FOREWORD: Hello, guys, two weeks ago, a series, CORPERS’ LODGE, wrapped here on MyMindSnaps. Following its end is the debut of another series, THE MATRIX WITHOUT LOADING. It is penned by a good friend of mine, Onuora Oniawu, and it is goddarn hilarious. The series is going to be pure comedy, something you won’t want to miss. So stay tuned every Saturday and let Onuora tickle you to death.
And do subscribe to the blog to get updates of all your favourite posts right here on MMS.
“Eze, what are you still doing?” Ibuka hollered as he walked into the chaos that was SS1B.
It was Tuesday morning, and everyone was in a dither over our respective classes for the first period. The class was about to go two separate ways, the Science students to the Chemistry Lab, and the Arts students to the Social Sciences studio for their Government lesson. Desk tops were banging shut and there was a lot of chatter and human traffic in, out and about the classroom.
Ibuka approached the corner where I was standing beside the desk I shared with Joseph. He was seated, writing on a piece of paper.
“What are you waiting for Joseph for?” Ibuka said, his voice coloured with a tinge of exasperation. “We’re not going to the same place with him.”
As Joseph looked up to scowl at him, I said, “It’s not that.” Gesturing at the paper Joseph was writing on, I continued, “I’m waiting for him to finish filling his class form. Our form teacher said we should have the forms on her desk this morning.”
The class forms had been distributed to us yesterday by Ms. Eketi, for us to mark out the subjects we’d be taking in SS1, the subjects which would characterize our future career aspirations.
“And he couldn’t have finished filling it when everybody else was doing their own?” Ibuka said.
I shrugged in a world-weary manner. “Well, you know Joseph.”
“Hey! I’m right here,” he said, rising, apparently finished.
“Yes, and we’re trying to ignore that and get on to our class,” Ibuka rejoined. “You know, that class where you won’t be joining us.”
Joseph simultaneously stuck his tongue out at Ibuka and blew him a raspberry, as he handed me his class form.
“How does it feel, Joe,” Ibuka continued, as he thrust out a clenched fist to Joseph’s face in a microphone mime, taking on the brisk countenance of a reporter demanding a statement, “to know that you won’t be sitting next to Eze during a lesson for the first time in three years?”
Joseph swatted his hand out of the way as he reached for his books. Turning to me, he snarked, “Eze, make sure you don’t let this one out of your sight. You know how hopeless he can get when left on his own.”
As I laughed, not to be outdone, Ibuka sallied back, “You sef, make sure you pay attention in class. Or at least get a serious seat partner. Without Eze to cover you, we don’t want the Government teacher catching you trying to get Cynthia Ibeto’s attention and asking you a question whose answer you don’t know.”
“Good one, Ibu,” I gasped, doubling with laughter.
“Aww, look at them fighting over their daddy,” a female classmate, Ezinne Nwadike said in a mocking drawl as she moved past us. “And I thought it was the parents who fought for the custody of the children.”
“Come and be the mummy, and maybe we’ll play it that way,” Joseph tossed at her.
“Why, Joseph, is that your way of asking me out?” The girl paused long enough to place a hand theatrically on her chest and bat her eyelids at him.
Joseph returned a roguish grin to her. “What if it is?”
Ezinne gave a delicate shrug. “Well, I’d say it’s a good thing we’re both headed for Government. We can talk all about it on the way.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Joseph slammed his desk shut, wagged his eyebrows at Ibuka and I, before sauntering over to Ezinne’s side.
“Just so you know,” Ibuka called after him, “this was not what I meant when I said for you to get a serious seat partner.”
“Go for your Chemistry, Ibuka!” was Joseph’s parting shot.
I chuckled as I tucked the sheaf of class forms inside my Chemistry textbook. Ibuka was watching me as we made our way to the exit.
“You’re not taking those to your form teacher right now, are you?” he said in a voice that warned that I’d better not be.
“I am –”
“Oh come on, Eze!”
“Ms. Eketi made her instruction clear that she wanted them on her desk this morning.”
“Did she assign anyone that task?” At my uncomprehending look, he said, “Did she say, ‘Eze, you must bring the forms to me this morning’?”
I shook my head. “No, she addressed Njideka actually –”
“Exactly! Because she’s the class captain now. And you’re not.”
“No. No buts.” Ibuka’s reproachful forefinger wagged in a sideways motion before my face. “Anytime your form teacher does not specify who amongst you two should carry out an assignment, it is automatically the class captain’s responsibility. You, my friend” – he tugged the stack of forms back out from my textbook – “are just the assistant. Less responsibility, you hear me?”
