Vengeance is of the Lord. Full stop. But no, humans don’t always close this remark with an affirmative dot, humans don’t always wait for God to act. One great quality we love about God is that He is merciful and slow to anger but this is one pair that frustrate us when we come to Him for retribution. After my betrayal by the other teachers, I decided to write down Uncle Matthew’s and Mrs. Nwokeji’s name in my imaginary blacklist.
The first rule of vengeance, don’t attack the multitude: choose one or two leaders and put a small pin on their chair and watch their eyes roll and their lips fall on the ground with the agony of sitting. But I am not that kind of wicked and moreover, their betrayal didn’t warrant such art. But a lot passed through my mind that day as they left me in the library, humiliated and feeling sorry for myself: a lot, even a soldering iron, passed through my mind.
I would get a pound of flesh from them someday, trust me. It may tarry but it would happen. It may get cold but it would never sour.
The next day, there was another meeting in the staff room. Mrs. Nwokeji called the meeting. She said that time was running out and we need to make our contribution (200 naira each) for the principal’s wedding. I will not pay, I said in my mind.
The lady by my side, Mrs. Anozie brought out one 500 naira note. “I am paying for myself and Uncle K,” she announced. This was her way of apologizing to me for her role in yesterday’s farce. She didn’t have to, she was a small fly in the grand scheme of my vengeance. I nearly smiled.
The name she called me, Uncle K, would stick with me for the rest of my time in this school. The woman herself became an ally and even my friend to this moment that I write this.
The meeting didn’t end there. Mrs. Nwokeji went on to rattle about staff welfare and asked how much we would like to contribute for our welfare so that if someone’s child was ill or the teacher was ill or something, we could take money from the purse to support the person. This woman looked like the kind of woman who lay eggs and not give birth like normal women. She could have up to nine kids at home and likely going to announce each of them sick per week to drain our account.
I would not argue with them but I would not just pay.
Uncle Matthew spoke next. “In my former,” he said, “we used to do cooperative. We contribute five thousand every month then at the end of the year, we buy foodstuff like rice, crayfish, onions, all in bulk and share…”
“I need to ease myself.” I rose to my feet.
“But we are in an important meeting,” Matthew began to argue but stopped when he saw the coals in my eyes.
There was a small provision store in the primary section. I walked there. In the shop, I saw one customer seated and drinking malt with Gala. She was of a slender frame, curvy, and possessed a striking chocolate face.
“There is not a single ugly girl in the whole of Nnewi, North and South,” I said.
She smiled with joy. “You must be Uncle Matthew,” she said.
“God forbid,” I replied calmly. “You, you must be Mrs. Nwokeji.”
“Jesus!” she looked horrified. “Do I look married?”
“No.” I smiled. In the game of chess only a queen can counter another queen in the same file or rank. In this school, it was only Mrs. Nwokeji that could counter Uncle Matthew. “I was just pulling your pretty legs,” I said. And they were pretty legs. Soft, long, and straight; the kind of legs God gives supermodels.
“My name is Joy,” she said.
“Sweet name. Call me Uncle K.”
“Hmmm. Let me guess. K stands for Kennedy, right?”
I said yes. If you think I would take my bath, tuck in my shirt and come here to argue with an attractive lady, you must be joking. In fact, I would accept Katum if she said that was my name. I ordered Sprite. All fingers are not equal.
“You teach in this section?” I said.
She said no. “I am the computer lady. I type your question papers and everything typeable in this school.”
I had never heard the word “typeable” but it must be the correct word since it was coming from comely lips. I nodded.
One of the primary school teachers came into the shop. “Enjoyment galore,” the newcomer said. She looked like a troublemaker.
“Meet my boyfriend, Uncle K,” Joy said.
“I hope he is not stingy,” she said.
“Not at all,” Joy said. “He bought me malt and this. Take whatever you want, we would pay.” Yes, we would pay; we, Mr. and Mrs. Katum.
So the newcomer ordered Fanta and two buns. When these were in her hands, she said she was actually here to call Joy that she was needed by the proprietress upstairs. They left. I felt like a woman whose second-best wrapper was taken away from her. I sighed and brought out my wallet. “How much?” I asked the boy in charge of the shop.
“420,” he said.
I gave him my last card. 500 naira note. This was supposed to take care of my lunch and dinner but it was now taken from me just like that. “Yahoo girls everywhere,” I said.
“Did you talk to me,” the boy said.
I rose to my feet. “Shut up. You don’t argue with an oracle.”
I began to walk back to the secondary section but the thought of being in the same room with Uncle Matthew sent depressive pangs down my spine. I stopped at the small gate dividing the two sections. I went back the way I came. I passed the provisional store, I reached the main gate, opened it, and stepped into the street.
A pang of hunger shot into my system like an electric shock and I recalled I didn’t even finish my Sprite. I became annoyed and my nose hurt with hot anger. Everybody is playing with my intelligence. Teachers in the secondary section, teachers in the primary section, owners, everyone. Even the shop boy. Me that they called Wiki on the campus; me that was called Tinubu in my NYSC days.
Time to show some spirit.
I went back to the school premises. I went upstairs to the library. The proprietress was with someone. I waited with a cloudy face for them to be through. “Is anything the matter?” she asked when her guest rose to go.
“I met with an impediment while discharging my duties here and I took care of it at a cost.”
“Hmmm.” Her eyes narrowed with curiosity. “What cost?”
“Two thousand naira,” I said with a straight face.
“I only have one thousand naira with me.”
I collected it and made it for the director’s office downstairs. He was with someone but I didn’t wait. “There’s an emergency,” I announced at the door.
“I took care of it,” I said. “It will cost you 1000 naira, sir.”
“I need details,” he said.
“I would be prepared to write a full report later,” I said, “but I need to get back to work now.”
“Ok, later then.”
“The money, sir.”
He reached out for his breast pocket. “This is all I have.” 500 naira
I collected the note, said thanks, and walked out. Outside, I saw Obioma. I wasn’t in the mood to appreciate her beauty. “Where is the bursar’s office?” I asked her.
“The bursar doesn’t come on Fridays,” she said. “She is doing her part-time in Unizik and usually takes the day off.”
I sighed. “I missed that one.”
“How?” she said
I didn’t even bother answering. I walked away. At the gate between the sections, I stopped just to slap the wallet in my back pocket. We are all Yahoo boys and girls in this place.