EZE GOES TO SCHOOL (Episode 31)

“Eze, wake up.” A hand shook my shoulder. “We are here.”

I blinked my eyes blearily open and started to sit up in the backseat of my father’s Mercedes.

“We are here, back to your school.” My older sister, Ada’s face beamed at me from the front passenger seat. “Aren’t you excited to be back?”

It was Sunday afternoon, two days after the resumption date on Friday. It was raining outside, and the sounds of laughter, conversations, car engines and feet splashing about on the wet ground wafted through the partially wound-down car windows as Daddy steered up the wide driveway leading to my school’s vast gates. He was hunched forward in his seat, squinting through the rain-washed windscreen. The water on the windscreen distorted the images, fusing the colours and bending the straight lines of the environment.

Ada sat back on her seat and chattered on, “I wonder which of your friends has already returned. Ibuka can’t be back yet, that one seems to me like he likes his house too much. His type will stay an extra one week before he comes back.”

She was right.

“And Joseph, well, he’s a Lagos boy, and if he’s following their PTA bus, that means he’s already back. It would be nice to see him again.”

I looked sharply at her. Ever since I told her that Joseph had a crush on her after the mid-term break he spent in our house, she’d started taking a little more interest in him, talking more about him and quizzing me about him. Since she was a senior in the Federal Girl’s College closer to our home, she couldn’t join my parents to visit me whenever they did. But she readily pounced on accompanying Daddy on this trip to bring me back to school, since her school wasn’t due to resume until the coming weekend. I’d found it odd then; Ada would never trade her Sunday TV shows and hanging out with her friends for an uneventful trip to my school. Now, her decision was starting to make sense.

I dismissed her from my mind as I looked out the window at the familiar scenery of my school. It was a sight I hadn’t seen since we closed school in April. And in the short time of our three-week holiday, without the constant attention of the students during labour, the grasses had grown, and the school had a faint look of dishabille that usually descended on it during every vacation. I groaned inwardly as I thought of all the hard labour that was waiting for us to restore the school’s tidiness. The Labour prefects, Senior Adindu and Senior Titilayo had just one more term to turn us into slaves.

When Daddy pulled up in the car park, he turned to my sister and said, “Adanna, ngwa, go and help your brother take his things to the hostel.”

She turned a glum look to the window, out at the rain still streaming down. “Daddy, I’m a girl nah. Girls are not permitted inside boys’ hostels.”

Daddy’s voice turned into a growl as he said impatiently, “You’re a visitor, and the school does not forbid female visitors in the boys’ hostels this early in the term. Now, get on with it and stop wasting time.”

“Yes, Ada, don’t waste time,” I added tauntingly as I picked up the umbrellas in the corner of the back behind me. “And shebi you said you wanted to see Joseph. Now’s your chance.”

She scowled at me.

I grinned cheekily back, and handed her an umbrella.

We opened the car doors beside us and, while struggling to snap open the umbrellas, we stepped out under the sleeting rain. We hurried to the boot, which Daddy had already popped open, and lifted out my things. They were two travelling bags (not such a wonder how I went home with one bag and now I was returning with two).

When Ada hefted the smaller bag over her shoulder, I glared at her. “Ah-ah, that one is the small one nah,” I groused.

“Ehen? I’m a girl.”

“So what? I’m your junior, and you’re bigger than me.”

“Still, I’m a girl. And you’re the man.”

See how she turned me into ‘THE man’ and kept herself as ‘A girl’? Girls!

“Oya, carry your bag joor, let’s go,” she said and started forward, delicately picking her way through the rain-soaked ground. I followed after her, feeling bristles of raindrops sweeping across parts of my body in spite of the cover of the umbrella.

As I walked behind Ada, I suddenly felt an alien feeling horripilate across my skin, as though the cold was crawling over me. Something shifted in my head, and I was assailed by a sense of déjà vu. I was suddenly remembering another time, another rainy afternoon, another return to school.