He looked around, and soon caught sight of Njideka amongst the throng of SS1A and B students moving in the direction of the Chemistry Lab. She was flanked by two of her friends, and they were chatting animatedly away over a piece of gossip. Ibuka’s face firmed with purpose when he saw her.
“No, Ibuka –”
But he was already on his way. I hastened after him.
“Njideka!” he called.
The three girls saw us and slowed their strides.
“Yes?” Njideka answered, looking expectantly, as we stopped before them, first at Ibuka, then at me, before returning to Ibuka.
“Here, these are for you.” He held out the sheaf to her.
“Uh, what are they…” Hesitantly, she took the papers from him.
“Your class forms,” Ibuka answered. “You’re the class captain now, aren’t you? Well, you get to deliver them.”
“But, Eze…” Her expression became quizzical as she faced me.
“No, not Eze. You,” Ibuka interrupted. “It’s girl power, right? Don’t slack, my dear. Do your job, capisce?”
Njideka’s lips tightened and her eyes sparked with irritation. Her friends glowered silently on.
“Good,” Ibuka said with a brief bright smile. “I’m glad we understand each other. Now, some of us have to continue on to the Chemistry Lab.” He pirouetted and walked away from the livid girls. Struggling with my mirth, I hurried after him.
“Chai! Ibu, you’re wicked,” I chuckled.
“What, just imagine. She is walking jejely to the lab to go and get a good seat, expecting you to do her job and then come late to our very first Chemistry class. No nau.”
“Oh, so that’s what this is about…getting a good seat, and not about standing up for your friend…” I grunted in mock-pain and clutched at my heart. “I’m so hurt.”
“Gerrawayu!” he rebuked with a laugh.
Soon we got to the chemistry lab. It was a spacious room, spartanly furnished with burnished high tables and stools, white marble-topped shelves that ran round the perimeter of the walls, upon which were arranged various laboratory equipments. Some of the equipment was also set up on the tables – bunsen burner contraptions fixed in place, with glass jars of overcast liquids organized next to them. Everything looked finespun, delicate, a fascinating novelty, not at all like the sturdy environments we’d grown used to in the previous classes we took outside the classroom.
Once inside the lab, Ibuka made a beeline for one of the front seats in the centre of the room.
“No!” I objected, pulling at his arm before he could drop his books on the table-top.
“We are not sitting in the front.”
“Well, we are not sitting in the back, the way you and Joe usually like doing,” he countered.
“Well then, let’s compromise.”
“How about there?” He pointed at the front seat closest to the window on one far end of the room.
“Ibuka!” I heaved.
“What? It’s not directly in front of the teacher,” he protested.
“It’s still not a compromise, because it’s a front seat.”
His lips firmed with displeasure before he stated categorically, “I am not going any further than three seats behind, Eze.”
“Fine! Let’s sit at the back of that one.” I pointed at the window seat behind the first one he’d indicated.
He stared at it, hedged and then shrugged. “I guess that’s good enough.” And he started for the seat. I followed after him, shaking my head at the unfair compromise.
For several minutes, no teacher made an appearance, and it didn’t take long for the class to get rowdy. As Ibuka and I conversed with the classmates seated directly behind us, I noticed with some dismay that no one had come to settle down in front of us. That seat remained empty, effectively placing us in the teacher’s direct line of sight, an occurrence I’d been seeking to avoid. I craned my neck to sweep a glance across the rest of the room, and I saw a few empty spots. I slumped back into my seat with a sigh of frustration, when I quickly realized that there was no way Ibuka would budge from here. Anything short of splitting from him meant I was stuck here at the front.
“Are you mad!” someone’s bellow suddenly cut through the din.
Attention was diverted from individual causerie to the budding scene at the back of the room. Toby Onwumere, easily one of the biggest boys in our set and the ‘bully la grande’ of SS1B, hulked before the significantly smaller Henry Ossai from SS1A.
“What did I do?” Henry remonstrated. “All I said was that you should not touch those test tubes –”
“You don’t tell me what to do, you this little rat” Toby said in a loud growl.
“Eh, I’ve heard,” Henry said, “but that is not why you’ll call me a rat –”
His word suddenly choked to a stop, for just then, Toby had swung his hand, his fist sweeping a wide arc through the air for his face. Henry’s reflexes kicked in and he weaved out of the way, prancing backward as Toby staggered forward, his lost aim slightly upsetting his balance. The collective gasps that had started from the spectators at the sight of Toby lashing out turned into a roar that mixed approval for Henry and mocking commiseration for Toby.
“You idiot!” Toby snarled.
“What did I do nah?” Henry said imploringly.
“Why nah! What did I do again?”
