Trifecta 100 – Duty Calls

victorian-school_2127557cSt. Hannard’s junior school was tucked away out of sight; indeed, some would have said that was a blessing. But there it was, hemmed in between the sprawling docks and overflowing tenements of east London. Poverty was endemic; the sewers ran thick with human waste while the local rats gorged themselves until the size of cats.  It was a slum, no other word for it, but to one young woman it was a calling.

Elizabeth Lampkin was her name and it was in the autumn of 1884 that she first walked into a crowded classroom at St Hannards. Her tightly bunched blond hair, an ever present smile – she ‘glowed’ is what they said. Others sneered she reeked of naivety – this wasn’t a place for the likes of her.

Many colleagues chided her. Just keeping these children off the streets and out of trouble was seen as a good day’s work for them. Elizabeth’s crime in their eyes was to allow her charges to dream. A phantom of hope the Governors called her – she insisted she was simply doing the only thing she wanted to do: teach.

It was nearing the end of Elizabeth’s first term at St. Hannards. Christmas was only a week away and heavy snow was beginning to fall. As drenched rats scurried for shelter between the snowflakes a crowd gathered across from the King William pub. The shouts and screams said trouble wasn’t far away – bad trouble.

The bastard had made such a mess that it took a while before they could be sure who it was. Normally he left the face alone – it was his so called trademark – not this time though. When she didn’t turn up for School that day no identification was needed. Everybody knew who it was.

Over 100 years later I sit here reflecting and applauding as the annual Lampkin Medal is presented once again to the teacher deemed to have most inspired others. While Elizabeth’s own life may have been cruelly short her legacy proudly lives on.


These 333 words, based on the frustratingly awkward third definition of the word ‘phantom‘ , form my entry into the Trifecta 100 writing challenge. Two things to add. Firstly, this story is completely made up i.e. there is no Lampkin Award. Secondly, I found this prompt extremely frustrating and awkward so apologies if my words aren’t quite as snappy as normal! 

24 thoughts on “Trifecta 100 – Duty Calls

  1. mahabore

    Wow, it is hard to believe that you made up the Lampkin Award, as those last few lines were what made the entire post such an awesome one. And if this is a post that you are not pleased with, then I can imagine how good a post that you are actually pleased with will be like 😀

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Cheers. Yes, I think the last paragraph makes me feel better about the piece. The switch to present time/1st person gives it the right feel for the ending.

  2. jannatwrites

    I liked the story…it felt ‘real’ to me. (Thanks to your disclaimer at the end, I know it is not.) To me, a sign of good fiction is when I’m left feeling like, “yes, that could totally have happened.”

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Thanks Trifecta peeps. Yeh, still early days at this malarkey and at times my confidence can be a bit shaky. Think I’d written so many 1st person pieces lately I worried a 3rd person omni type narration might seem flat. However, having slept on it I was happier with the story in the morning. Quite like it now 🙂

  3. Jo-Anne Teal

    You created a world, a character, action, prelude and afterword, all in 333 words. That, my friend, is good writing :)) And, P.S. I would have sworn it was true because of the authority with which it is written :))

  4. Christine

    I believed this, 100%. Every detail was perfect. I was certain you were going to tell us that this was a story of one of your own relatives! You say you struggled with this prompt, but your use of “phantom” was so perfect that I caught myself wondering if “phantom of hope” was something you’d quoted! This was a fantastic write.

  5. KymmInBarcelona

    Very Jack the Ripperish – from the other side.
    Love that in the middle of the story you gave Elizabeth a crime! Such a great touch.

  6. atrm61

    What a beautiful story laced with dollops of inspiration interwoven with a serial killer(maybe not) who decides to deviate from his MO!The opening paragraph is mind blowing!
    Remarkable ,Paul 🙂


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