THE LAST COMPETITION
WRITTEN BY NATHANIEL ANUMA
The hour of the day seemed to be calmed in Africa, Enugu city of Nigeria precisely. It’s a city with paragons and beautified with structures. It is like the capital of the Eastern nation, thus, flowing with citizens and foreigners. But something strange happened in the sight of a young boy called Ken; on his way home from school, he noticed the city deserted. No single person was found on the road even inside all buildings in the city. He adjusted his school bag, looked along the lonely road to see nothing but parked vehicles. It was like the world had come to an end. “Where is everybody?” he murmured. “Hello!!” he shouted as he began to hurry to their house, but only the echo of his voice came back, sounding repeatedly inside his ears. He began to run. His running steps were like the movement of sheeps on a tied road. In fact, the sound of his feet generated another echo. Immediately he barge into their house, he saw some men in black attire with their faces covered. He believed they were searching for something. “Hey, what are you looking for?” he dropped his bag with eyes roaming around the house. All the men turned at once in a way he became the next target. Ken looked at their hands to see guns. Therefore he became afraid. The expression could be seen in the backward movement of his feet.
“Where is it?” the men asked in union.
“What are you talking about? Where is everybody in the city?” Ken became frightened.
“Give us the key to the future” their voice came again, scary and weary.
“I don’t have it!”
“Then you must die” they aimed the guns at him then pulled the trigger. The sound of the guns became the sound of a school bell. Only then did Ken realize that he was sleeping and dreaming while a lesson was going on in the classroom.
Heartland comprehensive collage, one of the best schools in the city has recorded several winning trophies from many competitions. The students have a high capacity in the application of intellect in everything they do. This ability was inculcated in some of them while some inherited it. But no one knew the category Ken fell into because he hardly talked. So seeing him sleeping inside the classroom while lesson was going on was no big deal to Miss Ada, their mathematics teacher, who gazed at him before the bell rang for change of lesson. How would she know that the sleep yielded a remarkable dream to the young boy? Nevertheless, she said to him, “Mr Uba, I guess today’s topic is like a sleeping syrup to you”
Hearing that, all student stared at Ken because he was the only one bearing the surname, Uba. And only teachers are allowed to refer to students by their surnames. Before Ken responded to the hilarious question, he glanced at Mercy, a very beautiful girl whom he had wished to confess his feelings to, but low self esteem wouldn’t allow him. He straightened his eyes to the white board to read the topic written in a red colour marker; QUADRATIC EQUATION. He exhaled after comprehending the topic then began, “Miss Ada, the topic is not like a sleeping syrup but like a mortal combat game at the final level”
Students giggled at his statement, even Mercy. Only the teacher didn’t find it funny. Therefore she said, “Uba, I can see you always hallucinate about your mortal combat game. I guess that’s what you mean”
“Then what do you mean?”
“What I’m trying to substantiate is that the topic is as brutal as the game at final level.” Ken swallowed hard, meeting the teacher’s eyes who suddenly became speechless. His explanation simply proved that he hated mathematics even though he wasn’t a tabula rasa on it. Just then, another teacher walked into the classroom.
Nothing much interested Ken again until the very last minute of school hour. There was no teacher in the class room, though that didn’t escalate any form of noise, for all was up and doing, making sure they judiciously utilize the hard earned money used for their school fees except Ken who constantly glanced at his wristwatch. He also tapped one of his feet continuously as a clear indication that, even though his body was there, his mind and soul had left him home. He could see Mercy smiling at her immediate seatmate. Her teeth glow whitish in colour just like her school uniform; black skirt and white shirt. She weaved her hair locally like every other female students because they had a pattern of hairstyle for all. Just before Mercy turned to meet her eyes with Ken’s, he averted his own then stood up, flung his bag on his back and began to walk out of the classroom. To him, school was over. Surprisingly, on his way down the staircase, a pandemonium busted out from the ground floor of the building which was for art students alone while science students occupied the first floor. Each floor has three classrooms. Students rushed out to the corridors to witness the cause of the pandemonium; those were Wisdom and Jade.
