FOREWORD: Here’s a sneak preview of the literary series I will be introducing on MyMindSnaps soon. I’m considering using it to replace the Monday slot that Eze Goes To School will leave vacant when I wrap it up. Either the series or The Hand Of God.
This one is titled ‘THE JACK AND JILL STORY: CSI 9ja’. It was penned by a friend, Chrome Chinke, and the principal characters are based on real life people. Lemme tell you a secret, he made Yours Truly one of the detectives in this futuristic Nigeria storytelling. 🙂 Yes, I get to be in a story where I catch bad guys and unleash my inner James Bond.
Check out the preview. The feature episode of Eze Goes to School comes up right after.
The hills of Kuru, a rural community in Jos South L.G.A in Plateau State, was known to be treacherous as many-a-hiker had ended up with broken limbs as a result of falling down the steep slopes of these magnificent landmarks. That being said, it shouldn’t be unusual to see a young man tumbling down the highest of the hills. The only thing visibly unusual in this scenario was the time. It was a quarter past midnight and the cloudy night sky made it seem even darker than usual. The young man’s fall seemed endless as he rolled down the rough terrain, and with each spin, his head collided with a few lose rocks and got knocked hard on the ground. The cacti, which were the most thriving plants around the hills, didn’t spare him either. Their thorns ripped through his shirt and tore at his flesh as he bounded downwards on his death roll. The G-forces associated with the free fall were so great that the man hurled what seemed to be his last meal before his unfortunate turn of events.
He finally came to a halt at the base of the hill. The air was still. It was almost the end of the rainy season and the only sound that could be heard for miles was the short breaths coming from the battered body of the man. He was still alive, but barely. He tried to move but the shooting pain that rocked his entire body was enough to perish that action before it had begun. He gritted his teeth and blinked endlessly, trying to get the sand out from his eyes. He was thankful that he could still move them and see with them. He was able to roll them to the left, just in time to see a familiar shadow.
He wasn’t alone.
The expression of shock in his eyes was enough to tell that he knew who this newcomer was. With the little strength he had left, he tried to speak, but all that came through his broken, bloodied lips was a broken word: “Ple-ease…”
The shadow moved towards him, and the young man knew what was coming to him next.
And now, for the feature episode . . .
The battery-powered toothbrush in Joseph’s hand hummed to life when he turned it on and took it to his mouth.
“So you have finally started using this your fancy brush,” I said.
The toothbrush whirred against his teeth and his mouth was starting to fill with paste froth as he nodded. “Yes,” he mumbled through the foam. “My old brush don tire. The long, pointed something –”
“Bristles,” Ibuka supplied automatically from where he stood, squeezing toothpaste out on his toothbrush.
“The long, pointed something,” Joseph repeated, shooting him a brief scowl, “has become weak, and has twisted any-anyhow. I had to throw it away.”
“You could have managed it and saved this one for SS1, when you can get to use everything new.”
Joseph shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. My parents will still buy everything new for me before we come back for SS1.”
Of course they would, I thought. I’d gotten so used to Joseph’s remarkable lack of pomposity that oftentimes, I forgot he came from a wealthy home.
Joseph was soon done with his brushing and was splashing water from his jerrycan on the brush when I said, “Let me even see how it feels sef.” I gestured at the toothbrush.
As he handed it to me, Ibuka made a face. “Nyamaaa! Eze, you cannot seriously want to put inside your mouth what has finished entering inside Joe’s mouth.”
“Ehen? And so?” Joseph interjected. “Are we not all best friends?”
“Why don’t you also chew your meat small,” Ibuka retorted, “and then give it to Eze to swallow, all in the name of friendship.”
It was Joseph’s turn to make a face, and I chuckled as I flicked the toothbrush’s switch at its base and took it to my mouth. The locomotive bristles buzzed when they came in contact with my teeth, whirring smoothly all over the surface as it did the job I’d so vigorously done moments ago with my own toothbrush.
“You know, Eze,” Joseph said then with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, “with my brush in your mouth, we are kind of kissing, you know?”