* * *

It was a Friday afternoon in January. The day was the resumption date for the second term, and I was in JSS1. I was still green, and didn’t know that it was okay not to return to school the very day of resumption. And so, I’d persuaded my parents to bring me back that Friday, instead of the weekend. Besides, I was eager to go back to the friends I made in the first term, especially Ibuka and Joseph.

A light rain was falling as I dashed into the junior hostel with my bags; it was that unusual kind of rain that fell briefly in an attempt to remind the January heat that it was months away from coming to take over. Ibuka was already back and was unpacking his things. He had that plump, supple-skinned look of one who’d had a very merry Christmas.

“Where’s Joe – do you know if he’s back yet?” I asked, craning my head to look all the way down the passageway in the middle, through the connecting doors, from our dormitory to Joseph’s.

“No, he’s not. He’s coming from Lagos and their bus is coming in tomorrow.”

“Okay.” I unzipped my bags and began picking out my things. “Nawa oh. See as everywhere is almost empty. Have you seen any JSS2 boys?”

“No, and we are even very few JSS1s who are back in Peace House sef.”

“But today is when we are opening. Is there no punishment for late coming?”

Ibuka shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe the weekend is a period of grace for everybody.”

Our voices were resonating loudly in the room, which was empty, except for the two of us. We heard a murmur of raised voices and running feet approaching the hostel. When I looked out through the window, my face hardened with dislike at who I saw. It was Richard Ubazuo flanked by the four boys who were his sidekicks. Richard Ubazuo was the very definition of the words ‘Spoilt Brat.’ His father was a State Assemblyman and his family resided in the highbrow area of Trans-Egbu in Owerri. Last term, he and Joseph were very good friends, rich men’s sons who bonded over stories of the fine things daddy and mummy bought for them, and the fine places they visited. Then Joseph met and became friends with Ibuka and I, and tried to include us into his clique.

The day he introduced us to Richard, the dark-skinned, sullen-featured boy had divided a supercilious look between Ibuka and I before asking us what our fathers did. After I answered that my father was a university lecturer and Ibuka said his was a customs officer, he’d turned to Joseph and said with pointed condescension, “And these are the boys you want us to be friends with, eh Joseph?”

“No, not us. Me,” Joseph spat. “You can go to hell.” And that ended their beautiful friendship.

“. . .and so daddy said that since I got admission into a federal school, he’ll buy me the latest Nintendo computer game, and he’ll take me to Wonderland in Abuja,” Richard was saying as he and his cronies darted into the dormitory, shaking the rain from their bodies. The third dormitory’s outside door was the one entranceway into Peace House junior hostel, and so, they saw us immediately they entered. They didn’t spare us any words, they simply sauntered on toward the first dorm, the air around them bristling with disdain. They could never forgive the two boys who stole one of their own.

As they walked out of the room, Ibuka and I burst out into mocking laughter, loud enough for them to hear.

“Yeye boys,” I sneered. “Who are they even doing shakara for?”

“My daddy said he’ll buy Nintendo game for me and take me to Wonderland,” Ibuka mimicked in a whiny parody of Richard’s voice.

“Who do rich boys always like to make unnecessary noise sef?”

“Tah! Who dash am? That one that his father is just a common state politician. If he sees rich men, will he talk? Besides, if you need to make noise about what you have, then you don’t really have anything.”

“That’s true,” I said, nodding and remembering Joseph’s propensity for downplaying his wealthy background.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in bed, looking out of the window at the light drizzle and recounting stories of our holidays. As we conversed, I didn’t fail to notice that aside from the two of us and the other five boys in the first dorm, no other student appeared to have returned yet. No one, not even our House Prefect, Senior Maxwell.

A few hours later, the shadows lengthened into the evening. The rain had stopped, but a dank humidity hung in the air. We expected the dinner bell to be rung by 6pm, but by 5, the clanging sound ripped through the atmosphere, drawing everyone who was in school, and who was hungry, to the dining hall. The number of diners was measly, and the food was abundant. It was jollof rice and fish, and Ibuka and I took our time to work through an entire pot all to ourselves.

