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EZE GOES TO SCHOOL (Episode 45)

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It was a warm night, the kind that made you want to spend it sleeping outside, with your mattress spread out on the pavement, because the air inside the dormitories had been cooked stiff by the sun that blistered all day to the very last stretches of twilight. The hostels were ablaze with light; the loud chatter of the senior boys bounced from one compound to the other, and glimpses of the girls could be caught through the windows of the female hostels as they sashayed through their dormitories, going about their business. Junior boys were scattered all over the junior hostels visiting, classrooms gisting, and borehole fetching water and doing laundry. The warmth of the night seemed to lend a boisterous nip to the atmosphere.

“You told me you will wash my everything if I give you my meat in the afternoon and half of my rice-and-beans during night food!” Joseph exploded. “That was the deal!”

“That was not the deal anything!” Ibuka retorted sharply. “I agreed to wash your clothes – Clothes! That is shirts, shorts and singlet. And now you want to add your boxers and pants and socks.” A rictus of disgust fleeted across his face as he spat, “Nyama! Me wash your pants – am I crazy?!”

“Is pant not cloth, eh tell me? Is pant and boxers and socks not cloth?” Joseph turned his angry face to me. “Eze, see me see trouble o! Is pant not cloth again?”

“Don’t involve me abeg,” I said hastily. I’d deliberately kept my face averted from their dispute as the three of us strolled to the borehole to do our laundry. The environment around us was alive with the chatter of boys standing in clusters or moving about. The crowd condensed the closer we got to the borehole. “When the two of you were busy sharing food, did you call me to judge?”

“Sharing which food!” Joseph spluttered furiously. “I didn’t share any food. I gave this – this – this sense boy half of my night food –”

“Who are you calling sense boy?” Ibuka fumed.

“You! You are the one I’m calling sense boy! After all, that’s how you Mbaise people used to behave!”

“I have heard, you who are not a sense boy!” Ibuka scoffed. “Yet you are looking for a servant who will wash your underwear, abi? God forbid you!”

“I gave you my meat and half of my food!” Joseph roared, further incensed.

“Stop shouting at me joor!”

“Why won’t I shout? Better vomit everything I gave you that you ate, if you know you won’t do your part of our deal.”

“That was not our deal –!”

“It was. . .!”

The two of them quarreled back and forth like so, as we walked down the gentle slope that led to the borehole. Their heated words were however drowned by the din already surging in the area. There were boys fighting to fetch water from the borehole, and lots more dotting the small landscape around, washing and conversing. The half-moon shone drunkenly down from the indigo sky, highlighting the chores and the umpteen conversations swelling around us.

“Imagine that nonsense girl, Jennifer, that is busy feeling tech with herself . . .”

“Finally, I’ve joined Press Club. Soon, I’ll start reading news during assembly . . .”

“That Nelson is such a planless boy – dirty and planless . . .”

“Keke, if I slap you eh, you will drop that my washing soap . . .”

“Common sugar that I begged you, you said no. First to do no dey pain o . . .”

The three of us drew up to a tight spot on one side of the walkway, between a group of Hope House SS1 boys and two friends I recognized from JSS3F.

“Ibuka, you must wash everything in this my bucket –!”

“I have told you that it will be over my dead body –!”

I shook my head amusedly, before upturning my laundry from my bucket and walked away to fetch water.

***

It is a warm night. The rains haven’t fallen in days, and while the ground still has some moisture in it, the soil has acquired the brittle quality of dry earth. The underbrush rustles as the reptile slithers by, its eyes like glowing coals in the darkness around. Its forked tongue flickers in and out of the snout, sampling particles from the air, analyzing the chemicals found, and the thin black coil that is its body  is drawn by its discovery closer and closer to its prey. The atmosphere throbs with the din of several human beings littered all around it, but the serpent’s focus is on the quarry it is tracking. It glides smoothly forward, slipping through soil and foliage, advancing on its unsuspecting quarry.

***

“Ibuka, it was our deal! Respect the deal that we made –!”

“It was not our deal! What is wrong with you sef –!”