I jerked the toothbrush from my mouth as Ibuka’s laugh pealed, and I spat furiously on the ground as though to get rid of the incipient taste of Joseph from my buccal cavity.
“Eze and Joe,” singsonged Ibuka, “sitting on a tree –”
“Thunder will fire you if you finish that rhyme,” I growled.
He merely continued laughing.
“Don’t worry, Eze,” Joseph said, patting me on my shoulder. “I’m not about to be your first kiss, you hear?”
“Of course not,” Ibuka said. “That privilege has been reserved for Anulika.”
“Don’t you mean Nuella?” I said, frowning at him.
“No, I mean Anulika,” he maintained, eyeing me back.
“What is your problem sef? You are always acting like you don’t like Nuella –”
“Because I don’t like her…”
“Why, Ibu?” queried Joseph.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I just don’t trust her. That her anya pussy makes me feel somehow whenever I’m around her.”
“Rubbish!” I scoffed.
“You know, all those blue-eyed and green-eyed damsels you’re always reading about in your novels,” Joseph said, “that’s the way their eyes are. And yet, you don’t have any problem with them.”
“That is because they are white. Africans, our eyes are supposed to be black abeg.”
“Rubbish!” I reiterated.
Just then, a boy from JSS3C stepped out of his classroom, tucking the hem of his school shirt into the shorts. He saw us and said, “The three of you are still here wasting time. You won’t hurry up and go to the borehole and baff, before the whole school will wake up and it will be time for food, and people will start coming to class.”
Yes, we had embarked on that final, inevitable part of a JSS3 boy’s existence in my school. It was a rite of passage, a life every male student got to live at least once in his scholarly life – in his JSS3. The school term for it was gypsying. It was that period when we unofficially moved out of the hostels and into our classrooms, converting what were once rooms of learning into makeshift shelters. All the desks were pushed to one corner of the classroom, to make space for our beddings, water containers, clothes, books (because we had to study) and bags inside which were stuffed all the stark possessions that were crucial for the nomadic life of a gypsy.
We had the audacity to relocate like so, because we no longer had classes or prep periods, and so no teacher or female counterpart had any reason to come to the JSS3 block. And so we ate, slept, read and played in the classrooms. The borehole area was our bathroom and the bushes our toilet. No one questioned us, not the newly-appointed prefects, and not the teachers, who preferred to remain blissful in whatever ignorance they could lay claim to. Not all of us gypsied in the classroom though; those of us who couldn’t endure such discomfort moved in with their guardians in the staff quarters.
“Oya o! Let’s start going quick-quick,” Ibuka urged as he darted into JSS3B to fetch our buckets. He’d moved into my classroom with Joseph and me. “It’s almost 6am!” he screeched when he glanced at his wristwatch.
“Shit!” Joseph muttered. “Girls will soon start coming to the borehole to fetch water.”
“And you have a problem wit them seeing your nakedness?” I teased, arching my brows at him.
“Of course not,” he said, grinning. “I just don’t want to hurt Nkeiru.”
“Ehn, when they look finish” – he swept his hands over his body as though he was the human reincarnation of the Greek god, Apollo – “they will like what they see and go and spread the good news to their friends, and soon, every girl will start wanting a piece of the Joe.”
“This Joseph sef,” Ibuka said, rolling his eyes as I laughed, “you’ll never change. Come, jaré, let us go and bathe. There are some of us who still want to make sure our bodies remain the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
“Amen to that, Father Ibuka,” I sallied, gasping for air through my laughter.
Moments later, we had joined the throng of naked JSS3 boys who were littered all over the surrounding of the borehole, in various stages of their morning toilette. Some were emerging from the bush, where they’d gone to answer the call of Nature. Some others were well underway with their bathing, scrubbing and splashing water over their bodies, while they chattered back and forth. Other junior students mingled with us – the JSS1s and JSS2s from the junior hostels and the SS1s from the senior hostels. Their business, however, was to come and fetch water, and some of the SS1s were accosted to give updates on the happenings in the senior hostel.
“Imagine Larry of yesterday o, just because SS2s are almost ogas, he now expects us to be calling him Senior Larry – over my dead body!”
