting him like a precious fragile golden egg. Then the door, the door of the misty White Room was opened, and there, in our line of sight, we saw waiting in that room the treasure we had long wanted to see — a mighty Macintosh computer.