Toby drew himself to his full height and began advancing toward Henry, who kept moving hastily back, his pace picking up with each step Toby took toward him. Most of the boys in the room began to cheer loudly, some encouraging Henry to keep away from the bully, and others goading Toby on.
“I said, come here!” Toby growled, his face an ugly mask of furious embarrassment.
“Toby, oya please…Abeg…” Henry implored as he darted through seats and sidled past classmates.
“Come here – look, if I catch you eh!”
“Toby, abeg na… Why you dey do like this?”
“I said, come here let me beat you!”
In that instant, a sharp outburst of laughter split through the class. Even the irritation that had been etched on Ibuka’s face at the ongoing spectacle gave way for amusement at the absurdity of Toby’s remark.
“Toby, kilode?” Ayo Israel, a classmate of mine, chortled. “Which one is he should come to you for you to beat him? Shey na so beat hungry am reach?”
“If you know what’s good for you, Henry,” Toby continued, too angry to care for the comic relief he was providing, “better come let me beat you! Because, if I catch you…”
“Toby, please now, shebi I’ve been begging you…”
“I said, come here –”
“What is going on here!” a sharp voice sliced clean through the ruckus.
Startled motions erupted in the lab, as students rushed about, reclaiming their seats and adjusting themselves to face the irate teacher in front of the room.
Our Chemistry teacher was Mrs. Ewelike, a short, slim, silver-haired woman with dark, gimlet eyes and glasses perched on the end of her nose. She appeared as elegantly put-together as the pieces of apparatus in her small fiefdom.
An awkward quiet settled on the class for about four seconds, before someone remembered we ought to greet the teacher. That someone proceeded to slam his palm down on the lab table.
Kpam! Kpam! Kpa –
“Will you stop that!” Mrs. Ewelike’s voice was like a whiplash that put at instant end to that someone’s foolishness. “Do you think this place is your classroom, where you can act like the unruly little brats that you are?”
She paused to stab her bespectacled fury at us, as though daring anyone to counter her admonishment. No one did. No one spoke. No one even risked a cough.
“The two boys I just walked in on creating a scene – out, now!”
The entire class watched as Henry and Toby meekly stepped forward. The twin laser rays lifted from us and settled on them.
“Can either of you tell me,” she began icily, “why you both decided to turn my laboratory into a playground?”
Henry opened his mouth, produced a croak and shut it again. Toby placed his gaze faithfully on his feet.
“Is someone going to answer me or do I have to rip both your vocal chords out to get my answer?” She took a step forward, as though braced to make good on her threat.
Her advancement released Henry from his speechlessness. “Ma, it’s not me… It’s Toby…he wanted to touch one of the test tubes, and then I told him not to do that… And then he got angry and started wanting to beat me…”
“Come here let me beat you,” I mumbled close to Ibuka’s ear, and our bodies shook with stifled laughter.
“…and I was just trying to get away from him, but he kept telling me to come let him beat me…”
This time, it seemed everyone else was fighting back their hilarity, as short bursts of subdued titters broke out here and there, muffled sounds that immediately petered out when Mrs. Ewelike returned her glare to us.
“What’s your name?” she fired at Henry.
He flinched before answering, “Henry Ossai, ma.”
“Is Toby the name your parents christened you with, you idiot!”
He recoiled from her upbraiding, before muttering, “Tobenna Onwumere.”
“Very well. You, Tobenna, move your things to that seat.” She was pointing at the seat in front of Ibuka and me.
When Toby saw where she was instructing him to relocate to, his eyes widened with alarm. “But, ma…” he stammered.
“Yes? Is there a problem?” Her tone implied that there better not be.
“No, ma, there’s no problem,” he mumbled.
“Good. You may get seated.” She dismissed the two boys.
Mrs. Ewelike waited until Toby had moved to his new seat, dropping with an angry huff in front of me, before she went to the chalkboard and scrawled ‘Chemistry’ in bold letters at the top.
“My name is Mrs. Ewelike,” she began when she turned to face us again. “And I’ll be taking you on this subject for the duration of your senior year. Every time it’s the period for your Chemistry class, I expect you all to come here, settle down quietly and endeavour not to touch anything until I tell you to.” Those bespectacled laser points oscillated in Toby’s direction. “I don’t have to tell you not to touch any of those jars in front of you, Mr. Onwumere. That may be diluted hydrochloric acid, but it can still burn and turn your skin into that of the goat you slaughter for Christmas.”
This woman is a bloodthirsty piece of work sha.
Ibuka and I turned to stare in horror at the flask labeled ‘HCl’ positioned on a metal stand atop Toby’s table. Cloudy aqueous material swirled ominously inside it. Toby shifted an inch away from the jar.
“Now…” Mrs. Ewelike began again.