After dinner, we strolled back to the hostel. The evening was slightly warm, with a breeze blowing through. Crickets had started to chirp in the grove of trees clustered in one corner beside the sick bay, and our footsteps crunched on the damp earth as we walked. We passed by the Female Hostel, and I idly wondered if Anulika was back. I stared at the open windows of her hostel and caught glimpses of figures moving about inside the lit rooms.

Back in our dormitory, we put away our dinner things, took our buckets and went off to the borehole to fetch water. On our way to and from the borehole, we saw only three students, boys, solitary figures whose unfamiliarity to us meant they were in different classes and Houses from us.

“Nawa oh, school is just dry today,” Ibuka remarked as we left the borehole, the buckets of water balanced on our heads.

“It’s as if more than half of the students did not come back today,” I said.

“Which one is more than half? More than three quarter. Can’t you see in the whole of Peace House junior hostel, it’s only seven of us that are back?”

He had noticed, I thought before saying, “What are we even going to do about sleep this night?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s just the two of us in third dorm. When it’s lights out, the whole place will be dark and lonely, with only two of us inside it.”

As my insinuation sunk in, his eyes clouded with some unease. “It’s true. What are we going to do? If we sleep alone in that dorm, Madam Koikoi or Bush baby may come and catch us.”

“I’d been thinking about my snake incident in the first term. But now he’d mentioned those other two frightful urban legends, despite myself, I felt a shiver run up my back and make gooseflesh along my arms. “We’ll go and sleep in first dorm,” I declared.

“Eh? With Richard and his disciples there? Will they even agree to let us sleep there?”

“Is it their house?” I snapped. “Is there any law that says we cannot sleep there?”

“You’re right. But they won’t be happy to see us there at all.”

“They can go and hug transformer, I don’t care.”

Ibuka giggled at that, a sound that caused his head to jerk slightly and some water to slosh over from the bucket down his body.

We got to the hostel, put away our buckets of water as bathwater the next morning, made sure our lockers were properly bolted, before tugging our mattresses out from the bunks and heading to the first dormitory. As we approached, we could hear the loud chatter of the five boys on the other side of the door. The sound of laughter and noisy talk roused a pang in me, as I considered how incomplete our threesome was without Joseph.

They stopped talking the moment we pushed the door open and stepped inside. Five pairs of eyes rested malevolently on us as we made our way to one of the bunks that was arranged against the wall on one side of the passageway in the center.

“Hey!” as I expected, it was Richard who barked, rising to his feet from his bed. The five of them had spread out their mattresses on the floor, on one end of the passageway, directly opposite the door on the other end. “Hey! What are the two of you doing here?”

“What does it look like that we are doing?” I retorted, stopping and turning to face him as he stomped forward.

“This is not your dorm, you can’t sleep here.”

“Says who?”

“Says . . . says. . .” He floundered for his response.

“You people are in third dorm. Go and sleep there!” another boy, Obieze railed as he rose and started forward too. The other three stayed put, seeming reluctant to join in the altercation.

“Come and make us go and sleep there nah!” I snarled. “If you have three heads, come and touch me.”

“You this troublemaker,” Richard seethed, “you won’t leave our dorm now –”

“Is your name written on it?” Ibuka interjected.

“Will you shuttup, fatty bumbum,” Richard rounded on him. “You and who is talking.”

I moved forward until I was offensively close to him, his face within inches of mine. He refused to back away, but looked at me as if I was something disgusting he had found stuck on the lavatory seat.

“Call him that one more time,” I hissed, “and I will teach you a lesson you won’t forget.”

For a few tense moments, no one said anything. Richard and I eyeballed each other. Obieze flexed his fists, preparing for battle. One of the other boys coughed awkwardly, aware of the unmistakable tension in the air.

