Memories of a Young Man as a Teacher (14)

In case you missed the last episode, here is it.

*

A white cock, 7 tubers of yams, and a cartoon of Malt greeted me when I entered the staff room. The first lesson was just rung over and I was in the staff room to take the lesson book for SSI. Mrs. Nwokeji and two other teachers were in the staff room.

I studied the items on the ground near my desk. They brought a cartoon of malt instead of a keg of palm wine. I like this aspect. I wouldn’t be comfortable drinking palm wine brought by a boy I wanted to throw off the window. They could put mad root juice in the keg and watch their village Igwe, not me, go mental.

The yams were fairly big and the cock wasn’t that bad. The other teachers were looking at me. If I showed satisfaction, my name is not my name.

“What is this?” I asked with clenched lips.

“The items to appeal the gods,” Oge said.

“That can’t be. The oracle requested for a keg of palm wine.”

Mrs. Nwokeji stepped in. “You can’t get palm wine this early in the day. Moreover, a woman doesn’t give a man palm wine or alcoholic drink in Igboland.”

“They didn’t involve their father,” Oge said.

“Well, I won’t accept this.”

“You must be joking,” Ikenna who just entered the staff room said. “For your information, we have already shared the items o.”

“Well, it is not me; it is the oracle…” I began but Ikenna interrupted me to say: “The only oracle I know is my stomach.”

They laughed.

Oge came forward and put a hand around my neck. “Kay Sugar, just accept this and forgive the poor boy. Biko.”

“It is because of you people o,” I said.

“Yes o.” Oge grabbed one yam. Mrs. Nwokeji took two. “One for Matthew,” she said.

Ikenna came up and took one.

“You can keep the rest,” Oge said.

“No, I don’t want his yam. The other teachers can have them. What do we do with the drink?”

Mrs. Nwokeji told me it would be shared among all the teachers in this section and the primary section. “We can keep the remaining one in the principal’s office.”

“That’s good.”

“What about the cock?” someone asked.

“I will think about what to do with it,” I said. Where is Mrs. Anozie? I need her right now. I feared these people would eat me up before she would come in. Ikenna who was normally my ally has recanted at the sight of food. You already heard him say that food is his Chi.

I slipped to my next class. These people are ready to tear the cock into shreds and share the poor thing raw.

I entered SS2 just as Mrs. Anozie was leaving.

“You took my time,” I said.

“Sorry, Uncle.”

The class rushed to their feet. “She took my time,” I mumbled. “If I deny her yam now, they would say I am a bad chief priest.”

The class heard me and laughed. Someone hailed, “The Oracle.”

I look up with a stern face and silence overcame them. “This is not a beer parlour,” I said to the girl. “This is a school, you know what that means?—don’t open your mouth. Have mercy on us. This is a school.”

The rest of the school day passed away uneventfully. SS1 students expected some drama today. I entered their classroom twice but didn’t shun or call out that boy who would only stand up for Jesus and the Governor. Beefing him would be childish and make him more important than the inconsequential gecko that he nearly was.

Before the end of the school hours, I was able to talk to Mrs. Anozie. “What do I do with this fowl?” I asked.

“I can help you garnish it tonight and bring it for you in a flask tomorrow. You want it grilled or as pepper soup?”

You see why I miss this woman so much earlier? She just takes charge and puts you first. “Any way you want to prepare it can serve,” I said. “How would you take the fowl home?”

“There’s this boy in SS2 who knows my house. I will ask him to take it home for me.”

I nodded, totally impressed. I was the regular smart bones who became foolish whenever organizing domestically was required. You can’t know it all.

The incident with the boy gave me a notorious reputation in this school. I wanted to be the teacher who students respected a lot and feared a little. But it seemed to be that I was the teacher students feared and spoke of in hush tones. They would come to relate with me like a human being rather than a tiger with a loosed nut somewhere in his head. But for now, let them shift when I draw close. I am no magnet, small pins keep up.

Something happened the next day that made me begin to wonder if being disrespected a little wasn’t better than this person they thought I was. It was during break when a student from the primary section came to the staff room to call me, that Aunty Chika wanted me. Aunty Chika was a big shot in the primary section. She wasn’t the headmistress nor bursar, I don’t recall what exactly she was but she carried a big rank there.

I went to see her.

“Odugwu,” she hailed me when she saw me. “I liked the way you handled that boy that disrespected you. You see these Nnewi children because their fathers have money they think they can do anyhow.”

“You sent for me,” I said.

“Yes, Kings, this my student has refused to take her medicine. Her parents couldn’t give it to her because she was late for school. But she won’t take the medicine.”

“So how do I help?”

“J-just quarrel her small so that…”

“Why won’t you do that?” I asked.

“She doesn’t fear me.”

There were about twenty beautiful pupils in the class all aged between three and a half and four years. I looked at the girl who wouldn’t take medicine. She should be four, unhappy, innocent, a little angel. I felt deep compassion for her. I went to her and went on one knee. “What’s your name, honey?”

“Jewel,” she said.

“Beautiful name. You are beautiful too. I would like to take you to Disneyland full of toys, and you would play and play and play.”

Two pimples showed on her cheeks as she beamed. “When?”

“You have to take your medicine first.”

“I will take it.”

And she took it.

“Be a good girl, huh. See you later.”

“Uncle bye-bye,” she said.

“Uncle bye-bye.”

“Uncle bye-bye,” they chorused one after the other.

My heart broke a little with affection for them, so much I would have given a lot to just sit with them and play with them if I could, if I was sure no one would slice onions beside me as I play with them. I made a note to check on them from time to time.

I have now gone from a tiger to a baby sitter in less than a few moments of stepping my feet in the primary section. This life would humble you. If you didn’t know that, now you do.

To be continued