Author's Note: So, The History Boys? Like my favorite thing, possibly ever. How does one teach? History, Literature, hell, math. Is it a means to an end or one of those the-journey-is-the-destination things?
Ah, Alan Bennett.
pass the parcel
Well, I thought it was time.
Timms speaks at the funeral. None of the other boys put up too much of a fight, considering.
Timms wanted to make sure that everyone listening knew what kind of a man the lovable Jimmy Lockwood had really been, beneath the pins and the trainers and the girls that followed him everywhere. He wanted to remind them of the poetry he memorized when he thought no one was looking, and the extra free milk he slipped onto doorways where there was more dust than cement, and the way he'd never looked at Timms and seen the fat, funny kid who knew how to have a laugh but wouldn't get laid until he was twenty-one.
He wanted to make sure that the world knew what it had lost—what it had lost to stupid accidents and the desire to go to some fancy college that mistook architecture for intelligence.
But in the end, staring down at the pages of words he's written, this is what comes out as he stares down into the coffin and Jimmy looks back with dead eyes:
"Fucking Christ, Jimmy, what am I supposed to do without you?"
The last thing that Lieutenant James Lockwood sees before the bullet pierces his belly is not the slow willow tree which hung ten feet away, smelling slightly of raspberries for reasons that no one could explain; nor is it the face of Private Lucas MacElhaney, who accidentally shoots him at point-blank range; nor is it the sun, swallowing everything, unseasonably hot for the fall.
The last thing that he sees is a thin outline of eight boys and their chaperones, lined up against the backdrop of the crumbling monastery, stuck on the brink of everything with nothing to retreat into.
The bullet slices into his stomach, and the last words out of Lieutenant James Lockwood are, Fuck me, and sorry Jesus.
His sister, of all people, is the one that least tries to talk him out of it. She just watches, eyes wide, as he throws his clothes into a spare suitcase and debates between the stack of old records and the collection of lighters he's had since he was ten.
He chooses the lighters and tells her cheerfully that she can have the records, if she wants them, and good luck finding a record player, because he just liked the way they looked hung up on the walls. She laughs.
When he leaves she leaves his records and his stuff in his room just the way he left it; she puts her clothes in his dresser and dresses in his closet and his pins on her shirt and sometimes, when she sits up late doing homework or talking on the phone, it feels like he's there.
He calls once a week and she always answers like this:
All right, Jim?
Lottie-my-Lottie, He answers, and she can hear his smile. Are the boys staying away?
And she always pretends to be confused, because she knows the answer but she likes to hear him say it, so she asks, Why would they stay away?
'Cause if any of 'em so much as look at you too long I'll show them all the neat new gun tricks I've learned.
And then she tells him about every detail she can think of from the week before so that he doesn't ever have to wonder about things. She tells him honestly that their mother is getting worse and money is tighter than ever and the weather is shit (don't swear, Lottie, you swear, Jimmy, yeah but I'm not a fuckin' lady, am I?) but her grades are better than ever and in a few years maybe she'll go out for Oxford and Cambridge, just like him.
After half an hour he says he has to go and she says goodbye and then he waits until she giggles and says, okay, okay, I love you.
That's what I thought, he answers, smug and confident and Jimmy and when she closes her eyes she can see him in his uniform, pins hidden rebelliously under the collar, red trainers shoved under the bed next to the cigarettes and those lighters he brought from home.
I miss you, come and visit, she says, because death is not an option or a possibility when no one's in a war.
And Jimmy's scratchy voice says into her ear: I'll see you soon, I promise.
He gets the acceptance letter from Cambridge and the army in consecutive weeks. They both start with the same sentence: Mr. James Lockwood, we would be honored to add you to our roster of this fine institution.
He takes dinner with his mother and sister and then goes out with Timms and the boys to really celebrate. They get piss drunk and he fucks some girl in the bathroom while her boyfriend buys her a lemonade and afterwards, when its just them in the abandoned street and his head is so fuzzy that it looks like the stars are on the ground with them, he throws his arms around Timms and Dakin and laughs: God save the fuckin' queen, eh?
And everybody laughs.