“They are not even in SS3, and already Nnamdi is smuggling his girlfriend into our dorm to smash her. See as they were just making noise – he’s lucky no SS3 boy slept in our dorm that night…”
“Felix is letting this their prefectship to shack his head too much, ah-ah! Every time he tells somebody to lie down, and you waste time, he’ll slap you and say ‘Don’t you know I’m a prefect!’ Mumu boy!”
“Skinner has come back to the hostel nau, since. Omo, no SS3 boy wan near am sef. All his enemies them, principal don almost expel all of them finish. I know the guy is waiting for them to write their last paper before he’ll retaliate on the remaining ones…”
The updates varied from mocking and amused to annoyed and irritable, and they always ended with the SS1s desperately wishing the term would end soon, so their graduation into the upper class would ease up their suffering.
After our bath, we returned to the classroom to get dressed in our school uniforms. The breakfast of bread and tea soon came upon us. It was after the meal, as we strolled out of the dining hall, with other students chattering about their imminent classes while JSS3s looked forward to another day that was an endless free period, that word spread about the fact that the compilation of the names of all JSS3 students sitting for the upcoming Junior WAEC examination was out, a list posted on the notice board in the administration block.
Before long, the admin block was teeming with students talking loudly and shoving at each other in their urgent need to get to the vast notice board and peek at the sheets of paper pinned to its velvet-covered surface behind a glass covering.
“Shift joor! Haven’t you look finish…!”
“Ebenezer, check my name, check my name…!”
“If you push me again eh, I will slap you…!”
“Aarrgh! I’m sitting beside Nduka, that one that doesn’t even show his work during exam…!”
“Eze! Eze!” My friends and I had just gotten to the crowd when I heard the call of my name. I turned to see Emmanuella looking harried and walking toward us. “Good morning… How are you… I looked for you in the dining hall but I couldn’t find you…” All the words came out in a rush as she hugged me.
“And I thought those who have eyes like cats are supposed to see as clearly as cats do,” Ibuka mumbled in a snide tone.
Emmanuella threw him a brief withering glare before turning back to me. She was getting used to Ibuka’s barbs whenever we were all together. “So, have you checked your name?” she said brightly to me, including Joseph in the reach of her smile.
“No, not yet. We have just got here.”
“I came earlier, and tried to get one of these boys to help me check my name, but they didn’t agree.”
“Surprise, surprise,” Ibuka muttered again.
“We’ll help you,” Joseph said as I scowled at Ibuka. “Follow us, we are about to go in.”
The four of us dived into the crush of bodies, using our hands and shoulders to cut our way through and propel our bodies forward. There were indignant protests from those we forcefully moved aside, and a few classmates who saw us progressing to the board hurled their names at us to help them trace on the list.
Finally, we were before the notice board, pressed against the glass case that looked like it would splinter any moment from the pressure of the crowd. We peered at the sheets displayed behind it, and I squinted at the fine print, my eyes seeking for the section that had the surnames starting with the letter E.
Ibuka gave a small squeal when he happened on his name first.”Yes! I’m sitting between Onyekwelu Chimaobi and Onyema Jonathan. They are both in JSS3D, and I heard they are smashers in their class.”
“You’re a smasher yourself,” I said. “So why should you care about how intelligent those sitting beside you are?”
“Well, it’s always nice to know that I won’t be surrounded by olodos.”
Just then, Joseph made a sound and we turned to him. His finger was on the glass case, and he was peering intently at a point. “Amuluche Joseph N,” he said. “Amaechi Olivia A – who is Amaechi Olivia?” He turned inquiringly to us.
“One Unity House girl in 3F,” I answered.
“Is she a fine girl?” he asked.
“Joseph!” Ibuka gasped. “Is it fine girl you’ll write when they ask you one plus one during Maths exam?”
“Hey, if you’re surrounded by beauty, you’re inspired to intelligence,” he returned with a smirk. We laughed at that.
“Eze, where’s your own name?” Emmanuella asked then. “I’ve seen my own.” She pointed.
