WARNING: This blog will probably only be of interest to people who are familiar with (ie read and enjoyed) the ISHMAEL SERIES.
When I came to write the third and last book of the series – Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel – my publisher suggested that the maximum length should be around 85,000 wds.
My first draft came in at 125,000 wds.
Obviously something had to give.
Even after tightening up the language and heavily cutting unnecessary passages etc, it was clear that not all the minor story lines that I had included, would make it through to the final draft. Thankfully most did. The few that didn’t, tended to be the ones that involved the St Daniel’s teachers, rather than the boys.
One of those cut story lines, was about Miss Tarango and her father.
I was a bit sad that this one had to go, because it revealed a vulnerable side to Miss Tarango’s character which hadn’t been shown before and it also went a long way to explain her amazing ability, even as a first year out teacher, to handle troublesome boys like Barry Bagsley.
In the story line, Miss Tarango is very busy and under pressure with school work, exams and organising the Senior Formal and hasn’t quite been herself. Ishmael and the boys are about to find out the real reason why. And poor old Razz, who sees his role as something of a match-maker for Miss T and Mr Guthrie, is about walk into a minefield.
Below are the missing Miss Tarango scenes from Hoops of Steel. Hope you like them.
CH 26: Tapping on the Nuclear Warhead
Miss Tarango was sitting at the teachers’ desk marking essays.
‘Miss?’ Razz said creeping slowly forward like he was approaching an unexploded mine. ‘You remember that Formal table thing we were supposed to hand in to you on Monday? Well I had it all ready, you can ask anyone, but I got caught up doing stuff for the Battle of the Bands and … I kinda forgot.’
Miss turned a pair of tired eyes on Razz.
‘Yes Orazio. I’m well aware of that. When I managed to find a spare second, I was going to chase you up. And don’t worry, you’re not only one I’ve been waiting on.’
‘Sorry Miss,’ Razz said and then in an obvious attempt to change the subject pointed to the dvd case on the desk.
‘Hey, To Kill a Mockingbird. We did that with you in grade ten Miss didn’t we? That Atticus dude was pretty cool and remember when we watched the film how everyone reckoned the Boo guy looked liked Prindabel’s missing twin.’
Ignatius shook his head miserably but I was actually pretty impressed that Razz got the names right. In grade ten he always called Atticus, “Attics Are Us” and Boo Radley “Poo Badly”.
Miss was staring at the cover. It had a picture of the actor who played Atticus on the front. It was Gregory Peck. I knew that because he was the same guy who played Captain Ahab in the old Moby Dick movie. For a minute it looked like Miss Tarango had forgotten we were there, then she picked up our Formal table sheet.
‘Ok boys, I’d better get back to my marking. Thanks for this. Better late than never. You’re all set for partners I see.’
‘Yeah we’re cool Miss,’ Razz said and the rest of us turned to go. But apparently the self-named “Lifesaver of Love” had just turned up for duty.
‘Hey Miss I guess you gotta organise a teachers’ table too.’
‘I sure do,’ Miss said, ‘and they’re worse than you guys at letting me know who’s coming and who’s not.’
‘Yeah well Ms Heckenvaal’s coming, I know that for sure cos she told me. I reckon she and Mr Slattery will dance up a storm again. Oh … and Mr Guthrie’s definitely going to be there. Did you know that Miss?’
‘Yes thank you Orazio. I was aware of that,’ Miss said with her dimples on total retraction.
‘Yeah we asked sir in Homeroom and he told us. Didn’t say if he bringing someone but. So I guess he’ll be all alone on the night.’
It probably just seemed like the world had gone a little quieter then. Maybe it was because of the way Miss was looking at Razz.
‘Well, I’d say that would be no one but Mr Guthrie’s business, wouldn’t you Orazio?’
‘Yeah guess so Miss, but I reckon it’d be good if he had someone to go with cos he’s such a great guy you know with all the stuff he does for other people. And he’s pretty funny too when you get to know him. He’s the best.’
It was like the whole “tapping on the nuclear warhead” thing all over again only this time Razz didn’t seem to understand that he was the one with the hammer in his hand. Scobie was just about to break in when Razz beat him to it.
‘I guess you’d have no trouble in getting a partner, hey Miss?’
Not only had the world gone quieter, the temperature had just plummeted a few degrees. Miss Tarango nailed Razz with an icy stare straight from an Arctic winter.
‘For your information Orazio I am far too busy at present organising the formal, as well as teaching, marking and dealing with a hundred other things to worry about whether I have a partner for your Year 12 Formal or not. It doesn’t concern me right now.’ And then she added. ‘Nor should it concern you – ever.’
Anyone else would have taken the hint of course, but hey, we’re talking about the Razzman here!
‘Sure Miss but I was just thinking if you don’t have a partner and Mr Guthrie doesn’t have one, then …’
Miss Tarango’s hand slammed hard onto the desk. It made me jump. I wasn’t alone.
‘Orazio stop talking now!’
We all froze.
Miss pressed her lips tight and breathed out her nose. She swung around to face Razz. She looked like that girl from the Kick Ass movie.
‘There might be some things I want in this world,’ she said, ‘and many things I need, but one thing I don’t want and certainly don’t need is Orazio Zorzotto giving me advice.’
‘But I …’
Miss slammed the desk again.
She pointed a finger at Razz and her big brown eyes looked like gun barrels.
‘I do not need you interfering in my personal life. DO. YOU. UNDERSTAND?’
Razz nodded, but it looked more like someone just shaking a corpse.
