THE DAY OF RECKONING 1


            Mathew, Ike and Okon’s first few months in their new school were adventurous but deadly ones for them. Mathew was 12 and had just graduated with his friends from primary school few months back. As at then, the young boy had felt on top of the world; he went about bragging and making noise in the neighborhood with Okon and Ike. Their parents were ignorant of what the kids where doing. They were busy people who left for work early in the morning to return late in the evening.

            On several occasions, the boys were congratulated and praised by occupants of the houses which they visited; “That is good my children!” an old woman said to them; she seemed to be excited and happy with their little achievements. “You are now big boys o!” she praised them. “Yes mama, we made it o!” they chorused.

            On some other occasions, they would be rebuked and chased away. “Will you get out of this compound now?!!” One grumpy neighbor had once told them; he went ahead to untie Bingo his fierce looking dog to help chase them away. “Nonsense!” he shouted, feeling satisfied, as he watched them run for their dear lives.

            “Are you the only children to graduate from primary school!!?” replied another grumpy old neighbor. “Can’t someone rest in this neighborhood!!?” the young boys seemed not to be concerned with the man’s hostile approach. “Papa we made it oo!, We’re now big boys!” they chorused noisily and left for another house.

            The last straw that broke the Carmel’s back was when they went to Officer James’ house; he was an active and serving police officer. The middle aged man had heard of their activities and how they disturbed the neighborhood with their little drums and trumpets. “Are you sure we should enter his house?” Okon had asked fearfully. “Fear Fear!” Mathew mocked him; Ike laughed. “Nothing will happen to us” Mathew assured.

            “Welcome my boys, I prepared rice and stew for you guys” the man said, feigning a smile. The other two jumped up happily, but Okon suspected foul play. “Congratulations to the three of you once again!, Help me lock the door behind you and have a sit.” He instructed, as he welcomed them in.

            That day, the trio couldn’t explain what had happened in the officer’s house; he whipped them so hard on their small hard buttocks that they promised to repent immediately; they ran out of the house without eating any rice and stew. “Hope you enjoyed the food” he teased them. “Next time if you come again, I’ll serve you porridge”. The boys ran for their dear lives; sadly, Okon forgot his pair of slippers at the officer’s house.  They stopped running and rested under a tree a bit far from the officers’ house; they wept and wept, and then they began laughing at each other.

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That morning, an excited Okon ironed his new school wears which comprised of a striped shirt and blue shorts; his white stockings sparkled and his well trimmed hair made him look like the big boy which he claimed to be. His parents had already left for work. He locked the door and left for school; he would trek to the junction and wait for Mathew and Ike to join him there. After that, they’ll board a shuttle bus to school.

            “You are welcome back to a new session and to this prestigious institution, Good morning Students” an old man with grey hair addressed the students; he stood on the podium which enabled every student to see him. “Thank you sir!” the older students chorused. “That must be the principal” Ike whispered to Mathew. The old man continued; “I’m delighted to welcome the freshers in our midst, please feel at home!” he said, facing the direction where Mathew and other new students stood.

“Congratulations, it’s not easy being here!” he added. The staff members who stood at different positions began clapping for the (Junior Secondary School 1) JSS1 students. When the noise had died down,  one of the students shouted from a corner where he stood “Yes O! It is not easy!”  Everyone turned to know who it was. It was Mathew; he had reached the peak of his excitement; he began clapping for himself. Shortly, Ike joined him in clapping and beckoned on Okon who stood in front of him to join them too. Everyone looked at them in utter disgust and astonishment.  An older student walked up to them “Will you behave yourselves?!! He instructed. Mathew and Ike stared at him; he wore a tag; it showed his name and the school position which he held. The Older student was in JSS3. He was a school functionary; he was the Head prefect. Ike was about asking him; “And what will you do if we don’t behave” and then he noticed the cane which the older student held in his right hand. He decided to ignore him. “We’re so sorry” Okon pleaded, trying to solicit for the little tantrum Ike and Mathew had caused even though he had done nothing wrong; he was one who hated trouble.

