Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Elastoplast Cup

The names have been changed to avoid fingers being pointed directly at me.

Her eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. Mugo was quickly enraptured by the white clarity in which her dark irises floated on and almost forgot to hear what she said next.

"It's you!" she hissed, instinctively backing away from him.

From a far away place, Mugo heard a gaggle of laughter from his boys and his mind zoomed off in fantastic rewind.

*****

The Std 1 class of Mrs Phylis Ogot was his first exposure. The first few weeks of school had been fun, even more so because Mrs Ogot didn't know just how many other kids Mugo was already friendly with. Every other day he was reassigned a desk mate, and almost each combination of boys he was paired to sit with had brought on another installment of in-class bedlam. While Mugo was smart enough to pay attention and buckle down when necessary, his comrades were more blatant in their disregard for Mrs Ogot in class, a transgression for which Mugo would pay for as lead instigator.

"Duncan was not like this before he was sitting with you Mugo. He hasn't done his English exercises today and yet he was doing them last week. What are you telling him?" The harangue would always come before a six stroke whipping with a three foot piece of garden hose across the back of his legs. It wasn't his fault that Duncan didn't want to finish his work before they embarked on the more interesting rubber band wars. And Duncan only got four canes and a warning, while Mugo was stuck with six delicious ones and a threat to get Mummy and Daddy involved. The previous week with Philip and the week before that with William it was the same thing. Mugo would find himself walking back to his seat, back bowed, rubbing the welts on the back of his legs, hot tears lingering in his eyes on the edge of a shameful dispatch down his face.

Mrs Ogot was keen to tame Mugo's hyperactivity and to also channel his seemingly effortless ease at school work. There was a girl in the class, shy almost to a fault, who didn't seem to have grasped the alphabet fully, let alone write her name on top of an exercise book. She would prove to be the interactive brick wall that Mugo would not be able to get into mischief with. For now. Then when the turf got more familiar, Mugo's brilliance would rub off on her. Mrs Ogot smiled her knowing smile. She should've thought of that weeks ago.

"Catherine, I want to grab your bag and go and sit with Duncan. Mugo, I want you to go sit at Catherine's place next to Florence." Catherine rose gleefully as if she had been ordered to the playground forever, while Mugo tried hard to keep a straight face as he slowly shuffled away from his back-of-the-class suite with Duncan over to the desk that was linked to Florence's. Florence was oblivious to all this, her face stuck to the desk, fast asleep. She came to with a start as Mrs Ogot bellowed her name with one side of her face sweaty. The class chuckled.

Mugo got his first good look at Florence. If all the stories were true he was going to hate her. Catherine had been going on and on during breaks about how Florence smelled like urine and how she like to play with her spit, using it to draw on her arm and her desk, to the general disgust of her audience. Then when it became apparent that Florence didn't know her numbers or her letters, it got even funnier. Some speculated she was mad. It didn't help that she talked to herself but rarely spoke in class, was caught napping all the time and wrote in her book backwards like an Arabian. Mugo regarded her as he approached his front-of-the -class confinement cell: bony thin; disheveled hair with knots; the blouse, sweater and skirt combination that were twice her size; the sweater was already frayed at the cuffs; her upper teeth that peeped slightly from underneath a struggling upper lip and those big bulbous eyes, red at the corners, that seemed designed to fit a face on a totally different strain of humanoid.

There and then Mugo decided not to like the girl at all.


Three days later and Mugo still couldn't believe he was still sitting in front of the class with Florence. It never seemed to stop. Daily she would show up giving off a whiff of stale pee, hair still raggedy. All her books were dog eared and she like to deface the pictures in them with her pencil while she whispered to herself. When it came to schoolwork Mugo was not appreciating how she always seemed to get off the hook with Mrs Ogot. While apparently he couldn't draw a good enough car during art class, she drew a cat, and got the teachers approval. Cats were the only thing she knew how to drew, and stick figure men. Lots of cats, lots of stick figure men, all the time. Even when the teacher commissioned pieces depicting a Safari Rally Car. And whenever Mrs. Ogot wasn't looking, the fun happened without Mugo. He would watch with a rock stuck down his throat as Duncan and cohorts flipped through a new Jocks and Georgies comic book or launched paper jets out of the window. Events for which up to recently he had been the main steward.


