Mr Montgomery looked at Benton Fraser and sighed. What could you do with the kid? He wasn't restless like a normal fourteen year old. He wasn't glancing around the empty schoolroom, or picking at the frayed cuff of his sweater like Joey Detura and his pals. No, Benton just stood there, his cuffs intact, his face a queer mix of attentive and dreamy, and waited.
Mr Montgomery quelled a rush of frustration. "You know, Benton," he said at last, his voice echoing slightly off the wooden walls and floor, "I'm glad you take an interest in science class. Most boys your age, they want to be out hunting." Benton's gaze dropped. "Or climbing, or chasing girls. It's good that you like science. It's just, well, you can't lick everything like that. Yes, I know you're curious, but some of these compounds — some of the sulphates, for example — they're poisonous."
"Yes, sir. I don't swallow them. I taste—"
"You don't want to make yourself sick, do you? You don't want to give your grandmother any more trouble."
The kid closed up like a clam. "No, sir."
"Well, listen. Perhaps, instead of licking your experiments, you could just smell them."
A flash of mutiny crossed Benton's face and was gone.
"You know, the two senses are almost the same, but that way you wouldn't be risking a medical emergency." In this part of the world, a medical emergency risked more lives than one.
Benton nodded, apparently seeing the truth of this with some reluctance. "Yes, sir."
Mr Montgomery let his voice soften. "All right, then. No more licking the experiments. You can go."