Memories of a Young Man as a Teacher (13)

Previously on Memories

*

I always tell people I don’t have a hot temper and that is the truth. I usually think through my actions and consequences even in a time of serious vexation. I usually think quickly so the answers do not always come out perfect. But I think.

With this boy not going to stand up because I am not Jesus or the governor, I was faced with a dilemma. My authority was questioned and if I let this slide, my respect would be gone. News travels fast in the mountains and it wouldn’t take long for everyone to hear that Uncle K was defiled by a boy and got away with it.

Three things came to my mind:

One, throw the boy out of this second-floor window.

Two, give him a brain-resetting slap.

Three, break his leg, take out his shinbone and beat his skull with it.

But each of the above had problems of their own and the most outstanding is leaving a piece of evidence. If I threw him out, he would break his waist. If I broke his leg, there would be blood. If I gave him a brain-resetting slap it, would leave my fingerprints in his face.

People would not understand. They would say because of ordinary not standing up this evil teacher broke a boy’s spinal cord in Nnewi. People are wicked o. Is the teacher even Jesus?

I need to give this guy a serious resetting of the head to maintain my authority without overdoing it and giving the authorities evidence to minimize his insubordination.

I decided to buy time. “Everybody, sit down,” I said. “You”—I pointed to the goat—“leave my class and never return as long as I teach in this school.”

I turned and faced the board. I wrote English on the chalkboard. Then as I made to write the topic, the spirit of madness hit me and I turned, dropped the book on my hand, rushed to the desks. The students scattered and I reached the boy, grabbed him on his collar and jerked him up. And threw him away and he fell in a mess of desks, books, and his idiocy. He made to get up but I was in time to kick him in his bottom and he fell on his stomach. He made to get up again and got another belly-to-the ground kick.

“You don’t dare get up. Crawl out like the amoeba you are.”

I wanted to hit him on the head but held myself. I turned to one of the students. “My cane, now!”

When the cane came the boy was already in the balcony nursing a small would in his elbow. His uniform buttons were off. I wasn’t mollified, I rushed at him. He ran down the stairs but the cane landed on him twice, the second hitting him on the back of his neck.

“Don’t wanna ever see you in this school,” I shouted as he passed through the small gate into the primary school section. “If I do, I will DESTROY you.”

The rest of the day went on mechanically for me. I toughed, marked classwork/assignments, and marked the register like a robot. There was no life in me for this work. I thought about going home or just sitting around and doing no work, I was that upset. But if I didn’t do my work, the boy would have won.

In the early afternoon, I received a text from Obioma. “Hey dear, what happened in your section this morning?”

“Just a normal day in the office,” I typed and texted back.

On my way to the last lesson of the day, Literature in SS1 I think when a boy from the primary section came to me and said the director wanted to see me now now.

I dropped my notebook with SS1 with the promise to return in no time.

I saw a young woman seated before the director. She looked like she overdid her makeup and I elected to dislike her.

“Good afternoon,” I said to everyone in the office and no one in particular.

“Good afternoon,” she said.

“Afternoon,” he said. “Sit down.”

I did. “What happened?” he asked me.

My chest rose with annoyance. “There was a stupid boy,” I began.

“That was harsh,” the girl said.

“And you are?”

“She is the sister of the boy you chased out of the school.”

“So I am being interrogated before her?”

“It is not an interrogation,” the girl said. “We just want to know what happened.”

“Sir, I would be glad to talk to you later… alone. I have a class and it is important I finish it up.”

“You said my brother should never come to this school again.”

“Yes, there is law and there is order. Which one is a problem?”

“None. We don’t want problem, uncle. We just want my brother back to school. If he doesn’t, my father would hear about it and there we be trouble.”

I rose to my feet. “Too bad.”

“I didn’t say the trouble would be for my brother alone.”

I looked at her. “Go to hell,” I said softly.

“Wait, Uncle,” the director said. I stopped at the door. “We are here to resolve this. The boy made a mistake but we cannot throw him away. You beat a boy with the right hand, you console him with the left.”

“One white cock, seven tubers of yams, and a keg of palm wine,” I sad.

“What about them?” the lady asked.

“These are the things your brother would bring before he enters my class again.”

“Hmmm,” the boy’s sister said; “because you are who?”

I took a step closer and faced the girl directly. “An oracle.”

She stood up and faced me directly. We stood eyeball to eyeball, forehead to forehead, she been an inch shorter raised that close by the power of high heels.

“I am also a graduate,” she said.

“You have made your point, dear. Now, choose your next words carefully because an oracle who asked for a goat would demand a full human if you go to him asking for another hearing. Have a nice day, nwa.”

To be continued

Memories of a Young Man as a Teacher (12)

Read the previous episode here.

