He came in looking pale: he had forgotten his belt: he wouldn't be able to grade without his belt.
'Wait here,' I tell his parents. I walk back into the hall and bow; an observation of courtesy that, at some point, we all perform inadvertently: at a supermarket, a school, a public toilet.
'Excuse me, Mr Paine…'
I know. It's a good name. And the right person to ask. Instructor Paine points to a bag of spare belts, and there's the very colour I'm looking for. After a hug of much gratitude, after a courteous bow at the door, I return to the nervous scene, hand over the borrowed item. The drama is quickly resolved and there's nothing unusual about stricken faces just before a grading. I forgot about it.
The hall looked brighter than usual, because of the new expensive floor. The new floor didn't have any marks on it to show students where to stand: we set them out in neat rows so our grading examiner can exercise proper scrutiny. The electric tape is missing, so then ensues all the excitement of a tape hunt. Mr Douglas-Green corners a red roll in his kit bag. I butcher it into neat X shapes. The students may now enter.
'What belt is Thomas wearing?' Mr asks.
'It's a 5th Kup.' (Thinks: oh no, is that the right one? Looks: wrinkles brow. Thinks: it is the right one. It's just not tied very neatly.)
If I had been looking at his ashen face then, maybe I would have known.
As the tea coloured vomit soaked into the cheery blue floor cloths, I finally recognised that he was paler than he should have been. He usually does very well at gradings.