EZE GOES TO SCHOOL (Episode 29)

Foreword

Hello, guys, it’s me again. Remember, the voting for the Nigerian Blog Awards is still on till December 8, and yours truly is still in the running as the Nigerian Blog of the year. So, please, if you haven’t voted, and you have 3 or 4 emails, or you have friends who have friends who have emails who haven’t voted, please oh please, do get yourselves to this link: http://nigerianblogawards.com/vote2013.php

Click it open, put down your name and email address, scroll down-down-down to the bottom of the page and vote ‘My Mind Snaps’ on the category ‘Nigerian Blog of the Year’. Then submit. You’ll get a notification on your email, so sharpaly-sharpaly go there and click on the confirmation link so your vote can be counted. Thank you, guys, and God bless, as you do this.

And now, for the story . . .

*

Gbam! Gbam! Gbam!

The sound of the misshapen metal ripped through the dinnertime hubbub in the dining hall as it was banged against a table.

“Listen up!” Senior Ogbonna roared.

The din in the vast room gradually died down as students suspended their interest in their meal of jollof rice-and-beans and their conversations to look up and at the Dining Hall prefect. Ogbonna Mba wasn’t a boy you could miss in a roomful of people. He was tall, dark and not handsome. He had this fierce look that was reminiscent of a bull dog – lidded eyes, a wide nose with flaring nostrils, and thick lips.

“Listen up!” he said again. His voice ricocheted. The voice of one born with a microphone in his vocal chords. “Once this meal is over, quietly and orderly leave the hall. You may go to your hostels, because there will be no night prep tonight.”

A lukewarm cheer greeted the announcement. No one cared much for night prep. The only time that school activity held any import was during the prefects’ Duty Week and school assessment periods.

“Now let me warn you,” the prefect continued in an ominous tone that instantly caused every listener to tense, “no one – and I mean, absolutely no one – is to leave this hall smuggling any food. Whether in your plate or the school pot. No matter who asked you to bring food out to him or her. I don’t care. No one is to take any food out of this hall tonight. No one!” Those last two words reverberated like a whiplash. He paused to stab at us with his sleepy eyes. “If I catch anyone disobeying this instruction, you’ll have yourself to blame. You may continue eating.”

The chatter and clatter of cutleries against aluminum plates resumed. I glanced at Joseph, who was seated on the other side of Ibuka. He looked dismayed.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“Mehn, I have to find a way oh,” he answered.

‘Do not smuggle food out of the dining hall’ was the most often-flouted rule in the school. There were all sorts of students who depended on the abuse of that school regulation. SS3s – and even some SS2s – who felt that going to the dining hall to eat with the rest of the school masses was beneath them. Ailing students in the sick bay.And prefects. While smuggling was oftentimes tolerated by the dining hall prefects – there were four of them – there were other times when the prefects suddenly had the unyielding desire to stop the traffic of food going out of the dining hall. This usually happened after a House teacher’s chastisement when he or she had visited the hostels to see school pots littered all over the compounds. Or when a dining hall prefect was having a bad day.Or during the prefect’s Duty Week.

Whichever was the case, it seemed Senior Ogbonna and his subordinates were on a mission tonight. A mission that had just doomed Joseph’s assignment to smuggle Senior Olumide’s food out to him. Our House prefect was not someone you gave an excuse to when it concerned getting his meal to him.

“What way? Senior Ogbonna is vexing seriously,” Ibuka said. “In fact, they are all vexing seriously.”

We looked around. The dining hall prefects were the only prefects on duty. There was Senior Chidiogo, the male assistant, standing military-style in a corner of the hall, his fingers twirling a very long cane before him. And then Senior Chioma, with her petite figure and soft, pretty face, which bellied a mean streak that was fast becoming legendary. Her viciousness always caught a lot of students off-guard, those who were deceived by her smallish stature and docile features into thinking they could get away with rule-breaking in her presence. Finally, there was Senior Evelyn, who was by far the gentlest of all four prefects. Tall, skinny, with unattractive features she made up for with her sweet nature, she however presently shared the same stony look that her colleagues wore effortlessly on their faces. They all looked like generals preparing for a battle, which was the end of this dinner.

“Nawa oh…”

“We gats do something…”

“Maybe if you went to Senior Ogbonna,” Ibuka said, “And explain to him that the food is for Senior Olumide and…” He stopped talking when he saw us chuckling.

“Explain to Senior Ogbonna, ehn?” I said. “Explain to him?” I pointed at the prefect who had just slapped his palms down on the back of a student who had, no doubt, committed an infraction. “That’s who you want Joseph to explain to?”

