Diary of a Boy Soldier – 2

Even nature seemed to acknowledge my arrival by the way the trees gyrated in response to the cool evening breeze that blew with a familiar melody: w-e-l-c-o-m-e t-o a w-h-o-le n-e-w w-o-r-l-d. This natural ovation continued until I got to the school’s cark park.

The assembly hall was already filled with arriving candidates when I arrived there. The motorcycle that brought me looked totally out of place amidst the array of exotic cars lined at the car park. I awkwardly got off the motorbike and paid the motorcyclist who sped off behind me like a maniac.

The registration team was headed by Warrant Officer Horror. He was assisted by two other soldiers who looked scruffy in their over-sized camouflage uniform. W.O Horror’s facial design qualified him as a typical Zuru man from Kebbi State. He and his squad were committed to duty and in no time we {candidates from Lagos state} had completed our registration before dusk and were assigned to the various companies.

I ran my eyes round the room to establish a firm acquaintance with the environment that would be my new abode for next two weeks. I knew the blending in was not going to be so easy. This was the first time I had ever left home; despite the many faces and the flurry of activities around me, I just could not stop thinking of my siblings and the good times we shared back home, even though things weren’t all that rosy among us. I recalled the moonlight play we performed whenever there was power failure and the rat race that ensued between Mama Shina and me, and how I would run to my mother for refuge. I missed home, my friends, my mom and, well, my dad.

When it was mid night I tried to rest my head after the cumbersome journey. Sleep was far from me. I missed mom. My mind was filled with her inspiring words; it’s now that I began to appreciate her matchless role in uniting the whole family. I wished she could appear like a fairy godmother so that I could tell her how much I loved her. I was homesick and prayed for the interview to be over fast so that I could return toLagos.

The interview comprised of physical fitness, medical tests, written examinations in verbal and quantitative aptitude and oral interview, which came last.

The physical fitness race almost got my lungs out of my ribs. The 3 kilometer race succeeded in separating the wheat from the chaff. I ran at a pace I had never run before in my desperation to meet the prescribed requirements. I got to the Buns Villa gates and proceeded on a fast lane. I was already losing my initial gusto. I hobbled as a way of making it to the finish line that was still some kilometers away. A sharp bend to the right brought me to a dirty road. At this point, I collected my last tally and headed for the finish line. The lengthy undulating slope on my return was another hurdle I fought to surmount.

I must make it to the end,’’ I said to myself. I pressed on until I got to the finish line. Needless to say, it was not easy making it through this distance at my age. Some of the candidates who could not make the race were sent out of the interview, they had thus proved to be physically unfit.

Not all the candidates that we began the test together made it to the oral interview stage. Therefore everyone worked hard to make this stage. Top military officers constituted the selection board. Their mien was so unnerving. One after the other we entered for the oral test. Finally it came to my turn.

After one adjusted to their piercing eyes, the barrage of questions from them was another scare to overcome. Most of the time, I found myself ransacking my brain for an answer as a result of these men in uniform.

“Who was the first Prime Minister of Nigeria?’’ the question came for the second time. It was coming from a fellow whose dress was emblazoned with several medals that hung across his two breast pockets. He must be a General, I guessed. By this time, I was able to provide appropriate answers to the questions and subsequent ones alike. Piece of cake! Current affairs? My favorite!

The oral test ended on this note and I went away with high hopes for my selection. After the excruciating two weeks inZariaI returned home to meet my proud parents who had already spread the news of my glorious outing at the interview round my neighbourhood. An endless stream of family friends and relatives came to our house to welcome me back home. I became a celebrity overnight. As each set of visitors came I regaled them with stories of my wonderful experience at the military school, how we paraded in full military regalia and were drilled in rifle handling. They all listened with their eyes fixed on me and ears wide open like I was one wonderful thing from outer space. I wondered what their reaction would be when I was eventually admitted. I guess I would be adored like deity.

I found the period of waiting for the outcome of the examination really traumatic. Apart from spending sleepless nights, whenever I was awake, I swung between hope and despair. If the former should turn out to be case I knew I would face outright disgrace after gaining a celebrity status in my neighbourhood.

During this period, I observed my prayers fervently and walked with sobriety enough to make people take me for a priest. My anxiety notwithstanding, I kept my hope alive and daily scanned through the dailies to know if the results were out. In addition, I was never far from my radio or television set to catch any news on my admission prospects. When, after waiting for four weeks, I received no news, my hopes began to wane.