They were still going at each other, their raised voices joining the rest of the din raging around the borehole. Our clothes were on the ground, mine was separated from Ibuka’s, which was a considerably larger heap than mine, seeing as Joseph’s clothes were mixed with his. While Ibuka and I were bent over our buckets washing, Joseph stood beside us, ranting, the underthings that Ibuka had refused to launder for him lying in a forlorn pile before him.

“What was our deal then? Because when I was giving you my food, I specifically said it is for my clothes you will wash –”

“You said clothes, not underwear –”

“CLOTHES AND UNDERWEAR ARE THE SAME THING!”

“STOP SHOUTING AT ME!”

“Haba! Guys, it’s enough nau,” I finally interjected.

“But Eze, is this fair? Is what Ibuka doing fair?”

“I’m not going to judge this matter abeg, so don’t bother asking me. All I want to say is, Joe, since he has refused to wash your underwear, why don’t you wash them yourself?”

“Gbam!” Ibuka cut in with that self-satisfied, help-me-and-tell-him tone in his voice. “The boy is just being lazy, as always –”

“I am not lazy!” Joseph huffed. “I have whitlow on my finger, that’s the reason I made this deal with you in the first place.”

“Which kain stupid whitlow – oya! Show me, show me the whitlow let me see.”

“I’m not showing you anything,” Joseph snarled.

“You see?” Ibuka crowed. “It means you’re lying, you lying Thomas!”

“It’s Doubting Thomas, itiboribo like you!” Joseph spat. “And I’m not a liar!”

“Me, I’m not an itiboribo!”

“Yes, you are –!”

“Then you’re a liar!”

“And you’re an odè!”

“Vagabond!”

Asiwèrè!”

“Bombastic element!”

Orí e òkpé!”

And thus began the name-calling, with the two of them hurling the most hateful epithets they could think of at each other. Ibuka was an intelligent bookworm, and so, he knew all the fancy English expletives. Joseph was a Lagos boy, and so, he came back at him with the profane, dialectal swearwords. A Hope House JSS2 boy, walking past behind us with a bucket of water balanced on his head, turned to stare at us – at them – with some curiosity and amusement, before continuing on his way. I sighed, shook my head wearily this time and bent forward to scrub the nasty soup stain that was streaked across the front of my House shirt.

***

The other nocturnal creatures have gone silent, sensing in that way all preys do the presence of a malevolent predator. The crickets have ceased to chirp, and the throaty rumble of the croaking of the frogs has petered out. All the faunal activity of the night appears suspended, like one giant breath held, while the creatures wait for the danger to pass. Or strike.

The serpent slithers on, winding its smooth, scaly body through plant stalks until it is out of the underbrush, and on the walkway, which is dry, with wet patches caused by the splashes of water thrown on the ground by the humans washing and moving about with containers of water. Loud vibrations thrum through the air and on the ground, alerting the snake to the dominant human presence around.

But it is not distracted from its prey. It knows where it is, silent and waiting, and it slips forward, furtively, advancing, a looming menace.

Just then, however, a foot lifts before the snake. It is startled as its infrared sensitivity picks out the radiated heat of the warm-blooded limb, moments before the underside of the foot brushes dangerously past its head, nearly crushing it to the ground. And the boy, whose leg it is, walks on, his bucket on his head, unaware of his brief encounter with the serpent.

Rattled and incensed by its near-death experience, the cobra rises, its head teetering into the air. It spreads its neck ribs to form a flattened, widened hood. And its forked tongue flicks in and out, aggressively tasting the atmosphere for the next intruder. It is angry. It is waiting. And its objective has changed – to strike at the next person coming its way.

***

The approaching brightness of someone’s torchlight stabbed at the night in bouncy motions as the handler of the torch moved his arm about. The boy with the torch was in the company of another boy, and I could make out their faces as SS2 boys. Dignity House SS2 boys. I didn’t know the name of the one with the torch, but his friend was Emenike, the SS2 boy our head boy, Senior Nkemka, was grooming to take over his post. They were coming from the direction of the staff quarters, and judging by their boisterous laughter, they’d had an apparent good time there.

“Ibu, please nau. . .please. . .” Joseph wheedled. His rage had cooled, and he was now trying out the tactic of begging Ibuka.