“Uh, excuse me, ma,” a female voice called out courteously.
The attention of the class turned to the doorway where two figures were standing, waiting to be permitted inside. The one who had spoken was Rita Ade-Cole, the Head Girl. Beside her stood another girl clad in the senior year school uniform of white shirt and knee-length navy blue skirt. She was slightly-built, almost frail, intensely pretty, with dark eyes under scant eyebrows. Her hair was cropped to a short afro, something no senior girl would ever do. All the girls liked to braid their hair, a norm which was seen as enhancing their femininity.
“Yes, Rita, how may I help you?” Mrs. Ewelike said, waving them in.
The three of them came together, and a brief low-toned conversation ensured between the Head Girl and the Chemistry teacher. The smaller girl stood, watching them, nodding occasionally when Mrs. Ewelike directed an inquiry at her.
“Do you think she’s a new girl?” Ibuka asked me.
“Obviously,” I answered.
“She’s so pretty,” he said on a sigh.
I glanced at him. The boy looked smitten.
Mrs. Ewelike cleared her throat, drawing the class’s attention back to her. Rita was leaving. The woman began addressing us, one hand placed on the second girl’s shoulder.
“Class, this here is Miracle Adebayo. She is a transfer student from Ekiti State, and will be joining us as a student of SS1B.”
My classmate… Interesting.
“Miracle, take that seat over there,” Mrs. Ewelike said, motioning in our direction.
She’d just instructed the new girl to sit next to the class bully!
With a bearing that did not betray any of the discomfiture you’d expect from a newcomer, Miracle walked with short steps toward us. As she approached, I could see that her eyes were large and luminous which, when coupled with her delicate features, gave her a waiflike appearance. She was like a porcelain doll.
Ibuka was right. Miracle Adebayo was a really pretty girl.
As she settled beside Toby, the boy quickly turned on the charm.
“Hi,” he murmured as Mrs. Ewelike resumed the class, 2I’m Toby. And you are?”
“The girl the teacher just introduced,” she riposted.
Ouch! Ela oju kan! I raised a hand to cover one eye as I silently winced at Toby’s pain.
He scowled and drew back from her. Paying no attention to him, Miracle touched a finger to the surface of her table and I saw her make a face as it came off with a film of dust. Ibuka must have also noticed her slight discomfort, because he immediately leaned forward, and held out his handkerchief over her shoulder.
“Here, you can use this to clean it.”
“Is that not for you?” she said when she angled her head around. Her expression was guarded, like she was looking for an excuse to decline the offer.
“No, it’s not. I just found it on my seat. Go ahead, use it.”
I gaped at the boy, stunned by his smooth lie. Who are you and what have you done with my friend?
“Thanks,” Miracle said. And a tentative smile, so quick as to be almost nonexistent, flashed across her features. I wondered whether I’d imagined it.
“What’s your name?” she said when she returned the hanky a moment later.
“Chukwuibuka, but my friends call me Ibuka.”
“I’m Miracle, and my friends call me Mimi.”
Beside her, I observed a thundercloud descend on Toby’s face as the import of that moment sank in. the new girl, who he’d set out to charm, had chosen her first male friend. And it wasn’t him.
“…so Chemistry is the study of matter and energy and the interactions between them,” Mrs. Ewelike droned on. “It tries to explain the things that make up matter and the reactions that took place in the formation…”
Toby looked away, turning his back firmly to me and began scribbling on his notebook. Then he carefully tore out the page, folded it, and turned back long enough to place it on the table top before Ibuka.
For a moment, the two of us stared transfixed at the folded leaf. Then I reached forward and unfolded it. Written across the page in a bold scrawl were the words: Back off, fatty! You have been warned!
I heard Ibuka draw a sharp inhalation. I was startled too, but on the heels of that emotion came anger. I felt my annoyance crest inside me, firing up my heartbeat as it surged. Who did this boy think he was? I grabbed my pen and began writing beneath his words.
Go to HELL!
I was about to refold the paper when Ibuka clamped his hand down on mine. “What do you think you’re doing?” he whispered. His voice sagged with trepidation.
“…Chemistry tends to focus on the properties of substances and the interactions between different types of matter, particularly reactions that involve electrons…”
“Do you like this girl or not?” I whispered back.
Ibuka’s eyes were large pools of emotions, expressions which spilled out and chased themselves across his face. He swallowed hard, and then nodded slowly. “Yes…I do.”
“Good.” I gave a firm nod. “Then that’s all that matters.” I doubled the paper over and tapped Toby on the shoulder. When he turned his profile to us, I slipped the sheet back to him. Then I took a deep breath, smiled reassuringly at Ibuka and turned my attention back to the lesson.
It is on!
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