The first in a series of prompted ficlets about Cabanela.
Title: The History of History
Characters: Cabanela, Jowd, brief appearance by Kamila.
Summary: The dullest history lesson ever is spiced up with the arrival of a certain friend of Jowd's. Set pre-game, in Cabanela and Jowd's (British) secondary school during GCSE year.
"So after Lenin died in 1923, Stalin took power, not his rival Trotsky. Now..."
Jowd had switched off quite some time ago. "Take History," Cabanela had said at their GCSE choices evening. "It's interesting," he said. "The topics are fun," he said. And then they got put in different classes: Cabanela with Mrs Dudley, perhaps the most invigorating teacher at the school, and Jowd with Mr Harrison, perhaps the dullest teacher in the school.
"Jowd, are you listening?" asked Mr Harrison, glaring at him. "Perhaps you could tell me why Stalin took power and not Trotsky."
Thank the gods for late-night research sessions. "Stalin had integrated himself as a key member of the Bolshevik party by becoming General Secretary. It may have looked like he was just a pen-pusher, but he had a say in who was appointed to which jobs, so he could appoint people who supported him, and he also managed to incriminate his opponents for various misdemeanours to get rid of them. Furthermore, Lenin's Testimony was not made public, so Lenin's doubts about Stalin were not made public, and Stalin exaggerated his closeness to Lenin, even going so far as to forge images of the two of them together. In addition-"
"That's enough, Jowd," said Mr Harrison. "I'm glad you enjoy research so much, but perhaps you could focus on what you're being taught, given that that's what you'll be tested on."
Jowd was just lining up to channel Cabs and make some snarky remark when there was a knock on the door. Mr Harrison glanced up. "Come in."
The door burst open, and in strode the man himself. Cabanela danced a few steps into the room and gave a small bow to Mr Harrison, who frowned.
"Can I help you, Cabanela?" "I bring a message from Mrs Dudley," said Cabanela, as if it were some great proclamation.
He cleared his throat in his usual over-the-top fashion. "Do you haaave the worksheets she requested Tuesday last?"
Mr Harrison nodded. "They're in the staff room. Does she need them now?"
"She was hoping to use them to teach with this lesson."
Mr Harrison jumped up. "Right, class. Copy down the rest of these notes, and then turn to page 193 in your textbooks. Answer the questions, then read on." He turned to Cabanela. "I'll just get them for you. Wait here."
Cabanela bowed low. "As you wish, sir." Jowd put his head in his hands.
Mr Harrison rushed out of the room. Cabanela jumped up and settled down on the edge of the table at the front, reading the board. He turned to Jowd, grinned and waved. Jowd rolled his eyes.
"Are you supposed to copy this down and fiiind the mistakes?" he suddenly asked.
"Nope," said Jowd from the back. "Mr Harrison really is that stupid."
Cabanela leapt up, grabbed the red pen from the desk, twirled it in his fingers and removed the cap with a flourish. He scribbled over the board, crossing out words and dates and replacing them with the correct ones. The class whispered to each other.
"Hey Cabs," said Jowd. "Tell them about Stalin." Cabanela spun around. "With pleasure."
Mr Harrison finally returned from the Staff Room to find Cabanela in full swing, the board covered in an immense spider diagram with elegantly written notes and drawings. There were small sketches dotted around the board, including one of a man with an ice pick in his head, presumably Trotsky. The class had copied bits of it down, but were smiling away and clearly enjoying themselves.
"Now, if you're trying to shoot an animal, you get the target awaaaay from the herd," said Cabanela, illustrating his point with a stick-figure drawing of (probably) some deer. "And if you're trying to get rid of people, you get them away from their supporters. Stalin was clever. When he said he wanted 'Socialism in One Country', he forced his ideological opponents into a group apart from his supporters. And he had quite a few supporters. So Trotsky, Kaminev and Zinoviev formed a United Opposition to Stalin, so when he defeated them, they became isolated and alooone." He drew a sad face on the board, and the class laughed.
"Antonio Cabanela, what on earth are you doing?" said Mr Harrison.
Cabanela turned to Mr Harrison and grinned. "Well, I haaate to waste time, sir. Thought I might use it wisely and fix your mistakes."
The class fell silent. Cabanela flipped the board around to what Mr Harrison had written, and began pointing out the mistakes in red that he had corrected.
"Fiiirstly, Lenin died in '24, not '23. He did have a couple of strokes that meant he was a bit useless in '23, but-"
"I don't need some upstart little nerd telling me how to do my job."
"Clearly, Mr Harrison, you do," Mrs Dudley was leant against the doorframe, frowning. Cabanela jumped to attention, giving a mock salute. Mrs Dudley waved her hand at him. "At ease, Private."
Mr Harrison paled. "But... I-" "But you nothing! Not one sentence on that board is correct."
"Be fair, miss," said Cabanela. "He did nearly manage to correctly spell communism."
"Half the exam is about communism. I should hope he could correctly spell it. I'll be speaking to the Headmaster about this." Mrs Dudley turned on her rather large heels and headed out of the room, beckoning to Cabanela.
"I'll be taking those sheets, if you don't miiind," said Cabanela.
Mr Harrison glared at him. He dumped the sheets in his arms and held the door open. "You've far outstayed your welcome, Cabanela."
Cabanela winked at Jowd. "Just read my guide. It makes sense." He twirled out of the room, and an awkward silence descended.
"Well," said Jowd. "I have a copy of his notes if anyone wants a read."
Cabanela flopped down onto the sofa, looking over the various books and piles of paper scattered across the coffee table. Kamila came in from the kitchen and stopped, her steaming mug of coffee at her lips.
"Ah, sorry little lady," said Cabanela, jumping up and twirling out of the way. "This must be yooour space."
"Just doing some homework," she replied.
Jowd poked his head round the door. "Kamila, Annette's on the phone for you." Kamila grinned and rushed over, her homework all but abandoned.
Cabanela smiled. "You remember doing this?" he asked Jowd, pointing at the papers all over the table.
"How could I forget?" he replied. "How else do you think I passed my exams?"
Cabanela picked up a pack of papers from underneath a bright red planner. On the front were written the words 'Cab's Guide to the USSR and Why Stalin Was EVIL', in an elegant italic hand-written font. Scribbled on it in Jowd's familiar handwriting was 'Read this. It makes sense.'
"You kept this, eh?"
"I knew it would come in helpful one day. Just like the person who wrote it."