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WHACK - Enefiok Okon Udonkang

“This act cannot go unpunished” boomed Mr. Okpo the school principal, he was a short obese man nicknamed “Ball of Fire” because of how he looked when he was angry and right now he was living true to that name,  his face was all red like a grenade about to explode. He motions to the compound master who runs forward with a bunch of canes. The principal carefully selected two fat canes from the bundle,  and turns towards me “Lie down flat” he ordered.  I walked forward and lay down, steeling my buttocks for the coming assault. Through the corner of my eye i caught sight of Miss Uju, her eyes were moist with tears and I was glad those tears were for me.

“I will flog you 24 strokes, after which you will apologize to Mr. Akpan before the whole school” continued the principal. I shifted my attention to Mr. Akpan and smiled with satisfaction, my attack had caused considerable damage. He had a huge plaster on the side of his face and his arm was in a sling “Whack! One!” the pain tore through my buttocks and exploded in my head “Whack!Two!, Whack! Three!” the ordeal had begun.

Uju watched helplessly as Ime was flogged in front of the school assembly for the crime of defending her honor. It gave her a weird sense of pride that someone would fight for her and at the same time she was sad he had to face public humiliation as a result. She was shocked when she heard the news , Ime was not the type to do what the story said he did, according to eye witnesses, Mr. Akpan the business studies teacher was teaching the class the value of hard work and used Corper Uju as an example of a lazy worker.  Ime attacked him without warning with the protractor from his math set and he was lucky the other teachers intervened before serious damage was done.  The Principal was in full gear now, whacking with all his might while Ime lie silent, bearing the pain. The students had taken up the count, chanting with each stroke. “Whack!Ten!, Whack! Eleven!, Whack! Twelve!”

The pain came in steady waves as my mind began to adjust to it. I relaxed my muscles and rode the pain. I was prepared to prove my love for Corper Uju.  Yesterday was not the first time Mr. Akpan had ridiculed Uju in class, he had reported to her but she just laughed and told him to forget about it, “he is just jealous because I refused his advances” she said. But I was not going to let him get away with it.  I slowly blocked out the noise and environment of the assembly hall from my consciousness and focused on the image of my true love.

“Whack! Twenty-two!, Whack! Twenty-three!, Whack! Twenty-four” the whole assembly erupted into cheers as Ime received his strokes without flinching, it was a rare feat for any student to survive fifteen strokes from Ball of Fire without cracking and Ime had gone the distance. Uju could not help smiling too, this was not the timid boy she had rescued from a gang of bullies one year ago on her way home from school.  She took him home only to learn that he had more serious problems than just bullies. He was a child catering for a crippled mother. She decided there and then to help him, a kind of personal CDS project. She opened a provision shop with some money she had saved and taught Ime how to manage it. She practically taught him all she learnt growing up in her father’s shop at Onitsha market. It was her plan to hand over the shop to him today as a parting gift before she leaves back to Onitsha.

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“Quiet” shouted the Principal at the cheering crowd. “This is how you celebrate rascality” the noise subsided as Ime rose to his feet and stood beside the principal,  “Now you will tender an apology to Mr. Akpan” said the principal as he walked over to his secretary who was waiting with his hand towel to mop the sweat of his face.

Ime looked at the crowd of students and felt their respect at what he had achieved, well he was not done yet. “ I will not apologize” he said calmly, The assembly went quiet with shock, the principal paused in his cleaning “What did you say?” the principal asked “ I will not apologize” repeated Ime. The principal grabbed a fresh cane “Lie down flat!”

Uju was taken aback by the turn of events, no student had ever dared the authorities like this “Whack! Twenty-five!, Whack! Twenty-six, Whack! Twenty-seven!” the students had taken up the count from where they left off, from their enthusiasm it was clear they had found a new hero. She had to admit, the boy had guts. This was a part of him she had never seen throughout the one year she mentored him.

As the noise in the hall receded from his consciousness,  Ime remembered his step-father who beat him everyday and his mother who always told him ”Do not fight” and so he did not fight to protect himself neither did he fight to protect his mother and when he finally broke her spine, there was no need to fight, he left them to fend for themselves. But, not this time…This time I will fight, I will fight for Uju.

“Whack! Thirty-Five! ,Whack! Thirty-six!, Whack! Thirty-seven!” the flogging continued,  Uju could not bear to look any longer. “ Whack! Thirty-eight!”  “Stop!” shouted Uju, the principal paused startled by the command “ please stop, it is enough” the principal slowly lowered his cane.

Ime slowly rose to his feet, dusted his clothes and began to walk off the stage when the crowd burst into cheering once again and that was the last thing he heard as he began to fall and darkness.


ABOUT THE WRITER

I am a graduate of theatre arts working as a self employed video editor and motion graphics artist. I write poetry and perform spoken word too. I am married and based in Uyo,Akwa Ibom state.

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