Jade, a young girl of sixteen, moderate body physiology, tall and not too black in complexion, challenged Wisdom saying, “If you aren’t as blind as your father, you should have seen me passing without bumping your smelly body on me”
Wisdom, a young boy of seventeen, slim and a bit fair in complexion, couldn’t withstand the insult from Jade, so he landed a slap on her cheek which splashed blood out from her mouth then students ranting voices increased. “Next time, watch your smelly mouth before it put you into trouble just like your useless father” he retorted with a firing glare. Behind him was Mr Henry’s car, their principal. There were hibiscus flowers surrounding them with a broken wooden stool found close to Jade. Promptly, after she noticed the blood from her mouth, she grabbed the broken stool and flung it at Wisdom. Unfortunately, he dogged it, but the glass of Mr Henry’s car couldn’t. Therefore it broke open, activating the emergency alarm instantly. That attracted teachers who took them to the principal’s office.
Meanwhile, Ken heard and saw what happened. He didn’t show much interest rather began to walk home. Though while still within the school compound, the bell ran for school over. Miss Ada sighted him from the window of her office, wondering the kind of human being he was; introvert, smart and invariant. Just as she wondered, Ken placed a hand in his pocket, glanced back at the building of his classroom but Miss Ada thought he read her mind and noticed that she had her eyes on him through the window because the look was coincidental with her imagination, thereby giving her the impression that he saw her. Nevertheless, the young boy hurried towards the school gate like a bomber who tries to escape from his area of execution before the explosion of the bomb. On his way, he began to decode the cause of the fight between Wisdom and Jade. He didn’t know much about them personally but their statements got him thinking, “Why would they mention their fathers’ names on a primary issue that should have been settled without sarcastically refering to their fathers with such an insolent manner? It’s a family problem” he concluded. Yes, his thought was correct. Mr Dennis, Wisdom’s father and Raymond, Jade’s father, are currently having a disput at their company to the extent Mr Raymond sued Wisdom’s father to court..
That was s Saturday morning in Enugu high court of law located at 7th independence layout where the case went on. Wisdom was there for his father while Jade stood firmly for her father too. Who will say that the food made by her mother is not sweet? Therefore, whether the two parents were guilty or not, the children supported them. The law court was calmed until Mr Raymond pointed at Mr Dennis saying, “This idiot is a criminal! He made away and meddle with the documents!!”
That statement triggered an embarrassing response from Mr Dennis which set the court on fire. So the case was adjoined.
After Wisdom followed his father home that day, he stood in the sitting room, watching the father drink from the house bar located immediately after the living room. He could see him drinking and walking around the small space found in the bar. “Dad!” he called. The father didn’t respond until he called for the second time, “Dad!!”
“What?!” he shrieked, meeting his red alcoholic eyes with his son’s.
“Tell me the truth, did you break into Mr Raymond’s office and made away with his documents which he would have used to secure the position of a manager?”
The father didn’t respond, rather he brought out a pack of cigarette, lit a stick of it and blew out the smoke both from the nostrils and the mouth. “Let me ask you son, do I look like such a criminal?” he returned the question.
“Most criminals I know smokes”
“Are you by any way calling your father a criminal?” Mr Dennis glared, stepping out of the bar.
“I’m only telling you one of the features of a criminal which you are currently exhibiting!” Wisdom was bold enough.
Meanwhile, the father had come into the living room in a way he stood before him with a glass cup of wine in his hand. “Raymond is a compound fool!” he began. “He knows the position of the manager belongs to me with or without his documents. He’s only trying to set me up and get rid of me from the company. You have to believe me, son” his voice systematically went down like a man trying to win a woman’s heart. Yet, he inhaled another smoke from the cigarette through his mouth which finally passed out through the nose.
Wisdom began to walk away. “May be I’ll believe you when you stop smoking” his voice came at the entrance of his room.