Then, the moments passed, and Richard drew out a long ‘Mscheeewww’ before turning around and stalking back to his bed. Obieze gave us one last ugly look – one which Ibuka returned with his tongue out – before following after Richard. They resumed their chatter as we went back to the bunk to spread out our mattresses. Seconds later, we climbed into our beds, me on the top bunk and Ibuka below, and tried to go to sleep.

We tried.

For several minutes, I clamped my eyelids shut and silently begged Mother Nature to carry me off to dreamland.

But these boys were just too noisy to let that happen. Their laughter grated on my nerves, and their conversation liberally sprinkled with empty talk about their fun Christmas holidays made me want to gag.

The bunk creaked as I turned to my left side.

“. . . and that’s when my mummy dished out the rice and chicken. Oh boy, see food! I ate and ate, until my tummy wanted to explode. . .”

I turned on my back, with my fingers clasped over my chest.

“. . . do you know that my cousin saw my Christmas shirt and started envying me. The stupid boy was now telling his mother to buy my kind of shirt for him. . .”

I wriggled until I was on my stomach, my face turned to the right.

“. . . I begged my daddy to allow me bring the bicycle he bought for me to school. Very fine, but he said no . . .”

“Jeezuuuz!” I shot upright on the bed, turning a glare in their direction. “Can’t you people just shut up and go to sleep?”

“I wonder oh,” Ibuka piped up from below. Apparently, he too couldn’t sleep.

“Look at who’s talking,” Richard said. “This is our dorm, and we’ll sleep when we want. If it’s paining you, go and sleep in your own dorm.”

In that moment, the distant drone of the school generator began to die down, and the room was plunged into darkness.

Lights out!

Finally, they will keep quiet and go to sleep, I thought as I laid back on my bed. I was wrong. In the darkness, they carried on, their voices bouncing off the walls with such loudness, I was sure the boys in Hope house, the junior hostel closest to ours, could hear them.

Just as I was about to make up my mind to get up and leave their noisy presence back to my own dormitory, I saw a brightness suddenly snap on in the next room, the second dorm. It was as though a flashlight had been turned on. The other boys must have seen it too, because in that moment, their voices winnowed away into an instant silence.

Who was it? I wondered, feeling my heartbeat pick up pace. Madam Koikoi? Bush baby? Do they go around with torchlight? Don’t they say you’d hear the wail of a baby before Bush baby would attack? And if it was Madam Koikoi, shouldn’t we hear the staccato clacking of her high-heeled shoes? Fear spasmed inside my stomach as I saw the brightness draw closer to the door. Rays of light streamed in through the corners of the door, illuminating parts of the room.

“Eze . . .” I heard Ibuka whisper fearfully.

“Shhh,” I said, and waited.

The door was pushed open, the whine of the hinges startlingly loud in the quietness of the room. And the flashlight’s beam spilled forward, coming to rest on the five boys at the other end of the room.

TO BE CONTINUED.

I am @Walt_Shakes on Twitterweb-back-to-school

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41 Comments

  1. This is how you ended this episode Walter? Are you trying to give me a heart attack?

    Reply
  2. Cassie

     /  December 16, 2013

    Haba Walter!!!

    Reply
  3. ah school na big fun o! Walt i lyk dat eze sister na my kind of gal. I dy feel say na anoda persn wey fear dy catch dy cm, any way sha we go knw 4 d nxt episode. Tnx walt 4 ds nice episode, lkin forward 4 d nxt

    Reply
  4. ooooo… Walter!!!!! This suspense is not good naaa.
    😦

    Reply
  5. Olabisi

     /  December 16, 2013

    Ha Walter, ma se eleyi na, you kant leave me hangin till nxt wk na. Ok, send me d nxt episode, i wont tel anybody. :-D. Really nice work bruv.

    Reply
  6. Sandie

     /  December 16, 2013

    What happened? Madam koi koi? Bush baby? The ghost of the dutchman? Thieves? Such suspence ahhhhhhh! Very nice.