It was Friday, the first day of the beginning of our third term vacation. I sat snootily at the base of the mighty Iroko tree in the neighborhood. The haze of the harmattan season saturated the atmosphere. This climate, however, was rare in the stifling city ofLagos. The cold seeped through into my bone marrow as I watched cattle graze in the marsh behind my compound. From my position, I could see a man getting a suntan from the sun lounge. In the other street, kids were making splashes in a turquoise colored swamp.

I was happy to see another weekend. I lounged in the serene ambience of my usual hang out. I usually escaped here whenever I needed some quiet after the week’s stress. There was, however, something unique about this day that I could not understand. I can still remember that, on this evening, the harmattan was mild and the cattle egrets cheered livelier than ever. My pulse had literarily reached a crescendo. I knew that there was something in the air and I was anxious to see whatever it was to unfold fast to put my mind at rest. When the restlessness continued I decided to retire to my room. To relax my nerves, I tried listening to the radio but I was disappointed when the station I turned to only ended up upsetting me the more.

The presenter endlessly cracked empty jokes that gave me nausea, when he was not rambling he ran product commercials that, I was sure, nobody bothered to listen to. At a point I got fed up and was about turning off the radio when a piece of news caught my ears. I instantly halted to confirm what I had heard. It was the announcement of the names of successful candidates who made it at the military school interview. I mean the NMS interview. I could not believe my ears. I lifted the world radio receiver, which I had sneaked out of my dad’s room the day before. I pressed it firmly against my ear and listened keenly to every word of the presenter. It soon got to the turn of Lagosstate. Now, my arms and feet trembled as I was a sheep bound for slaughter slab. The first name came. It was not mine, and then followed the second and third names. Thought of failing. No! Not this time. I was still praying when the fourth name came with a big bang that almost threw me off my feet.

Gracious God! I could not contain my excitement at the presenter’s mention of my name. I barged out of the room to break the good news to my parents who were having an alfresco husband and wives meeting in front of the house. Mama Shina, one of my stepmothers, was already screaming my name the usual way she did whenever she tried to scold me. ‘’Ayo!’’ she kept shouting even when I got to where they sat. This woman could be annoying sometimes with her aberrant behaviour. I did not pay attention to her onslaught. This made her frown her face and twist her lips in reprimand as I got closer to her. The scowl on her face only twisted her egba tribal marks, etched deep into her two cheeks, out of place to make look uglier than I had ever seen her. Sometimes I wondered what attracted my father to her.

I ignored her, lest she should disrupt my celebration. I broke the news of my success to my mother with a big hug. An atmosphere of merriment instantly descended on our home. My father’ wrinkled face was set aglow with a smug smile. He gave me a pat on the back and said, ‘’ you’re truly an illustrious son, keep it up’’

My mother soon attracted the attention of the whole neighbourhood with her jubilation and praises to God. She danced so much that she completely forgot that she had a waist pain that resumed whenever she overstretched her waist. However, on this occasion, her excitement seemed to be the suitable antidote for the chronic ailment. I began to fear she might arouse the envy of the other women who reluctantly joined in the celebration. While I could imagine the depth of the envy provoked in Mama Shina’s heart as I announced the news of my success, I knew she had no other choice than join in the celebration, willy-nilly.

Three days later, a postman delivered the admission letter at the post office in my district. I picked it up on the fourth day. The requirements were clear. I read them out to my parents and eagerly looked forward to the day of my departure to my dream school. I also did a little shopping.

In no time, the news of my success had spread round the suburb. What a sudden rise to stardom! The once black sheep, now the white horse in the family! Whenever I walked along the streets of Mushin I received compliments from people. One they accorded me being, ‘’omo soja ti wa’’ {meaning ‘’ our very own boy soldier.’’{They often accompanied this with a salute in the manner of the ‘’area boys’’ who roam the streets ofLagos. This trend continued until the eve of my departure.

On that day, elderly men and women dipped into their bottomless bag of advice to give me as I could care to take along. At a time, I got tired of the seemingly endless stream, especially when some of them repeated the same adage over and over again, as a way of tarrying till they were served fermented palm wine. I prayed for them to leave so that I could prepare for my journey toZaria. My prayer was answered when they all left after consuming up to about 50-litres worth of fermented palm wine. They staggered and fell on top of one another as the waddled out of our compound.

I went to bed quite late. Throughout the night, thoughts of the military school occupied my mind. The second day, I woke up on the good side of the bed with much energy to make the journey to theNigerianMilitarySchool. I met my parents already awake. My mother was about performing ablution. I heard her mention my name in her prayers.