The derision in my voice caused Ibuka to bristle. “Well, I’m just making a suggestion,” he snapped. “What is my own sef? It’s not me that is smuggling the food –”

“Eh, but you will help me nah –”

“Help you wetin?” he rounded on Joseph. “Do I look like I want to get myself into trouble? Abeg, I don’t want anybody’s problem this night.”

“Ibu nah –”

“Don’t ‘Ibu’ me. What is even your plan sef? After collecting Senior Olumide’s food from his table, how will you smuggle it out?”

Joseph lifted his right hand to his mouth, rubbing the thumb and forefinger around his lips in the habit he had when he was thinking. Three seconds later, he had an idea. “I know what we’ll do –”

“What you’ll do,” Ibuka corrected.

“What we’ll do,” Joseph insisted with a smile. Ibuka frowned. He continued, “The moment Senior Ogbonna says we should leave the hall, I’ll quickly go and collect Senior Olumide’s food, hide it under my shirt, and we will mix up with the crowd leaving the hall. Two of you will block me well-well so they won’t see, and I’ll try to walk normal, as if I’m not carrying anything.” He waited a beat before adding, “That should work nah, abi?”

Ibuka drank water from his cup.

I spooned rice-and-beans into my mouth.

Apprehension simmered. No one said anything.

“Say your prayers!” Senior Ogbonna commanded moments later. Silence descended after everyone bent forward over the tables.

“Leave the hall!”

And a tide of students rose from their seats and began a myriad of movement about the hall. While some started for the doors, some others darted about, from table to table, to lay claim to the portions of food they were responsible for. The dining hall captain may have issued a warning, but smugglers would be smugglers, come hell or high water.

Shoving through the bodies in our way, we followed Joseph to the bank of prefects’ tables. An SS1 boy was in charge of Senior Olumide’s table, whose pot of food he shared with four other prefects. The SS1 boy, Akin, was scooping platefuls of rice-and-beans on the five dishes spread out before him amidst the insistent clamour of the owners.

“Akin, put small here nah – put small…!”

“Akin! Akin! Akin…!”

“Akin, this is Senior Adindu’s own oh – Senior Adindu, heh!”

“Akin, see the small thing you’re giving Senior Orizu…!”

“Akin! Akin! Akin…!”

“Eze, give me your plate,” Joseph said when the sharer was done. I handed it to him and he covered the plate of food before him with it. Then he unbuttoned his shirt, and tucked the dish away inside, before buttoning up and cradling the bulge with his hands so the grub would not spill inside his shirt. “Oya, let’s go,” he said determinedly.

We quickly joined the exodus of students trooping out of the hall. The crowd had thinned some, and Ibuka and I flanked Joseph, our eyes watchful even as we tried to appear like we had nothing to hide.Beyond the doors was the hall’s commodious verandah, and we could hear the unmistakable sounds of pummeling, caning and pained cries of students. Senior Chidiogo’s voice was booming in anger, and aluminum plates clanged to the floor as smugglers were nabbed. On our left, Senior Chioma had just screamed ‘Hey, you!’ before pouncing on a hapless girl and whipping her head around with a ringing slap. The girl burst into tears; food spilled from her grasp.

“Joseph, these guys are not joking oh,” I said in a low tone. My heart was thudding frantically with each step that brought us closer to the doors, to the verandah.

“Just act normal, act normal,” was his whispered reply.

“Where’s Senior Ogbonna?” Ibuka said, craning his head this way and that. “I can’t see him.”

“Guy, behave nah!” Joseph hissed. “You will be doing now, he’ll see you from wherever he is and know that we are carrying food.”

We shuffled out to the verandah, stealthily past Senior Chidiogo as he brought terror down on a group of boys sobbing furiously, and to the top of the staircase. I inhaled the chilly freshness of the night air. We were almost home free. Just a few more steps. Mission almost accompli –

“Shit!” Joseph burst out a split second before yanking me backward. “Senior Ogbonna – he has seen me – he has seen me –!” He was running back the way we came. Ibuka and I were right behind him.

“What are we going to do – what are we going to do?” Ibuka’s voice wobbled with mounting panic when we were back inside the hall.

“We’ll hide…”

“Where – he’ll see us…”

“Jeezus…!”

“Heu! Joseph, I told you…!”

We only had seconds before the prefect would walk in and nab us. I looked frantically around, hoping heaven would show us a way out of the corner we’d boxed ourselves into.

Heaven did.

I caught a quick impression of a wispy frame. Smooth, ebony-dark complexion.Owlish glasses. Abundant plaits that hung down to a slender neck. Instantly, I knew what to do.

“Joe, bring out the food,” I said urgently. “Follow me.”

