I Need Someone To Send Me To School

Kamarudeen Mustapha

- Kamarudeen Mustapha

I had always wanted to go to school, but my uncle, my new God would not hear of it, he wanted me to become a carpenter. He had even taken me to my would - be - master, who was supposed to be my future role model, somebody he wanted me to grow up to become his like. Oh I hated everything about him immediately I saw him. He was the opposite of all I wanted to become: he was fat like a buffalo, short like a pigmy, and he waddled like an ancient duck when he walked, as if there was a big gourd between his thighs. Despite his many shortcomings, he was arrogant like a despot. There he was, eternally finding faults, shouting at his wife, hollering at his two daughters and swearing at his two apprentices.

He shook my uncle's hand, they thunder-clapped as their two palms met. Then they laughed simultaneously like a waterfall. Birds of a feather. He had only a towel strapped around his waist, and his stomach shot out like he had a pregnancy of nine months, and he rolled out dried mucus endlessly from his bloodshot eyes as if he had machines churning them out implanted in the eyes. After their wild pleasantries, he regarded me where I stood timidly in my shorts and torn vest interrogatively.

“Who's this?” he bellowed at my uncle and at the same time at me.

“Ah! Four or five years of apprenticeship with this over blown gnome will be like a dozen years in hell fire,” I thought to myself.

“My nephew,” my uncle answered. “I want him to learn carpentry from you.”

“This wasp? This gecko? This one that has no bones inside his skin? See the way he looks even.”

My uncle laughed. “Haba, Kanika! What has the boy done to you now?”

“Can this one work under me? I need healthy boys and not scarecrows with broomsticks for arms,” he said again dismissively and my feet shook.

“He wanted to go to school. I want you to take that stupidity out of him by all means. He's my late brother's son. He doesn't know schools are not built for orphans like him, and his father was such a prized drunk when alive,” my uncle ranted on, unmindful of the acidic bite of his words.

My would - be - master clattered again and my uncle roared along with him - the furies of two waterfalls. “Ah my good God, come to my aid today,” I prayed in my heart.

“This one? He would stay with me for six years if at all I should beat all the book nonsense out of him to make him a versatile and a proud wood worker.”

“That's no issue,” my uncle answered. “He's only twelve now, that plus six years make eighteen. He has a lot to learn. No problem,” my uncle said non challantly and sealed my fate just like that.

“Hey you! What's your name?” my new master asked as if I was a heaven away from him.

“Gafari,” I timidly answered.

And now he bellowed again. “Get out of here! Go and make yourself useful outside with your seniors. I don't believe in boys loitering about. There are a thousand things to do around the house and a million in the workshop. Now get going!”

I slipped out of the room, and joined two other apprentices who were busy doing chores around the house. Now I had become a houseboy two times over. First, at my uncle's house, and now, at my newly made master's house. Six long years under this oppression after I couldn't go to school as I wanted was not going to be entertaining. I believed it would kill me, and I didn't want to die.

The following day I ran away from home. I ran away from Oshogbo, our town. I ran to Ibadan, a city of better opportunities. A city I believed my ambition of going to school would be realised. Now I was away from my dreadful uncle and more dreadful would -be - master. Alleluiah! I quickly thought of ways to realise my dream of going to school. I hit on a very bright idea: I bought a cardboard and a marker, and I wrote on the cardboard in very big letters: “I Need Someone To Send Me To School”

I held this cardboard at the edges and raised it over my head, and that posture drew a million eyes to me. As they looked at me and my unique advertisement, I felt like entering into the ground for shame. I was shy and timid then but I held on all the same. I wanted to go to school, I couldn't bring myself to learn a trade, least of all carpentry. I didn't want to live my life making chairs and doors and climbing houses suspended on beams, like a monkey, making roofs. I wanted to become a doctor, or a lawyer or an army general like Yakubu Gowon or Olusegun Obasanjo or Ojukwu. I would also like to become another Mandela, and they all attended secondary schools at least. They were not carpenters, carpenters don't rule or make news, they are companions of wood and nails, and hammers and chisels, and saws. I had the Belief that I was destined for something greater. My companions would be scholastic minds and intellectuals, and men and women who were not hemmed to the boundaries of their native lands and for that I knew I needed to go school. And then, a man came to me, he was about thirty years old. He wore a jacket and pair of trousers of the same colour. He stood before me and said: “my madam says I should bring you.”

I felt happy, the dreams were coming to fulfillment. I had always

known my benefactor would be a woman - a mother-like figure. I had always missed my late mother, whom I didn't grow up to know, and had fantasized many beautiful rich women as my mother. Now, a madam of a grown up man wanted to see me. Then, she must be rich, and I had always envied and wanted rich people. They were always beautiful -- - and God, I loved beautiful people, and they always have the money to send their children to any school of their choice, either in Nigeria or abroad. I had always wished I had parents, I had always wished they were rich, then I would never have been at the mercy of my uncle, and never could an ordinary carpenter have told me to go to his backyard, to join his other underlings -- - to do chores.

And now we came before the almighty madam. She was all I wanted for a mother. She was tall, she was beautiful and she was obviously rich -- and above all, she seemed to have gone to some schools. She was unlike my aunt -- the wife of my uncle: short, ugly, illiterate and condescending all the same. She treated me more like a servant, nay, a slave, than a nephew.

The woman smiled at me, her teeth were white, or were they shiny and creamy? They were just beautiful. Her lips were red, her face was full, she was friendly. As I entered into her car, after she had beckoned, and sat by her side, I felt as if I had entered into the much heralded paradise and sat by a houri.