“That i smoke doesn’t make me a bad person!” the father raised his voice, but the only thing he heard in return was the slammed door of the son’s room. He exhaled.
That incident happened on Saturday. No doubt the children of the two men had the same grudges in mind which resulted to the fight that broke the glass of the principal’s car on monday.
Just before Ken came out from the rightful thought at the school gate, he saw a car that sped into the school compound. It nearly hit him down if not that he had a clear vision of it prior to time. He saw the driver to be Jade’s father then continued walking. After some minutes, he noticed another car which sped through. That was Wisdom’s father. Seeing him, he smiled because he hardly fail when he guess. The motion used by both men proved to him that another pandemonium will escalate at school again, but that wasn’t his worry. His worries were his dream and the well being of his only poor mother, so he horried up home.
Mr Dennis and Raymond behaved themselves in the presence of students and the principal when they arrived. Of course the principal made them pay for the damage their children rendered to his poor car which he had been managing. They paid for it cash before taking their children home after hearing from Mr Henry what might have caused the fight.
Jade held her head in pain while inside her father’s car, in the front seat to be precise. No thought the slap by Wisdom caused her a headache.
The father notice her restlessness. “Are you okay, dear?” he asked, still got in control of the stirring wheel.
Her voice came, sounding weakly. “My head aches, Daddy”
“I’ll take you straight to the clinic now” he topped another gear then speedily turned to the left side of the road.
On the other hand, Wisdom and his father never changed words until both got home. Mr Dennis was the last person to enter into the house, therefore the sound of the slammed door echoed simultaneously with the voice of his mouth saying, “Why would you slap her!? Why would you even touch her?”
Wisdom flung his school bag on one the cushions, yet remained mute to the very voice of his father. He began to untie a black necktie that matched with his black trouser below the white long sleeves shirt that had no stain. The father walked straight to the house bar to pick a wine while he waited for him to answer. He poured an alcoholic drink in a transparent cup, lit up a cigarette then blew out the first smoke with a hand in his pocket, coming out to meet the son.
“You know what, son?” he began with a calmed voice, but Wisdom knew very well that his heart filled with anger that could make him receive a slap much more powerful that the one he gave to Jade. “You think smoking makes me bad but I never for once lay hands on your mother before she…”
“But that girl insulted you and I!” Wisdom interrupted with a high voice, his right hand aggressively pointing at the door.
“Is it what gave you the impetus to touch her!?” the father’s voiced seemed higher to overcome his son’s.
“I only bumped on her unknowingly!”
“Never you lay your hands on a woman! That’s my point!” He paused, while the son glared. The building suddenly became calmed like the reawaken tranquility of a forest after a bullet shot by a hunter at an ungodly hour of the night. Now Mr Dennis’ voice dramatically mellow. “What if something happens to her?”
“I don’t care, Dad. She should watch her mouth next time” he grabbed his bag to leave.
“There will be no next time, son” the father drank a quantity of the wine after which he smoked a quantity of the cigarette too and glanced at the unburnt potion of the stick–still a long burn to go. He nodded his head.
Wisdom surprisingly stared at him, though the father’s face became hard to see due to the random motion of the smoke around his face. “What do you mean by that?” he asked.
“You can’t stay with the daughter of that man. I’m changing you from Heartland comprehensive”
“Better, otherwise, I gonna kill her” he left to his room angrily.
“Touch not a woman! How many times am I gonna say that!” Mr Dennis allowed his voice to sale around the building. He knew his son to be stubborn but wise too.
A local bungalow, old flat roof and cracking walls were the features of Ken’s residence located at the ghetto side of the city. Only the less previlage occupies the place. The horrible smell from decomposing refuse, stagnant water and littered cellphone would remind a stranger of how low the residents are financially. Less I forget, the mode of dressing of young men there is nothing to write home about. They aren’t born with silver spoon rather they caved their own spoons by themselves, but certainly, there weren’t silver. As long as Ken struggled to make his spoon and that of his family a silver one, he prayed for God’s intervention.