The two of them hurried after me as I moved over to the corner of the hall where Nkeiru Ogbuagu stood, her arms crossed, her slender hips propped up against a table. She was a Unity House girl, in JSS3C and a good friend of Anulika. When she saw us coming, she straightened from the table. When she saw us coming toward her, her bespectacled eyes widened with some surprise. She was one of those girls in our set who didn’t fraternize a lot with boys.

“Nkeiru…” I took the plate of food from Joseph.

“Eze, what –?”

“Nkeiru, please, you have to help us.” I was speaking fast. “I know you have a sister in SS2 who is a sickler, and that you smuggle food out to her all the time, and that all the prefects know about her and about what you’re doing for her. Please, please, please, help us” – I thrust the plate out at her – “Senior Ogbonna will soon catch us. Just please, claim that this food is your sister’s own, please –”

“But, Eze, I already have my sister’s food here.” She gestured toward the plate on the table.

“Please, help us…” Joseph said.

She glanced at him, and something shifted on her face. An unfathomable expression I didn’t pay particular attention to. “Okay,” she said, before taking the plate from my hands and turning to place it on the table.

“Hey!”

The four of us turned.

Senior Ogbonna was bearing down on us, his eyes stormy, his hands clenching a cane. “You!” He pointed the cane at Joseph as he approached. “It was you I saw just now outside, not so?”

“Yes, senior.”

“Why did you run back?”

“I remembered something I wanted to tell my friends…”

“Or you were trying to smuggle food, is that not so?” Those eyes flicked with laser-like precision over Joseph, and then swept from him to the rest of us.

“Me? Smuggle food? NO! Ah – senior, no! I just remembered something, that’s why I came back.”

Silence stretched for a few heartbeats, taut with suspended tension. Senior Ogbonna stood before us, his expression clearly disbelieving.

“Whose food is that?” He pointed his cane at the plates.

“It’s for my sister, senior,” Nkeiru answered.

“Who is your sis –” He saw the girl’s face and said, “Oh, Nkeiru, how is Oluchi?”

“She’s fine, senior.”

“She’s the one eating two plates of food?” The words sagged with his skepticism.

“No, senior. One plate is for me. I didn’t feel like eating before, so I said let me wait until I get to the hostel and eat along with Oluchi.” She delivered the lie perfectly. There was no hedging. Her expression was frank, and her tone was appropriately apologetic. “Please, don’t be angry with me, senior…”

“Of course not. So these are your friends?”

“Yes.”

“What are their names?”

“This is Joseph, Eze, and that’s Ibuka.”

I saw the surprise on my friends’ faces. They didn’t even know who this girl was until ten seconds ago.

“Okay.” The SS3 boy swept a grudging look over us, as though still seeking an excuse to flog someone. Finally, he turned to Nkeiru and said, “Oya, carry your food and follow me, so that the others won’t use mistake and touch you.”

“Thank you, senior.” She started for the plates.

“Let me help you,” I said in a properly solicitous voice before reaching for Senior Olumide’s food. We exchanged a quick conspiratorial smile, before she handed me the plate, and the four of us followed after the prefect.

He led us outside, and after instructing Nkeiru to extend his regards to her sister, turned back inside the hall to hunt more smuggling prey. To keep up with the charade, in case he was still watching us, the three of us walked along with Nkeiru until we were at the edge of the grounds of the female hostel.Going beyond that point would be breaking bounds.

“Thank you very much, Nkeiru,” I said to her with feeling.

“No problem,” she said, shrugging. “I was happy to help.”

“Thank you very much too,” Joseph said. “You saved me. I’ll never forget this. In fact, from now on, we are friends.”

She ducked her head, smiling demurely at him. “I’m glad you want us to be friends. So, I’ll be seeing you guys tomorrow then.” She turned toward her hostel.

“Say hello to Anulika for me,” I said.

“I will.”

“Say hello to your sister for me,” Joseph added.

“Thanks, I will.”

Ibuka hastened to speak. “Say hello to…” His voice faltered to a stop. There was no one left to say hello to. He finished lamely, “Well, uh, have a good night.”

In the surrounding darkness, Nkeiru’s teeth flashed in a smile and her owlish glasses twinkled. “Good night, guys.”

We chorused our response, before hurrying off to our hostel to give Senior Olumide his food.

I am @Walt_Shakes on twitterChildren eat food at anganwadi centre under ICDS scheme in Gandhi village

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37 Comments

  1. Cassie

     /  November 25, 2013

    Lol.. Nice one Walt:)

    Reply
  2. mzz Tayo

     /  November 25, 2013

    LOL….I can relate to this mehn..I remember a time in my JSS2 I smuggled Akara out of the dining hall with the hope of buying bread in the hostel…Unfortunately,I was nabbed nd flogged by one wicked Senior Joseph..I lost appetite instantly…Nyc1 Walt

    Reply
  3. Excellency

     /  November 25, 2013

    Such lovingly thrilling. And bro, the ending is priceless! Bravo Wordsmith!