*

I had a nightmare that night. I was lying in bed in the dream and scores of members of the Nigeria Association of Widows, Nnewi Branch, were banging at the gate of the mansion. You know how dreams happen, I could see them even though I was in my room inside a walled compound. They were dressed in their undergarments with placards some of which read:

Widow not Whitlow, why run?

Service is service.

Satisfaction to one is a satisfaction to all.

Your penis is our right.

Etc.

I reached out for my boxers to see if their right was intact . It was there, bless God.

The banging at the gate persisted and woke me up.

I looked at my phone. Thirteen past 10pm. I went out and opened the gate. It was Pa Mansion’s kinsman who usually parked his bus in the compound at nights and drove it out in the mornings since his own house wasn’t fenced.

After parking the vehicle, he said kachifo and left. I locked the gate and went to sit on the shiny doorsteps of the mansion, sleep now completely out of my eyes.

A strong blanket of loneliness enveloped me and I buried my head in sad hands. What was I doing in a land no one knew me, with little in friendship and companionship. To make matters worse, widows were harassing physically and in my sleep.

A small headache was gathering momentum in the back of my head. It would be a long night.

I began to hear faint voices of two or three women gossiping. I didn’t know where the voice was coming from but it sounded more like from inside the main building than the neighbouring compound. I tried not to panic but the words of Bismarck about this place being haunted by ghost rang anew in my head. I tried to shake this thought from my head but the voices continued to increase in decibels.

It really didn’t feel like normal women gossip as their voices were to high for secrecy. They were too bold. And what manner of women would be awake by to 11pm and gossip loudly?

Maybe they were widows, the like who would protest because service is service and your penis is their right.

One of the women began to laugh and slap her lap with uncontrolled hilarity. It sounded like they were in this compound with me. I rose to my feet, trying not to give room to the fear. The women began to quarrel and one of them just continued laugh. Her voice was sharp and robotic as though someone recorded the laughter on tape and played it on repeat.

This is not ordinary.

I went into my room, shut the door and began to pray.

I woke up 7.30am on the dot. Teachers were expected to be in school 7.15 latest as the assembly took place from 7.30 and the first lesson started by 8 o’clock. And I was waking up by this time.

I gathered my books and rushed out. I saw a boy wearing Mount Sinai uniform dragging his small brother, also in uniform, to school.

“Wait.” I gave the boy my books and asked him to deliver them to my desk. “Stop dragging your brother and stop rushing. Take your time. If they stop you for being late tell them I delayed you and that no one should touch you.” He nodded, his small handsome face lit up with relief.

I rushed home to take my bath. The idea is for me not to be late and carrying books in my hands. It won’t speak well of me. If I walked to school without books it would look like I have previously come and only stepped out to pick up something.

I brushed my teeth, took my bath, dressed up, and was out on the main road by 7.52. I boarded a bus, 50 naira, to the school junction. By 8 o’clock, I was at the school gate which was packed full of latecomers about forty of them. Sometimes, they stopped these latecomers at the school gate; sometimes, they allowed them and kneel down just after the small gate of the secondary school. It depended on the person on duty.

Actually, I was the one on duty and Ikenna was standing in for me. “Over to you,” he said when he saw me and withdrew saying he had a class.

I looked at the latecomers with a tired face. I also have a class. English and Maths were usually fixed for the first period. I must have a class somewhere. Dear God, please let it not be SS3.

“Why are you late?” I asked the students. “Save it,” I snapped as they began to chorus their excuses. “Whatever your excuse, let it perish today. If you come to school late tomorrow, you would pay the price, trust me. Now, to your classes.”

They chorused “Uncle, thank you, sir” as they made into the gate. One of the students said, “Uncle, I will buy you buns.”

“Buy for your father,” I wanted to say this out but I didn’t, how can I? But my face tightened and they all hurried past. With me, you are never sure when the thunderbolt would strike.

After all of them were in, I closed the gate and made for my class. Up, I found out that I would be teaching SS1. Not the best, not the worst. I rushed to the classroom and entered. Everyone stood up except one boy.

I stood still and looked at him like the ripe plantain whose complexion he carried on his face. The whole class followed my sight to the boy.

“Stand up, jor,” one of the students said to him. The boy didn’t budge.

I took a step forward, then dropped my notebook on a front bencher’s desk.

“Stand up na,” another said.

The sitting boy just moved his hands and folded them on his chest.

“Colonel,” I said slowly to the boy without opening my mouth. “I am here.”

He didn’t reply. He didn’t move. He didn’t even blink.

“I am standing and you are sitting, remove your f—, your yansh from that chair, now.”

He didn’t move and murmured something instead.

“What the hell did the goat say?”

Someone answered: “He said he can only stand up for Jesus and the Governor.”

It took me a full second for the statement to sink. When it hit my head, I began to laugh.

To be continued