“Do you know the people sitting on your left and right?”
She shrugged. “I’m not sure. I guess, on the first day of exam, I will know.”
“Eze!” Ibuka cut in. “I’ve seen your name. Look!”
I followed his finger to where he was pointing. And there it was – Egwim Ezenwaka R.
“Who are the people sitting beside him?” queried Joseph.
Four pairs of eyes squinted at the paper around my name. And we all saw it at the same time. The name that was typed out neatly above mine – Egereonu Anulika R.
“Hah!” Ibuka burst out. “It’s as if they are meant to be together.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Emmanuella snapped, turning a fulminating glare on him.
“Well, let’s see, they have always been in the same class, they are Junior WAEC seat partners, and they both have an initial beginning with R. need I say more?” His glare was just as equally hot on her.
“Ibu, that’s enough –” Joseph began.
“Abeg leave me. This girl is just vexing me jaré.”
“You’re very stupid for saying that,” Emmanuella spat, her hazel eyes sparkling with rage. “Look at this one o. If not for Eze, do you think I’ll have your time?”
“You’re talking to the person who doesn’t have your time, in spite of Eze,” Ibuka retorted hotly.
“You’re an idiot!”
“Yes, the idiot who will smash all his papers come Junior WAEC,” Ibuka fired back, “while you’re busy waiting for someone who you can ask to help you.”
“Ibuka!” Joseph and I chorused in astonishment. I’d never seen my friend be this caustic with anyone, especially not with females.
“Nuella, I’m so sorry…” I began apologetically.
She speared me with eyes that had begun to shimmer with angry tears, before she whirled around and began to push her way back through the crowd.
“Nuella, wait…” I went after her, shoving and elbowing the other students out of my way. I could feel movement behind me, and I knew Ibuka and Joseph were following after me.
When I broke free of the crowd, I looked anxiously around. But Emmanuella had vanished from sight. I expelled a frustrated breath, and turned to bark at Ibuka the moment he and Joseph stumbled out of the teeming mass of bodies. “How dare you, Ibu! How dare you speak to her like that?!”
“Who?” He cocked a brow.
“Her!” I yelled, infuriated afresh by his question.
He was unfazed by my choler. “Your girlfriend, you mean? Go on, call her your girlfriend,” he sneered. “See you, you can’t even say it.”
“What is the matter with you, Ibuka?”
“I don’t like her.”
“That’s no longer breaking news!” I snapped. “Can’t you just tolerate her for my sake?”
“Eze, you yourself, you don’t like her very much.”
“I’m saving you from yourself. You are not supposed to be with that girl. You’re supposed to be dating Anulika.”
“Well, news flash, Ibu,” Joseph cut in, “Anulika is dating someone else. Matthias, you remember him, don’t you?”
“I don’t know for this boy o,” I huffed exasperatedly.
“Abeg leave that matter,” Ibuka said, waving a dismissive hand. “Anulika is just doing with Matthias what you’re doing with Emmanuella. You both are fooling yourselves.”
I bridled. “Ibuka –”
“Besides,” he interrupted, “Amaka told me the other day that the two of them are having problems. Anulika is not showing Matthias much face again. And did I not tell you two the other day, about how she has refused to kiss him since?”
As I listened to him speak, my heartbeat quickened. I blinked, and tried to will it into its normal pace, but the beat wouldn’t slow down. The cavity in my chest seemed to fill up with indescribable emotions, as disjointed particulates of Ibuka’s words ping-ponged inside my head. Two of them are having problems… She has refused to kiss him… Two of them are having problems… She has refused to kiss him…
“This is interesting,” Joseph’s ponderous words snapped my consciousness back into focus. His expression was thoughtful as he turned to me. “Eze, what do you think? With Anulika shunning Matthias like this, what are you going to do about this?”
“Yes, Eze,” Ibuka said, staring at me as well, “what are you going to do about this?”
I stared back at them, feeling slight panic grip my insides, unsure what to do with the ball they seemed to think was in my court. And then, a small voice rasped insistently inside my head: Make a decision, Eze. What are you going to do about this?
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