Quizzically, he opened the door of their house just like he did in the dream, looking around with a strange hesitation at the door because it shouldn’t be open unless the mother was around which he didn’t find possible by that hour of the day. Why? Because she suppose to be at her shop, selling clothes. Nevertheless, he stepped forward. There was a twelve inched television in the local living room and torn cushions which had loosed its shapes for years. On the walls were photographs from their ancestors to his generation. Sooner did he hear the mother’s footsteps, coming out of her room until she became visible to his eyes. She was well dressed, looking like ‘sweet sixteen’. Although, Mrs Ukachi, the mother, hadn’t grown old. Any man could still have her for marriage, regarding her voluptuous outlook and complexion.
“Hi Ken, welcome” she said almost absentmindedly as she tried to wear her ear rings, putting on a black leggings trouser and a light gown.
Ken stared at her after a glance at his wristwatch. “Good evening, mother” he hung off his school bag.
“Is it four O’Clock already?” the mother faced a mirror that hung in the parlour still struggling to wear the ear rings.
He remaind silent for a while as he moved down to the dinning table for his food. “It’s sharp four”. He finally answered with another glance at the mother, wondering where she wanted to go to. Perhaps, to one of her friend’s birthday party which she had always told him on such occasions, but Ken believed the mother was seeing a man.
Mrs Ukachi looked at him through the mirror. “So how was school today?”
Ken opened the food. “Not cool”
“For the first time I found myself sleeping in a classroom while a lesson was going on”
“The subject must be mathematics” the mother smiled.
“Yes, it was, but unusual” the dream flashed back to his memory. Therefore he quit eating for a moment, while the mother finally dressed up, entered into her room and came out with a red purse that matched the color of her lips. A brown weavon dangled around her neck and shoulder. Just before she left, Ken asked in a suspicious tone, “I guess today is another friend’s birthday”
The mother read the suspicious quarry. Her voice sounded suspiciously too. “Yes, son.” She never wanted to look at him, rather pretended to dust her shoes. “That’s why I came back early from shop today” she added.
As an afterthought, Ken said, “I may still be a teenager but I’m no more a kid. You can tell me if you’re seeing a man, mother”
Mrs Ukachi became shocked at the statement because she never expected that. “It’s just a party, son. Bye, I love you” she began to catwalk towards the door.
“Bye, be careful!” Ken heard the door opened and closed.
After a week, Wisdom’s presence wasn’t noticed again in Heartland comprehensive collage. That got few people questioning his way about. Someone like Fred didn’t hesitate to call a spade a spade. His parents came back from UK not quit long ago due to immigration problems. Therefore, he was known to have the western lifestyle. He’s plumpy and bounces like a tennis ball. Due to the high level of exposure to quality education, his performance academically is quit terrific and confidentially reliable.
Just during break period, he bounced to Jade at the fringes of a large football Field where students displayed their psychomotor activities. She sat on a blue plastic stool, crossed her legs in a way part of her thighs reflected the morning sunlight. Though she quickly covered up when Fred approached.
“Hey, sup with you, black witch?”
“It’s not my name, I’ve told you severely. My name is Jade”
“That’s one hell of a name” he dragged a stool where he sat before her. “You’ve finally got Wisdom, my friend, running from you” he added.
Jade disdained. “What does that mean?”
“You’re the fucking reason why he changed school”
“How does that affect me?”
“You know what, Jade?” He leaned forward. “Back in the state, dude like Wisdom would be a perfect match for you in the peregrination of love life”
“Never will I start a journey of love with one whose father is a sadist and a criminal!” Jade snapped. Just then, an SS2 student came, telling them that Mr Henry, the principal, wanted them in his office. Fred looked surprised and at the same time scared.
“Why the dude wants us in his office?” he stood up woozily. “I’m only speaking to her. We ain’t fighting neither have we broken his car glass” he glanced at Jade who stared at him as if he had gone bonkers.