Ibuka appeared to relent also. “Okay, okay, maybe I’ll wash your socks, but I can’t – can’t – wash your boxers and pant –”

“What is wrong with washing them?” Joseph complained.

“You want me to rub my hands around the cloth that you wear on your bum-bum, all that part that enters your nyash when you sit down?” His face had twisted into such an incredulous expression of revulsion, one that was also so comical, that I found myself trying to fight off giggles. But it proved impossible to hold my amusement inside, and ultimately, I gave in to uncontrollable laughter, which had me doubled over and holding onto my knees for support with my sudsy hands.

My mirth must have been infectious, because, first Joseph’s face began to twitch and he began to chuckle, moments before Ibuka joined in the laughter as well. The three of us were now laughing at the ridiculousness of the fracas from moments ago.

Just then, someone gasped behind us. It was a horrified, sharp intake of breath that instantly doused our amusement. The three of us whirled around just as Emenike’s friend, the boy with the torch, choked out, “Snake!”

They were right behind us, momentarily petrified. And the radiance of the torchlight illuminated the cobra posed in front of them. A long, dark, muscular coil, its head lifted into the air in all its serpentine glory, its tongue fluttering in and out of its snout with the accompaniment of its menacing hiss.

The cobra was also right behind us.

“SNAKE!”

The alarming realization of its proximity to us caused my blood to run cold, and the three of us recoiled, falling over our laundry in our haste to get away. Joseph gave a strangled wail before pitching into the bush beside him, while Ibuka and I collided with each other before thudding to the ground.

“SNAKE!”

The alarm was starting to spread over the area, and boys began darting towards the scene. The serpent hissed and reared forward, attempting to strike at the nearest limb. We shrank backwards, and Emenike snatched at the bucket closest to him. It was my bucket, and I watched with intense aversion as he swung the pail at the snake. The bottom hit the snake’s head, and it fell to the ground. Quick as a flash, it began to rise again, hissing furiously. Emenike, filled with commendable fortitude, pounced on it, striking its head with the bucket again. When it fell, this time, the SS2 boy jammed the bottom of the bucket down on its head. There was an audible squelching sound as bones and skin crushed under the impact. The rest of snake’s body trashed about in its death throes, whipping its length here and there. The whiplash struck Emenike on his arm, but he didn’t let up on the pressure of his assault on the snake. The bucket stayed on. The snake trashed some more, and then lay still.

Emenike held for some seconds after this, before lifting the bucket. The cobra’s head was a mangled mess, and its body lay still in death. Suddenly, there was an outbreak of a chorus of loud sounds – the chatter of crickets and the croaking of frogs. I was startled by the eruption to realize that those accompanying sounds of the night had not been resonating for some time now.

Emenike put my bucket down where he’d seized it from, and he and his friend moved over the dead reptile and continued on their way. The crowd that had gathered around dispersed as everyone returned to their chores. My friends and I picked ourselves up, gathered our things and changed our location.

The show was over, the snake forgotten. And the night life around the borehole gradually returned to normal.

I am @Walt_Shakes on twitter

About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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39 comments

  1. anoda suspense filled masterpiece even though dere wasnt much drama sha…hw far anulika na, eze never toast am yet?!…..lol

  2. Ahn ahn! Walter, e noh good o. Just as I was rejoicing abt dis episode, it just ended abruptly (-̩̩̩͡˛-̩̩̩͡) . Bia, coman add more o. Ehn ehn, b4 I vex finish
    Thank God I dint read dis episode @ nite, with d picture of dose two snakes u uploaded @ d beginning hian! All dese snake encounters tho. *shudders*
    Dis episode is one of d funniest ever. Chai! It’s Doubting Thomas, itiboribo like you!” Joseph spat. “And I’m not a liar!” Dis got me reeling wit laffter. And Eze just jejely played d neutral party. Hehehehehe no bring una fite come my side abeg. Nice one bro. Shop anoda knuckle

  3. *standing ovation*. You go, Emie! So glad that cobra’s history. Yuck! Emie’s sooo my hero, a bounty hunter of sorts, daring, gutsy and so fearless. Call me maybe, Emie, yes? LOL!