My father sat proudly in his cozy cane chair and watched closely as I tidied my belongings. I knew he was proud of me. My siblings later joined us. Emotions flowed freely as they watched me pack up my things one after the other. I could sense them already missing me. It was heart warming to see that in spite of our intra-family differences, we still loved one another. A drop of tears ran down Shina’s cheeks. He had always been my henchman. We were closer to each other with any of my other siblings. In fact, if I was sure to miss any one of them badly, it was him, my aversion for his mother not withstanding.

The final prayer before my departure was more or less a family reunion. While my dad led the prayer, my mum held my arms passionately throughout. Everyone waved me goodbye in a rather passionate manner. At a point I began to wish that I could stay.

The three of us, my father, mum and I – left for the park. I was overwhelmed with emotion when my mum began to speak to me in riddles. I knew she meant well; after all, I was all that she had. ‘’my son,’’ my father too had chipped in as they bade me farewell.’’ Always remember the son of whom you are.’’ These words echoed in my mind throughout my journey to the new world. At last, I felt my wildest dream of becoming a boy soldier coming true.

 



11 thoughts on “Diary of a Boy Soldier – 2” by phronesis (@phronesis)

  1. Such innocence. I’m so afraid for this boy.

    Nice going.

  2. Tell, tell, tell. Maybe that’s the nature of this particular work.

    There were a few typing errors;
    ‘As the(y) waddled…’4th to the last paragraph. I can’t remember where I detected the other.

    Welldone.

  3. Nice one.Can the boy soldier on in the NMS?

    A few typos,keep writing

  4. I like….. Reminds me of Eze Goes To School, in a good way…

  5. Really nice story. Aside from the typos, you really can write.

  6. Am really loving this…

    Keep it coming and Well Done!!!

  7. This is a great story,,, and what the United NAtions is trying to eradicate in our beloved home Africa

  8. It was interesting…i had fun reading ds,keep writing

  9. Lovely story…I would closely follow it

  10. @phronesis, the story is continuing smoothly. The narrative of events is following a straightforward chronological order, which makes it easy to follow the story.

    Again, I feel that the telling needs some work; the language still sounds somewhat overblown, and the word usage is not always appropriate. For example:

    ” I recalled … the rat race that ensued between Mama Shina and me.”

    ‘Rat-race’ is used to refer to the day-to-day hassle of going to work to put food on the table. I’m guessing that you meant to say that the MC and Mama Shina were always quarrelling and antagonising each other; ‘cat-and-mouse’ might be a better phrase to use, or you could just simply use ‘arguments’.

    Then this:

    “I was still praying when the fourth name came with a big bang that almost threw me off my feet.”

    The way you write this makes me think that there actually was a loud noise. It would be better to write this:

    "I was still praying when I heard the fourth name, and I felt a shock like a big bang that could throw me off my feet.”

    The use of simile (by using the ‘like’) makes it clear that you are just using a figure of speech, and ‘big bang’ is not meant to be taken literally.

    Lastly, this:

    “The physical fitness race almost got my lungs out of my ribs. The 3 kilometer race succeeded in separating the wheat from the chaff. I ran at a pace I had never run before in my desperation to meet the prescribed requirements. I got to the Buns Villa gates and proceeded on a fast lane. I was already losing my initial gusto. I hobbled as a way of making it to the finish line that was still some kilometers away. A sharp bend to the right brought me to a dirty road. At this point, I collected my last tally and headed for the finish line. The lengthy undulating slope on my return was another hurdle I fought to surmount.”

    This is a straightforward description of an action sequence, so it would be better to describe the events in chronological sequence, and tie the events together to form a flowing narrative. Also, you can avoid repetition. So you could have this instead:

    “The three-kilometre physical fitness race was meant to separate the wheat from the chaff. In my desperation to meet the prescribed requirements, I started by running at a pace that I had never run before. By the time I got to the Buns Villa gates, I felt as if my lungs were bursting out of my ribs, and I was losing my initial speed. But I continued, and eventually a sharp bend to the right brought me on to a dirty road, within sight of the finish line. I collected my last tally from one of the race officials and headed for the finish, struggling up the undulating slope as I did so.”

    Keep writing.

  11. Incisive! Thanks Tola once again. I have already started working on them. I think you have indicated very detailed points. it shows how much attention you have given to this work. god bless you.

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