“You’re jumping into conclusion, Fred. And please, stop reminding me of that incident” she stood up too.
“Well, I’m not gonna change school like my nigger, Wisdom” they left.
Jade and Fred slid a curtain found at the entrance of principal’s office to see Ken and another female student standing before the wooden table of Mr Henry who quickly stood up from his seat. Before he began, Fred raised two of his hands up saying, “I didn’t touch her. I didn’t slap a demn blood out of her mouth! I was only speaking to her”
“What a hell are you talking about?” Mr Henry rushed a broad sheet on his table, unfolded it and looked at the four students. “What do you think is this?”
Ken folded his arms and glanced at the other students.
“This is a fucking map!” Fred glanced at Jade for support.
“It’s a map, not a fucking one. So watch your words here, Obidike” Mr Henry called him by his surname.
Jade met the principal’s eyes. “So what’s it all about, sir?” she asked.
Mr Henry hung the sheet on the wall behind him then began like a lecturer vividly explaining a wall chat to his students. “This is the map of the recreational land of zero filled with all features of an Ecosystem. Inside this land lies a pot of diamond hidden by the state government. They’ve set up a competition between our school and Kings collage, requesting for four students from each school who will embark on this competition. The chosen candidates must not only be intelligent academically but also smart and have a full knowledge of an Ecosystem” he paused, pointing at each of them. “I have gone through your academic performances and four of you are the least students qualified for this competition with the Kings Collage.”
Fred looked around then pointed at Ken saying, “You mean this dumb ass is also qualified for this co…”
“The dumb ass can actually kick your ass if you don’t get dumb now” Mr Henry interrupted amusingly.
Esther, the other female student who stood beside Ken raised a finger up. “Excuse me sir, what becomes the price of the winner?”
“Huge amount of money to you, the team, and to the school at large”
“What’s the duration of the competition?” Jade asked.
“What!?” Fred exclaimed. “Like we gonna pass the night over there?” He widened his eyes at the principal who bent slightly in a way he placed two hands on his table.
“Yes, that’s if you don’t get smart and get the pot of diamond on time” he retorted.
A smooth silence pave within the office as if a ghost just passed by. Even the ticking sound of a wall clock could be heard at that moment. Mr Henry looked at Ken. “So do you have anything to say, Uba?”
His voice came dryly. “Yes Sir”
“What?” Everybody listened carefully to hear from him.
“Thank you sir” Ken finally said, while the principal smiled.
“Uba, is that all you have to say?”
Fred shook his head. “This guy is weird”
Mr Henry straightened up, placed his two hands on his pockets and adjusted away from his seat. “I’ll keep updating you on this new comeuppance. I have already sent an email to your guardians or parents. You must not fail me. I repeat, you must not fail me. Have I made myself clear?”
The students responded in unionism. “Yes sir!”
At the residence of Mr Dennis, Wisdom Laird face up on his bed, wearing just a boxers and singlet. One could see a dack attractive hiar from his ankle to his thighs. Already, Fred had talked to him on the phone, telling him about the competitors from Heartland which Jade is among. Suddenly, he heard the car engine of his father. He listened, knowing when he came inside the house, to the bar and finally opened his room. Ken sat up.
“How’s Kings Collage? I guess you know you’re a king now”
Wisdom smiled with the father. “Cool, Dad. I have been a king”
“Good” he finally entered and shut the door behind. “I received an email from your new school, Kings collage to be precise. After going through your previous performances from your former school, they chose you as one of the candidates for the state competition coming up in a few days time”
“Yes, I know, but I want you to decline the email” Ken replied.
The father glared. “Why?”
“I don’t want to compete with Jade, Mr Raymond’s daughter, who is also a candidate in Heartland. Remember we are to abstain from that family”
The father sat down with him on the bed. “Yes, it’s true, but that’s more reason why you should compete with her, so that after I win the father in the court, you’ll also win the daughter in the competition, okay?” he patted his shoulder and stood up. “You must not fail me, son” he left the room…
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