            “Who made that comment?, the principal asked angrily. The whole assembly was silent. Then the older student pulled out Mathew forcefully from the line. “It is him sir” he replied as his voice echoed through the whole assembly. “Get me his name and other details!!” the Principal spoke from the podium. Soon a crowd of teachers gathered round the young boy “you this naughty boy” One of them said referring to Mathew “where are you from?”, “don’t you have respect?”, “you’re so wayward” they bombarded him with more questions. Some even attempted to slap him.

            At the principal’s office later that morning:

“Young man sit” the principal said to Mathew, scanning through his details which had been submitted that morning to him by one of the staff members “I may not know you, or your parents, but you have to abide by the school rules and regulations; you need to have respect in your dictionary” he said, looking the young fellow straight into his eyes. The old man continued. “In this school, there is no favoritism, we treat all students the same way, that is why parents of every student make their school fees payments online so that we don’t get to see their faces and …” the young boy was staring at the picture hanging on the wall above the old man; the picture amused him; the principal, in the picture was on a shirt and jean attire with a cowboy hat on his head. He held a box with his right hand. Mathew felt like laughing out loudly; the old man was funny looking in the English wears; he looked like a delivery man “Did you understand?!” the old man shouted. “Yes sir” Mathew replied. “You’ll be pardoned today, but next time you’ll be severely flogged”.

            The moment he stepped out of the principal’s office he checked the time on his little wrist watch; the old man had been giving him a sermon for the past one hour. He hissed, and climbed upstairs to his classroom.

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“We’ll be talking about Nouns” the English teacher began; “Bring out your note books….” Ike stood up, few minutes later; he wanted to use the rest-room. “Five Minutes!” the English teacher said to him.

            After classes that day, as the trio walked home, Ike informed them of his findings when he had gone to use the restroom earlier; “I saw a stream behind the school fence” he said. Mathew halted; he couldn’t remember the last time he swam; he became excited. Then Ike spoke; “we can try it out tomorrow during break” but it didn’t go down well with Okon; he was becoming a bit nervous; “How do we make it past the high fence? Won’t we be caught?” he asked. 

Fear! Fear!” Mathew teased him once more and Ike laughed and laughed. Then Mathew spoke; “That’s not a problem, besides, it will be during break time and we won’t miss any classes” he assured.

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            The next day, during the break period, the boys managed to sneak out of the school compound through an opening at one side of the school fence. After changing to their casual wears, they walked towards the direction of the little stream; it was about 50 meters away from the school. Then Okon spoke; “We have 20 minutes till recess (break time) is over”. The other two stopped walking and stared angrily at him. “ Just dey play o!” Mathew mocked him, and they both laughed at him. “Why are you so scared young man?” Ike asked.

            The moment they arrived, the other two quickly dived into the little stream; it was clean and had a fresh smell; the water level was slightly above their stomach. Mathew and Ike shouted and laughed; they splashed water on each other and then Okon spoke. “Time’s up. Recess is over now, we have to go”. The Duo looked at him; they laughed hardly. Mathew came out of the stream; he picked up the bag containing their school wears; he went into the stream with it. The clothes were soaked “What do we wear to class after here?!” Okon asked, raising his voice. There was no response from the boys. As he stood; still boiling in anger, Mathew; unknown to him, quietly walked up behind him and pushed him inside the little stream. “Fear Fear, You must swim today” he said, laughing out loudly. He screamed, he hadn’t swam in his life before. Okon felt like disappearing; he wished he never joined them to the stream. “Relax, you wouldn’t drown, it’s a small stream” Ike assured him.

           They all swam happily and excitedly till it was dark; “it’s time to go” Ike said. “We’ll be back tomorrow” he added. “Sure we will” Okon exclaimed happily; he was beginning to enjoy the whole adventure.


 

(Continued in THE DAY OF RECKONING 2)

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