    Reply
  4. Great write up Walter. I absolutely love this, especially the ending… and of course:
    ” “This is Joseph, Eze, and that’s Ibuka.”
    I saw the surprise on my friends’ faces. They didn’t even know
    who this girl was until ten seconds ago.”

    Reply
  5. Melexa

     /  November 25, 2013

    *clears throat noisily* what is this I am sensing? *soliloquy* could sweet ebony Nky be carrying the torch for our cute dare-devil Joe? *singing* It’s just a thought…only a thought… 😉
    A very cute one it is Waltz. enjoyed every bit of it *waiting*

    Reply
  6. Sallie

     /  November 25, 2013

    BRAVOOOO!!!!

    Reply
  7. uzo

     /  November 25, 2013

    Una get luck, em 4 wire una eh

    Reply
  8. Evan

     /  November 25, 2013

    Lol… I hated smuggling out food, the tension was just too much. And duty week too, both as a junior and a prefect.

    Reply
  9. carsten

     /  November 25, 2013

    kaynna really likes this

    Reply
  10. Izuchukwu

     /  November 25, 2013

    This is good, I enjoyed every bit of it. Unending school life…

    Reply
  11. chika

     /  November 25, 2013

    As usual. I love this episode!!! Kudos Wally

    Reply
  12. Evan

     /  November 25, 2013

    Well going after law- breakers is as much work as running away from law enforcement agents. You know that thing they say about jailers being prisoners too. Besides we were supposed to enforce school rules all through term so I just didn’t get the hype about duty week.

    Reply
  13. nik

     /  November 25, 2013

    Why are all the male seniors ugly and rough looking eh. Anyway as a juniors then we saw all the seniors as scary giants.
    Good one, was thinking nky will do something mischievious there.

    Reply
  14. Sandie

     /  November 25, 2013

    Haha,nice. I could almost feel the heat rush as they tried to escape,and almost got caught, 007. Nkeiru is prolly crushing on someone. Am gonna take a wild guess and say JOSEPH! 😀

    Reply
  15. elosiuba okechukwu

     /  November 26, 2013

    am actually looking for something new to say to you : NiceOne…ooo I just recall that i have said that countless times before.

    Reply
  16. Wow, fast paced adrenaline laced… With a perfect ending..
    Where are the ‘Nkeirus’ when I need them?

    Reply
  17. so Nkiru is the one that sent valentine present and Joseph is the J that someone was admiring. #JustAThought

    Reply
  18. Grace oruitemeka

     /  November 27, 2013

    Hahaha..i jus read dis nw n i cnt stp laughing bt am supressin d laughter xo as nt 2wake ma room mate =d gurl blood 2hot= Walter…me likey! 😀

    Reply
  19. When you incessantly get yourself in trouble, it becomes an involuntary reflex to avoid punishment…at all cost.

    Reply
  20. obinna

     /  November 27, 2013

    chai walter wen wil dis series rch d part wia we get 2 see eze as a snr studnt? anybdy dt didnt attend a boardin sch rily missed a lot. and boardin sch lyf tot us so much in lyf n also hw 2 improvise n get out of trobl easily

    Reply
  21. satisfying and rewarding!!
    Chai,this was awesome

    Reply
  22. vic

     /  December 3, 2013

    Walter na….its over a week, been waiting for a new episode. I cant sleep, I cant eat, I cant focus at work (yea im exaggerating a teeny tweeny bit) I just want more Eze #sad

    Reply
  23. Walt,,,plz publish mur episodes.d suspense is killing..pray,I beseech thee,give us d remainin ones.

    Reply
  24. mesi

     /  December 8, 2013

    Lools. Nice.
    Question is, how did she know all their names? Could it be that Anulika has been discussing the Trio in the hostel?
    Certainly interesting!

    Reply
  25. Abikoye

     /  December 17, 2013

    wow…………….what a relief…..will try and get to 28

    Reply
  26. Dining hall and its many troubles. I smuggled food a no of times. Sometimes Mr Chukwu them will be the ones to annoy the prefects to start checking smugglers! Smh… won’t you write something about the kiosk, or have I missed that?

    Reply
  27. Abikoye

     /  December 19, 2013

    a mission indeed o………….All for my dear Eze, Joseph and Ibuka the efiko.pitying myself. when will i get to one? and i love reading from the back

    Reply
  28. semi

     /  December 25, 2013

    Looolz.funny

    Reply
  29. Yettie

     /  January 4, 2014

    I just had to comment. This series is like a time capsule taking me back to my boarding house days. I can relate to every single episode. Nice job Walt. Thumbs up.

    Reply

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