    Walter, this episode’s mindblowing! So well concocted and perfectly executed. You’re just too much, I tell ya. Wowzer!

    What’s with this your creepy fascination with those slimy, slithering, seething things? I’m absolutely digging the toxic banters between Jojo and Ibu, those curse words cracked me up real good. Its interesting how Eze, just ‘jejely’ removed himself from the whole hullabaloo. Reminds me too well of an awesomely talented writer I know, coincidental maybe? *shrugs*. LMAO!

    • shakespeareanwalter

      Hahahaa! I shall be taking the Fifth – or is it Fourth – amendment to the allegation implied in this comment.

  4. Please ooo…. Enough snake episode. I hate those creatures and am home alone for now. Please…….

  5. Nice…dear God abeg don’t allow Eze n his cronies to graduate. amin

    • Lool, what a prayer! Well its in Waltz hands to not let them graduate so he decides what happens. Nice one bro; more ink to your pen and extra power to your lappy

  6. I thought it was another Seetha episode…and revenge in its wake.

    • shakespeareanwalter

      The snake has been vanquished, remember? Revenge is the cat’s, says the Lo—er, says Seetha. 🙂

  7. Beht when shall we know the faith of sisirith abi seetha? This I’ve been asking of u, Walter

  8. suspenseful Walter. you didn’t tell me though if your bucket is plastic or the steel ones common a decade or two ago.

    Good one boss

  9. And I bet Eze disowned that bucket that day henceforth.

  10. Eze and snakes tho… inseparable

  11. More advanced than the pic stories of Yester years. I believe you.

  12. Abikoye Oluwatoyosi Oluwatosin

    Ibu’s description of washing Joe’s boxers, got me laughing like a mad woman. Walterrrrrrrr, really love this one.

  13. Aaaahaaah, just like that? You cant’t stop here o biko. Another update tomorrow abeg

  14. “You want me to rub my hands around the cloth that you wear on your bum-bum, all that part that enters your nyash when you sit down?…this part got me laughing real hard.LMAO…really I tot it was d clan of errr sisirth or whateva it’s name was dat had come 4 revenge or sometin…your detailed description,Superb…me likey. Bt yu shld at least give us double dose sometimes ( ˘˘̯)

  15. Just a side comment. In the republic of Ireland, there is no snake…..so I was told and I think I believe it since I haven’t seen one for almost 3 years.

    • shakespeareanwalter

      Imagine that. They don’t have jungles or the like there?

      • They do. When I asked, an English man said st Patrick chased them away. Hmmmmm. Well I kept my mouth shut. But will ask an Irish

        • shakespeareanwalter

          St. Patrick? Who’s that abeg?

          • St Patrick is a patron saint of Ireland( highly regarded) and Nigeria (I never knew this). I asked an Irish and he said the same thing. St Patrick chased them. This Irish man (in his late 60s or early 70s) said he has never seen one before.

  16. I thought this episode was the conclusion of the snake episode you posted some weeks ago Eze, emmmmm Walter. Seems I have to wait for the other part again. I can’t wait to find out what happened to the human form of that snake. I’m patiently waiting sha………Good job!

  17. intrigued…

  18. If you schooled in fgc okposi you wouldn’t worry about snakes, it was a common thing. Nice episode Walter. Keep it up…

  19. Hi Walter,i dont know how you do it,but you leave me simply breathless! Sweetie, please you also need to start tying loose ends,they are piling up seiously.For instance the episode of the demonic snake and cat,the gay senior that wanted Eze, and the Senior Eze met at the waterfall.Cant wait for these conclusions.
    You are truly an award winner.

    • shakespeareanwalter

      Don’t worry, the loose ends haven’t been forgotten. They’ll be tied neatly in good time. By the way, the gay senior episode has been resolved. No loose end there.
      And thanks for your readership

  20. na wa o. snake snake everytime!
    the banter between joseph and ibuka was hilarious and captured the mind of an average teenager well…ibuka is not brilliant for nothing, no one can pull a fast one n him, not even suave joseph

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