Memories of a Young Man as a Teacher (21)

In case you missed the last episode, here.

Today, the 13th of October, 2015, I walked into the staff room and found a United Bank for Africa account opening form on my desk. I looked around and I could see that nearly every desks had the form. Oge and Ikenna were in the staff room.

“I don’t understand this,” I said to them.

“Can’t you read?” Oge asked me.

“I am not sure,” I said.

“Yes, it is written in Arabic,” Ikenna said.

I sat down at the desk and studied the content of the form intently. “Is nobody doing this maths?”

“We have done the maths,” Ikenna said. “We fill the forms, submit them with all the delays that come with them. Then we get account numbers after a week and God willing we would get paid September salary before 31st of October.”

“So you did the maths?” I said.

“We did,” Oge replied. “Some of us are also smart.”

I ignored the cheap shot at me. “What are you guys doing about it?”

“What can we do about it?” Ikenna asked. “They have the knife and the yam.”

I opened my mouth to say something then thought otherwise and kept quiet. I wouldn’t show my hand in the open. This is Mount Sinai International School, solidarities among the staffers wasn’t one of the things we did here. This would be a one-man riot for me.

I quietly folded the account opening form and dropped it in the trash bin just outside the staff room on my way to the assembly ground.

The bell for the assembly had just been rung and students were filing out leisurely. They usually never fully come out until the teacher on duty, or any teacher, chased them out or screamed at them. When they saw me downstairs, some of the students began to hurry and call their friends to come out “or else”.

But I wasn’t after them. I was making for the principal’s office.

“Knock, knock,” I said when I got to the door.

“Yes, Kings, come in.”

I walked in. “Good morning,” I said.

He looked at me. I usually said “Good morning, sir” to him. Hearing just good morning from me told him I wasn’t in a great mood.

“Your salary is on the way,” he told me.

“How do you mean… sir?”

“Sit down,” he said.

I did.

“Didn’t you get the form on your desk?”

“Today is the 13th of October, sir,” I said. “By the time this account is fully opened, it will be November. I know how slow these things can be.”

“No, UBA is fast. That’s where the school has their account. They would open it within two or three days.”

“After these two or three days, it would be the weekend. At the very best, we shouldn’t expect our salaries until the 20th. Mind you, we are talking about September salary.”

He sighed. “Just exercise patience.”

I rose to my feet. “I must take my leave, sir. Duty calls.”

He released a weak smile. “Please, bear with us.”

I nodded. I already knew what I would do. I just came in here in order for it to be on record that I spoke to the principal first. Outside the principal’s office which was technically part of the assembly ground, a short man charged at me. He was about forty, wearing shorts and sneakers.

“Why did you beat my son?” he yelled at me.

“Who the he-who’s your son and are you about to fight me?”

“Yes, I will fight you for beating my son because he didn’t pay Christmas party money. Is Christmas party by force?”

The students were now looking at us, willing us to come to blows. And, honestly, they were the only reason why I was keeping my cool. If this man had charged at me like this in the staff room or anywhere outside the sight of the students, I wouldn’t have been this cool.

“Listen, Sunny,” I began.

“My name is not, Sunny!”

“Joe-Joe, calm down…”

“I am not Joe…”

“And I don’t care what your name is; stop making an exhibition of yourself before children, some of whom you carried in your womb!”

“Stop shouting at me,” he flared.

Ikenna came between us and began to block the man off me as he continued. “Look at this small boy o. Do you know who I am here? How much is your salary sef?”

The principal was now outside.

“I am the one who beat your son,” he said calmly.

Sunny/Joe-Joe looked at the principal with rage. “But why will you beat my boy? Am I not the one who didn’t pay?…”

 I walked out of the mad scene. I headed to the staircase. As I climbed, the man’s last words bit me in the ear. How much is my salary indeed. I stopped walking at the first landing of the stairs and the things I could have said hit me. You know how it happens, you just discovered powerful things you could have said after the argument.

I could have said: “My salary might be peanuts but I am not the one bleating like a goat about to be killed on Christmas Eve because of 1000 naira.”

Or: “You ask how much my salary is, I will tell you, not so much but one of us looks like stock fish and it is not me.”

I began to walk down the stairs. The man was now talking with Mrs. Nwokeji and still fuming. I gave them two seconds of disgusting look and turned towards the primary section. I walked past the students in their lines and I could feel them shifting away involuntarily.

I remembered Brad Pitt as Achilles among Greek soldiers the day Hector killed his cousin. I didn’t know where I was headed to but I just wanted to put a lot of space between me and the rambler. I saw Joy’s computer room open and I decided to go in there.

I went in there. Joy was nowhere to be seen. But her desktop was on and open to an MS Word document. She must have left mid-work to answer a call of nature or a call of proprietress.

I sat down before the desktop and tried to read what she was typing. But I couldn’t concentrate; I brought out my phone and logged onto Twitter. Something bland was trending, I hissed, and left Twitter.

What do I do? Where do I go to? Oh wait, was I not supposed to be mad at Joy for seizing my 750 naira change? I was. So how do I punish her? I looked around. What can I spoil that would really hurt her but wouldn’t spoil the wheel of progress of this department?

After a long thought, I reached for the mouse, unplugged it from the CPU, walked to the dust bin and put it there. I covered it with the used paper dirt. This is not the real punishment. But as they say at all-at all na im bad pass.

To be continued…

Yesterday, I published Corpers’ Lodge as an ebook on Okadabooks. Go buy it there and I need you to drop a review. Many people have complained of being unable to navigate the site. In that case, use Paystack.