The students don't question Mr Wessel. They're more distracted by the smell and the slime. They pick up their frogs and splay them out with pins and set to flay. There are giggles, there are urks of fake vomiting, but overall the class moves along.
At the end, following his instructions, they've cracked the back ribs and sat the frog's lungs on its shoulders. Another round of blood eagles on the little specimens. The trick here is to work the blade against a slippery back, setting them to handle when it's sweaty, or greased from the pits.
Mr Wessel takes notes and studies the pupils, grading them on paper and in his mind. One student, calculating and stern-faced, works just the same as one with an ear-to-ear grin. But that brain, the mushy chunks of grey matter, how they partake in the pleasure or the act, that's what really separates them from each other.
After several rounds and weeks, after more incisions, more bones cast aside and matted hair sticking to the bottom of their shoes and boots, only a fifth of the starting class remains. They've read of Balkanised lands, of villages torn down and made into stew and navigating by the stars. For a bootcamp it's promised all they signed up for. For a lesson in history it's what they've made it. For more than a few, it was too much.
Of the students left, they begin the final week in earnest. Sequestered from family members, from friends and anything about the world they regularly know. It's like a reality show, only the cameras are never on and the prize isn't death.
If they had realised what was going on, if they had noticed they were fighting to the death, they might have turned on Mr Wessel and stormed his position, freeing themselves from the carnage.
They did notice, but only when the class whittled themselves down to two. The grinner and the stone-faced. Entering their own folie à deux and standing above the heap, they attack Mr Wessel and show him what the frog feels like from one of their earlier lessons. It's a pained joy that melts the teacher's face. An acceptance of watching his students come through the ranks and experience themselves the pleasures in the pain.
It's been a long time since there was an original Mr Wessel. Now there are two more to take his place. One of whom isn't sure if she's going to go by Ms or Miss.
Written on Sunday, 8 June 2014