Then one afternoon not too long after, while conducting a mathematics session in the class, Mrs Ogot wrote up some sums in the chalkboard, and then went around the class supervising and giving one-on-one instructions. Mugo wrapped his sums up and turned away from Florence as he usually did and quietly watched Anthony's work progress. Anthony sat directly behind Mugo and they had become quite friendly. Soon Anthony was done and both he and Mugo started whispering to each other. Suddenly the quiet murmur in the class was cracked by a shrill proclamation.

"Teacher! Teacher! Mugo and Anthony are talking!"

Even Mrs Ogot was amazed at Florence's unsolicited outburst. She dropped her other pupils and approached frowning, another caning looming for Mugo. But Florence's speaking up for the first time was probably the only reason why Mugo and Anthony escaped, or maybe also for the fact that Florence had also inexplicably done all her math sums, and they were all correct. Just like Mugo's. Mugo knew better, the wily wench had copied his work. When Mrs Ogot turned away she pulled out her tongue at Mugo and glared at him with her outlandish orbs. Mugo was amazed at this sudden escalation in hostilities. While before, he tried to totally ignore her and deal with Anthony and his more becoming desk mate, Janet, waging a silent war of ignoring Florence to the maximum, this was brand new territory that Mugo had not seen coming.

It got worse the following day, she copied his English exercises in the morning and started pinching Mugo on his thighs, where his lower limbs showed from underneath his shorts. Mugo, trying not to call anymore attention on himself, refused to let himself alert Mrs Ogot. Florence got braver that afternoon, pointing a thin finger at him and letting a warm flap of spit land spectacularly in his eye. Before Mugo could react, she spoke out again.

"Teacher, teacher, Mugo is pinching me!"

Mugo was flabbergasted, not knowing how he ended up on the wrong end of a set-up. Once again he found himself shuffling back to his seat, the back of his legs burning and Florence showing her version of a cheeky smile. Cold rage sat with him as he rubbed his legs, one word burning in his head: WANTED!

WANTED,
that Nairobi school version of the Mafioso's Black Hand. If someone placed a wanted on you it meant that that person had a score to settle and it usually meant fisticuffs of some kind outside of any adult jurisdiction. It could be through a gentleman's pact with a date and time for the fight penciled in, or it could be an unannounced guerrilla attack by one or many on the victim. Florence had just earned herself one.

The execution of the Wanted came easily for Mugo. He briefed Duncan as soon as the bell rang for the end of school that day. They both knew Florence waited for her father to come pick her up in a small fiat. She would be sitting alone by the parking lot in the shaded bay or in the sun scrawling some type of hex or hieroglyphics in the dirt. All Duncan had to do was divert Mugo's cousin who always came to pick him up from school with a story that Mugo had already left. While the cousin was distracted, Mugo would nail Florence.

Mugo's cousin, Rose got worried as soon as Duncan planted the lie and quickly began retracing her steps to see if she had missed Mugo down the street somewhere. Meanwhile, Mugo who had been watching for that exit, raced to execute. He had his sweater wrapped around his head in his best effort to imitate a ninja mask. Florence sat facing towards the parking lot her eyes directly in the path of the lowering sun, like she enjoyed staring into it. Mugo wondered about that odd behavior as he turned the corner and came up on Florence from behind, grabbing her by the shoulder and turning her so her face ran into the open palm that came down towards it with a resounding slap.

Mugo didn't even stop to admire his work, but he definitely heard her thin voice grow into a loud wail. He scooted off racing towards the school gate, mingling with the crowd of exiting children, grabbing his backpack from a patient Duncan who was waiting right outside his gate and they ran off to meet Mugo's cousin down the street.

Florence never returned to school the next day, or ever again.