“So you want to go to school,” she spoke sweetly, her voice like a delicious dish. I had been hungry before, but now, my hunger had dissipated.

“Yes, madam.”

“What's your name?”

“Gafari. Gafari Diekola.”

“And why are you not in school?”

“My parents are dead.”

“Oh! What a pity!” she crooned. It was a song to my ears.

“I live with my uncle, my father's younger brother. He wanted me to learn carpentry. He took me to an illiterate carpenter. I didn't like him. They will make my head dull like their wood. My former headmaster, in the primary school I attended said I'm a brilliant boy -- that I should go to school. He told my uncle. My uncle made faces at him. He said he didn't have the money to send me to school. I said I would work on Saturdays and Sundays, and holidays to make money, to be able to send myself to school. He said no, so I ran away from home. Please help me. Send me to school ma. I will become your servant. I will work for you. I will wash and shine your car always. I can wash all your clothes. I'm not lazy. I will sweep your house clean always.”

The woman smiled for a long time. She was so sweet. She drew me

closer to her, she was like an angel. She patted my head. I felt loved. Perhaps she was my mother, who had just come down from heaven to help me. I have heard it said: they said dead mothers would at times come down from heaven to help their oppressed children. I was even told that when I was a baby, and my mother had just died, she used to come in the night to breastfeed me. Many were times they said they saw my baby mouth dripping with breast milk, and they said my father who was alive then said that, there was a time he was startled awake from sleep and met my mother suckling me. Immediately he opened his eyes, my mother dissolved into air, and I was lying there on my back on the bed, twitching my babyish limbs in the air, and milk overflowing my mouth.

I looked at the woman, hoping to see any sign to support my flight of fancy. I didn't know why. I expected her to say it point blank: you are my son. I'm your mother -- long dead -- but here now to help you. But she said: “Gafari, I will send you to school. You will attend the best secondary school in Nigeria here. Then I will send you to a university. After that, I will send you to England or America or India or Japan, or Jamaica, to read more. After you have read as much as you want, you will decide then either to come home to me or stay forever in America.” My heart flew to the stars! America! England! Jamaica! Then I remembered the song we used to sing in my old primary school:

“Once a time I went to Jamaica,
Once a time I went to America,
Once a time I went to Toronto,
How happy happy I was.”

“Madam! Madam! Madam! Will you send me to Jamaica in truth?” I asked. I truly loved Jamaica. I loved Jamaica because of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Reggae was like a religion then, and Bob Marley was its god.

“Gafari, call me mummy,” she said softly.

Then for the first time I noticed the man who brought me to her, he was by the steering wheel listening to what we were saying at the back of the car. He was obviously her chauffeur. Perhaps he was jealous of my good fortune. He had no one to send him to school when he was a boy. I smiled and quickly brought myself back to my paradise, as the woman continued:
“I will become your mother henceforth. I will go and see your uncle, and make all the necessary documents needed to adopt you properly as my son. If needs be I will pay your uncle to release you for me. I will take good care of you.”

I looked at her, she held me to her bosom, her breasts were like soft pillows under my lucky head. I had never laid myself on soft things before, I slept on torn mattress and hard floors. I sat on wooden chairs or

on bare floors, nothing fluffy or plushy had ever been my lot in life. I felt very happy. Mothers are good, having them a blessing. God, why did you kill my mother?

“Could you be my mother coming down from heaven to help me out?” I asked, wishing with all my heart she would say yes. She looked at my eyes a very long time. I could espy some pains in her eyes. This woman really felt something for me. She shook her head. “No, I'm not your real mother. You said your mother was dead. Those who are dead are gone forever. But I will become your new mother, your very loving mother. You will never be an orphan again. You will live like a prince, my son. I won't call you Gafari again, I will call you Prince. You will be my prince and I will be your queen mother. Let me take you home, your new palace, so that you can change from these mere rags to clothes that befit a prince like you, my dear.”

She drew me closer into her bosom, she kissed me with her beautiful red lips. It felt so good, I felt so happy.

And we got to her home, a very big house, enclosed inside a very big compound. There were flowers on the lawns. I saw an orchard planted with fruits of different types. I could also see a sparkling fountain faraway. But then there were also vicious looking guards at her gate. They glared at me with something close to hatred, and gloating. Well, they might not like me now, I thought, but when they learn I would be their young master, they would readily manufacture the needed love and respect.

I wanted to linger and savour the beauty of the environment for long, but my new mother eagerly dragged me inside. Perhaps she was eager to peel off my relics of a pauper's life.

We went from one room to another: there were rooms within rooms. We went through corridors and corridors, some well lit, some dimly lit, but everywhere was beautiful. Then she opened a door and viciously pushed me inside and banged the door after me.

Inside I met haggard, unkempt looking boys and girls, looking lost and forlorn in different stages of degeneration. I quickly tugged at the door knob and turned it. It didn't open.

“Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!” I cried, but no response came. I sank down amidst my captive brothers and sisters, and cried myself to sleep.

2 comments :

  1. Popoola Ibrahim AdekunleNovember 3, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    This story is another confirmation of your literary prowess. The story is very captivating, can't wait for the continuation. The remaining part pls.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A good and brief work of fiction,,, it has a simpler plot ans setting, It tends to reveal characters at a crucial stage rather than to develop them,,, what a hope and expectation,,,,, what a paradox of life ,,, highly ironical with theme of fate and destiny,,,, keep it up sir

    ReplyDelete

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