“Dominic, what are you doing?” Uncle Jimmy was on top of his voice.
“Sorry sir, I’m only…I don’t know?” I said, shuddering in fear.
“What are you saying? You don’t know what..ooh, I forgot you even got zero in your test.”
“Yes sir. I don’t know but…”
“But what? Come here; let me see what you’re doing when your classmates are doing their sums.”
“Sorry sir, I’m only…I don’t know.” My classmates started laughing out loud, shouting: “Olodo, Olodo, Olodo” before the teacher banged his table, saying “stop.”
“Wow, this is profound.” He looked at me, head to toe, like I was a standing statue of the Mother of God.
“See me after this class.” He said and then puts my paper in his file.
“Thank you sir, I responded fearfully.
“Class, write this down as your assignment. This is to be submitted first thing tomorrow morning. Are you all getting me?”
“Yes sir.” We responded.
Uncle Jimmy wrote some arithmetic problems on the whiteboard. There were fourteen questions in all. Instead of copying the sums, I was thinking about my ordeal: meeting this stern man at the end of the class. It was a concern of some sorts and I prayed and hoped for a non-punitive encounter.
“This is to be submitted first thing tomorrow morning. What did I say class?”
“This is to be submitted first thing tomorrow morning.” We shouted before we heard the ringing sound of the bell. It was the end of school hours; while I sat behind, waiting for Uncle Jimmy, my classmates were running out of the class like athletes on a race.
“For how long have you been doing this?” He asked when everyone was gone.
“I can’t remember sir; I only play around with words.”
“You mean play around?”
“Yes sir. I play around with words, writing at the back of my notebooks, on papers and jotters. I don’t know what I’m doing sir. Don’t punish me sir. Please, don’t flog me with your koboko.”
“No, I won’t punish you Mike.”
“Thank you sir.” I set my right foot forward to move when he called me back.
“Mike, show me whatever you write.”
“I will always do that sir; I’ll show you what I write today first thing tomorrow morning.” I assured him.
“That’s my boy. You can go now.” I ran out and immediately sighted my mummy speaking with the Headmaster. She always came to pick me up and unlike Uncle Jimmy, I had never seen her flogging anybody.
“So what did my baby learn today?” She asked in her characteristic jovial manner. The Headmaster was gently and gingerly walking to his office.
“I leant that children should obey their parents.”
“That’s my baby.” My mummy kissed me before she opened the door of the car for me.
On our way home, she stopped on the way to buy some books and she threw them on my laps as she handled the Kia’s steering wheel. I flipped through the pages of one of the books and saw something like what I was writing that drew Uncle Jimmy’s attention.
“Mummy, I write something like this too but I don’t know what to call it.”
“Ooh, that’s a poem!” She exclaimed.
“So this is a poem.” I repeated after her.
“Yes son.” She responded with a smile.
“Mum, my teacher asked me to always submit whatever I write to him.”
“That’s good, always do that; I’m proud of you my baby.” She muttered as if she knew the implication of doing that; failure to that meant Uncle Jimmy beating me with his koboko.
“Thank you mummy, I love you.” I breathed into her ears.
“I love you too son.” She said as she turned at the Command High School junction, joining the cars entering the barracks. When we reached home, she went through my notebooks before we went eating.
After taking my lunch, I used the remaining hours of the afternoon to write even though I didn’t know what I was doing. I stopped at a point to do my arithmetic assignment before I continued.
The next day in school, while submitting my arithmetic assignment notebook, I submitted the jotter I used in writing by the side. During recess, while my classmates were going out to play, Uncle Jimmy called me.
“Did you write this yourself?” His face shimmered with surprise.
“Yes. My mummy even told me what to call it.”
“What did she say?”
“She said: ‘This is a poem.’”
“That’s great! Make sure you never stop this; what beautiful lines they are.”
“I will not stop Uncle Jimmy. It’s something I just see myself doing.”