‘I am not one of those airhead bimbo chicks you seem so taken with Orazio. Believe it or not, I actually have a brain and I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself and making my own decisions. And I am certainly not so stupid that I can’t tell a decent man when I see one!’
Miss had been getting louder and louder and I thought any second she was going to explode.
But she didn’t.
She just started to cry instead.
CH 27: Like Every Little Girl Who’d Ever Cried.
When the tears started to roll from Miss Tarango eyes it was like she wasn’t Miss Tarango anymore. She wasn’t the one with all the right answers. The one who could smile away any problem. The one who could take on anything and anyone. She just looked like every little girl who’d ever cried.
We all sort of shuffled forward. Scobie crouched down beside her. We wanted to do something to comfort her but there was an exclusion zone around Miss Tarango that none of us could enter.
‘Miss are you ok?’ Scobie said. She tried but she couldn’t get out a reply.
I pulled a handkerchief from my pocket. It was clean and ironed. (Thanks mum!) I handed it to Miss Tarango. Scobie mouthed something at Prindabel and mimed a glass of water and Ignatius turned and loped out of the room.
‘Miss I’m sorry,’ Razz said. ‘I didn’t mean anything. You know me. I’m a rolled-gold dickhead. I just don’t know when to shut up. I’m sorry’
Miss wiped her nose and sniffed. She drew in a couple of shuddering breaths.
‘You’re not a dickhead Orazio,’ she finally said. ‘And mind your language!’
‘Sorry Miss. I didn’t think … I didn’t mean to get you all upset.’
Miss rubbed her forehead.
‘It’s not you Orazio. It’s got nothing to do with you,’ she said shaking her head. ‘It’s my father.’
Razz’s face clouded over. ‘Your father Miss. What’s he done?’
Miss Tarango looked up at Razz with teary eyes and a sad smile. ‘He hasn’t done anything Orazio. He’s dying.’
As we stood there in silence I don’t think any of us had ever felt so useless and pointless and hopeless in our entire lives. Scobie’s hand hovered just off Miss Tarango’s shoulder.’
‘Miss is there anything we can do?’
She took a deep breath and wiped the tear stains from the edge of her eyes with the tip of the hanky.
‘Thank you James. No, I’ll be fine. Just give me a minute will you. I shouldn’t be like this. We’ve known for ages about my father. And the cancer.’
Miss stared at her hands and her face set hard. Then she spoke angrily.
‘I don’t know why I’m being so stupid. I promised myself I wasn’t going to be like this. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen. I’ve got everything planned. It’s all done, all arranged; the funeral, the eulogy, the songs, the readings, the cemetery – everything. We’ve even said our goodbyes. I thought I had it all under control. I thought I had me under control … and then some stupid little thing like this comes out of the blue and sets me off.’
She was holding up the To Kill a Mockingbird case.
‘Miss?’ Scobie said.
‘We started watching it today in year ten English James.’
A little down turned smile appeared on her face along with the shadows of her dimples.
‘Atticus. He always reminded me of my dad. He used to teach here you know – my father – way back when. Everyone loved him. He was the reason I wanted to become a teacher in the first place. He was my mentor. And my hero.’ She lay the case gently on the desk. ‘He was my everything,’ she said in a whisper.
‘And I bet he’s real proud of you Miss,’ Razz said. ‘You’re an awesome teacher. The best.’
Miss Tarango smiled. ‘Thank you Orazio. I don’t know that I deserve it, but that’s a lovely thing to say. And you’re right, my father is proud of me. I know, because he tells me all the time. I’m just not sure how I’ll cope when I can no longer hear it.’
‘Zoe are you all right?’
I turned around. Mr Guthrie and Prindabel were at the door.
We parted and let sir move in beside Miss Tarango. Ignatius placed a glass of water on the desk in front of her.
‘Yes I’m fine, now. The Fab Five came to my rescue – as always,’ Miss said with a quick smile.
‘Thanks boys,’ Mr Guthrie said. ‘You’ve been great. A big help. I’ll talk with you tomorrow.’
We took that as our cue to leave.
Miss Tarango thanked us again and we filed from the room. I was last out and I glanced back as I left. Mr Guthrie was crouched beside Miss Tarango talking to her.
His hand was hovering near her arm, just outside the exclusion zone.
Ch 30: The Heart and Soul of Charlton House
After the high of the Battle of the Bands, we all fell back down to earth and the normal routine of lessons and assignments and exams continued right through to the last day of term
And on that day, Miss Tarango’s father died.
They had to hold the funeral in the gymnasium because there were way too many people to fit into the school Chapel. Lots of past St Daniel’s students, teachers and parents turned up. Scobie, Razz, Bill, Ignatius and I were there. Our school choir sang.
The service was sad but it was good too. And we learnt things about Miss Tarango that we didn’t know. Like how Miss was the youngest of seven children – six boys and one girl – and how her mother died when she was just three years old.
All those six brothers were at the funeral. They all towered over their little sister. But you could still tell that Miss was the one in charge. The one who was holding everyone else up. No wonder Barry Bagsley never stood a chance.
We also learnt that when Miss Tarango’s dad taught at St Daniel’s, he was Patron of Charlton House, just like her. One of the teachers from back then, described him as a St Daniel’s “legend” and the “heart and soul of Charlton House”. He said that Mr Tarango’s time as Patron, was a “golden era” for Charlton and that it was the last time they had won the College Cup.
Scobie, Razz, Bill, Ignatius and I looked at each other when we heard that. If we ever needed any extra incentive to make Operation Tarango a success, that was it. Now we were more determined than ever to bring the Cup back home to Charlton and we had just one more term left to do it.
Our last term ever.