    Reply
  7. Excellency

     /  December 16, 2013

    Dear Waltz

    Please be informed that, any offer to skin you alive FOC, would be gladly considered, since you have resorted to experiment on the possibility of electronic genocide using intense suspense. Be warned!

    Yours daringly,
    A suspended reader!

    PS: encore amigo 😀 nice, real nice 🙂

    Reply
  8. carsten

     /  December 16, 2013

    walter. I wee not play with u again 😐 not fair.

    Reply
  9. elosiuba okechukwu

     /  December 16, 2013

    mscheeeewww Walter you ehhhh.

    Reply
  10. abikoye

     /  December 16, 2013

    Jeezuus….

    Madam koikoi #hahahahahaha#

    U see how u discourage me to read episodes? I just had the impulse to stop here ehn, u this writer

    This piece is really cool Walter. Out of 1 to 31, I get to read 31.

    Reply
  11. abikoye

     /  December 16, 2013

    BBM don’t disgrace me here o.

    * u just had the impulse*

    Not I —- error

    Reply
  12. Yemie

     /  December 16, 2013

    LMAO@ at the thought that bush babies and Madam koikoi may be carrying torchlights. I love the intro and how Eze began to reminisce on a past event. God saved Richard and his goons that Jojo wasn’t around, he’d have single-handedly taken them on one after the other. Lol!

    Brotherly, this is great storytelling, great writing; and you, are the ‘Real MCcoy’! Keep it coming.

    Reply
  13. Gold

     /  December 16, 2013

    😦 @ d suspense tis nt fair oooo Walter

    Reply
  14. Nice suspense…
    I hv a guess as to what happens next…

    Reply
  15. “Madam Koikoi? Bush baby? Do they go around with torchlight?. . . And if it was Madam Koikoi, shouldn’t we hear the staccato clacking of her high-heeled shoes?”

    I laughed so hard at that part. Torchlight? High-heels? Lolz.

    The suspense isn’t fair o, but I’m sure the “torch-bearers” would go on with the operation anyway…without the staccato clacking of course.

    Perhaps it’s the seniors searching around the dorm for their share of the christmas goodies.

    Reply
  16. Nancy

     /  December 16, 2013

    So u decided to leave keep us in suspense…better deliver the next episode before someone develops high blood pressure! On point walt!

    Reply
  17. Olisaeloka

     /  December 16, 2013

    Wonderful episode! Simply brilliant! Walter go kill person one day! That Madam Koi-koi na the one wey scare me pass for school that time.

    Reply
  18. Ini

     /  December 16, 2013

    Well shakes, since you left me hanging, I have reported your case to lastma n vio

    Reply
  19. Chris Madu

     /  December 16, 2013

    Chai! I tire to talk

    Reply
  20. chukarudy

     /  December 16, 2013

    O!hw he(walter),takes mi down memory lane wit his write-ups.GOD continue тσ bleSs ur brain.

    Reply
  21. Vester

     /  December 17, 2013

    Walter,what is this na? Which kain suspense be this? I didn’t see it coming,i was still scrolling and all of a sudden the story ended abruptly……so i have to wait till next week? *SIGHS* Pls waltz i’m hanging on a thread,post the next episode ASAP.

    Reply
  22. ugo

     /  December 17, 2013

    32 pls

    Reply
  23. Adeline Kasper

     /  December 17, 2013

    Walt, who was dat o?? Me wan slip now ooo..

    Reply
  24. MztaPaul

     /  December 17, 2013

    Nice rendition, Waltz.

    And, as someone who went through hostel life, I really do relate.

    Reply
  25. Funny enough I loved resuming on the Fridays. I had enough time to pick buckets, run around school, and be free before the evil days came. Resuming on Sunday was too choking for me.

    Reply
  26. Eseosa

     /  December 21, 2013

    Ah ahan dis is not fair ooo, how can u end it like dat now 😦

    Reply

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