******

The Kenya National Music Festivals for schools have always been a prime angling spot for high-school students to meet and mingle, under the guise of performance arts, to make some interesting connections that could be cashed in during the school holidays. Mugo was there with his three buddies and in the essence of keeping things interesting they had come up with a challenge. Each would have to approach a strange female that the other ones picked and try to make friends or make connection. Already one of them, Edwin, had made a pretty good case for himself, snatching up a part-tanzanian beauty's charms.

Mugo's turn. They picked out a slim but curvy concoction in a light blue blouse and navy blue skirt with hair that came down to her shoudlers. Mugo clapped in excitement, "Thank you so much. I know we can't tell what she looks like from here but I can tell you that she is flyer than Tabitha, Edwin." And he left his crew crowing happily at the expense of Edwin's portly girlfriend.

Mugo marched off, shoulders square. His target was ambling slowly with another accomplice on their way back to the plenary hall, to watch a performance perhaps. He was catching up to them speedily. They stopped as they ran into a group of boys in a maroon uniform and Mugo watched the engagement from a short distance. His target was indeed really pretty. Her smile flashed brightly, the pearls in her mouth brilliant in the sun. He waited to see if his quarry was lost to the boys in maroon. The ladies split from the guys and kept walking. Mugo saw his chance to swoop. He quickened his step and was on them almost immediately.

"Excuse me," he said in the deepest baritone his 16 year old voice could attain. The ladies turned around. "I was wondering whether you ladies are from my cousin's school," a cheap lie that had worked the day before on pretty much every girl Mugo spit that opener to. Mugo was solely tuned in to his attractive mark, whose smile faded and immediately looked at him inquisitively. Mugo felt a little hot at the collar in the four-fifty -something Nairobi heat, his mind trying to figure out why her face looked familiar. She needed to unleash that smile again, it was intoxicating to Mugo. An uneasy silence grew as Mugo racked his brains.


Her eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. Mugo was quickly enraptured by the white clarity in which her dark irises floated on and almost forgot to hear what she said next.

"It's you!" she hissed, instinctively backing away from him.

From a far away place, Mugo heard a gaggle of laughter from his boys and his mind zoomed off in fantastic rewind.

He immediately remembered Duncan, Mrs Ogot, badly drawn cats and stick figure men, a whiff of stale urine and a wail that started low and built in cresendo and sad emotion. Mugo swiftly kicked back to reality with the cries echoing in his mind. In place of the the long lost euphoria of a Wanted executed perfectly was shame, at a Wanted executed perfectly.

"That was a long time ago Florence, we were only in class one."

He was talking to the wind. She had turned around with her accomplice and melted into the crowd, leaving Mugo watching aghast. His rowdy crew finally caught up with him, one of them in near tears. They had found their champion.

Mugo had to wear the Elastoplast Band somewhere prominent, like on the face or neck for the next three days.


=======================================

9 comments:

alexcia said...

sizzling

betty said...

Wow!! i loved it sana.

Anons said...

LOL.. I remember em days... And Mugo really had his pay. But I guess the ugly babies always turn out really pretty yknow.. LOL
Humongous change on your blog Man.. Hiphop?? Niaje??

Klara said...

LOL!! So captivating..So true the saying Mountains never meet but human beeings do!!

Marazzmatazz said...

Ecstatic! And i just had to tag you dadi! check out marazzmatazz.blogspot.com

Makanga said...

Glad y'all dug.

modo on board said...

dude, kumbe this mathree has great storos...that's a great story...was somaing before i start jobo and i couldn't stop...deadly. na huyo mugo lakini...sio wewe...LOL! and it was always like that in primo...a chick who wasn't all that turned out to be the hottest thing in high school and beyond...

Rvesky said...

Hahhahhahhah this defo' made my day.....
i am among the ones who changed lol...thou wasnt uglydats fo sho'....i was rowdy.hahhaha
Nice stuff con'cody...lol

Pradeep Singh said...

All MNC company need interior designs for new look. Its help look and feel gud.