Law 15: A Short Story About Self-Preservation
I remember stealing into my father’s library to read some books which were prohibited for my age. The first one I completed was Robert Greene’s The Art of Seduction. It was useless to me in secondary school but came in handy much later in life.
I had just completed Law 15 of 48 Laws of Power when my father caught me and banned me from reading the “adult section” of his library. I didn’t know what the fuss was all about considering that in my mind, I was a full grown adult trapped in a little boy’s body.
Crush Your Enemy Totally, Law 15 said and for some odd reason, the various examples Robert Greene set in the book stuck to my head and reverberated in my skull with such clarity that it shook me out of my reverie.
The situation at hand called for decisive action and that seemed to be the only way out. Isy was at least twice my size and the fact that she was a girl made the whole situation much worse. She was notorious for being such a baddie having floored much bigger boys in my class, especially those who dared to fight back.
As a matter of fact, this wasn’t hearsay. She effortlessly flung my best friend Peter who was slightly taller than I was like a rag doll last term when he attempted to get back his James Hadley Chase novel. I was shocked by the sheer force with which he crashed on my desk.
He hurriedly whimpered away and since I didn’t dare put my life on the line by standing up for him, I comforted him in meek silence. I made it a point of duty after that to avoid Isy like the plague.
Unfortunately, Que Sera Sera – my time came eventually. It was our last exam before we went for the Christmas holiday. Literature in English; my favorite subject. I had gobbled up all the recommended texts – The Shakespeare classics of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Othello; the Achebe quadrilogy of Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God and A Man of the People even though only the first and third were the recommended reading texts.
I was brimming with excitement and bursting with energy when I saw the questions and I poured my proudly acquired knowledge onto the answer booklet with gusto.
I was almost wrapping up when Mr. Asekamen told someone behind to stand up. I looked back at the person and it was Isy. She looked a bit dishevelled this morning but then again, she was never really one who cared about her looks and nobody really thought about her in girlish terms since she was the worst Tomboy ever.
It was a momentary distraction and I continued with my paper. It was when Peter who always sat by my side was told to relocate to her seat that I looked up again, this time genuinely concerned.
In three years, I had never shared the same air space with this hulking beast of a girl. As she sauntered towards Peter’s seat right next to me and lowered her bulk, the air felt a bit thinner – like she virtually sucked up all the oxygen in the place. Breathing became a struggle and immediately, I lost all focus. I have never felt so threatened my whole life.
She sat down, stood up again and adjusted the metal chairs and table with no attempt to be silent about it. The screeching sound of the metal table on the terrazzo floor caught the attention of every one but no one made a sound.
Mr. Asekamen glared at her and she returned an impudent smile. She didn’t do it again though. She turned her attention to those around her with a devilish smirk plastered on her face and finally, she settled on me.
I was a bit of an odd ball to some. I kept to myself mostly but associated just enough to avoid the “weirdo” tag. I had only one friend and we hung out together most of the time. I didn’t talk to girls except I had to, didn’t participate in sports considering my stature which made me an instant victim of cherry picking. I had only one interest – novels. So I was pretty much out of the way of everybody since I spent most of my time in the library.
She seemed to realize this and took more interest in me at which point, I looked away and continued to put finishing touches on my paper when it happened with a flash – she snatched my pen!
I was shocked.
I looked imploringly at Mr. Asekamen to intervene but he looked away. Something told me he was probably bored with invigilating and wanted something exciting to happen.
“Isy, give me back my Biro”. I said politely.
“You didn’t say please.” She said impatiently without looking up. She seemed to realise that she hadn’t written much and started scribbling away.
If “please” was going to resolve this situation, it was no skin off my nose.
“Please.” I said.
“Give back my pen.” I repeated.
She picked up her pen and threw it at me. I hit me in the face before dropping to the floor.
I was trying to make this conversation as private as possible but apparently, everyone in class had taken notice and was keenly interested in what was going to happen.
I was hurt. If there was one thing I hated, it was being the butt of jokes. This was an insult, a challenge – one I had to do something about if I was not going to get laughed at like Peter was. I decided I was not going to be added to this bully’s list of victims.
I weighed my options; there was no guarantee that I wasn’t going to get tossed much worse than a rag doll if I attempted to take back my pen. Physically, I was no match for her. If I had to do something, it had to be drastic, brutal, final. No chance of a comeback.
Crush your enemies totally!
I closed my answer booklet. I was still well in range with my target of an A+. I picked up the pen she had thrown to my face and stood up and faced her.
“Eric…” I heard Mr. Asekamen call but I had already made up my mind and wasn’t going to back down now.
The ridiculous expression on her face infuriated me and hardened my resolve. It was like she was daring me – what are you going to do, you ant!
In one swift move, I brought the pointy end of her pen with all the strength and force I could muster down on her writing hand and it it went through her soft, light, skin with so much ease that it surprised me.
The smirk on her face, changed abruptly to shock, confusion and surprise. The surprising “Oooohhhs” I heard when I first struck gave way to eerie graveyard silence.
In a flash, Mr. Asekamen had grabbed me and was bundling me away from her while screaming at the top of his voice. Teachers from other classes rushed in and everyone gazed in horror at Isy’s right hand. Isy shrieked in pain and as blood began to circle on the pen stab, she broke into guttural sobs without warning.
I was dimly aware as I was roughly pulled out of the class to the principal’s office in the ensuing chaos but my eyes never left hers the whole time. The shock and fear in her eyes was deeply satisfying.
I left school around 4pm. Had all gone well, I should have been home by 12pm. My dad had rushed down, Isy’s parents had rushed down too. There was a lot of heated arguments between my dad, her parents, the principal and Mr. Asekamen who took most of the blame for not arresting the situation before it blew up.
Oddly enough, I wasn’t punished. I had expected to be given several lashes from the famed Mr. Daibo’s wicked left hand but it never happened.
Isy was rushed to the school clinic and where her wound was dressed before she was taken home. My dad had promised to foot her medical bills. Thankfully, it wasn’t too serious but she would carry a scar for the rest of her life.
It was on my way out that I noticed or imagined the silent nods of approval from the few teachers who remained. Even from Mr. Daibo himself.
The drive home was silent. I sat at the back seat, elated but scared at what was going to happen to me when I got home. My dad glanced at me from time to time from the rear mirror without a word.
I am so dead, I thought shakily.
“I understand why you did what you did.” He said suddenly, jolting me back to reality.
“That girl would have mauled you if you had tried to engage her physically and you being a boy, it would have been quite shameful.”
I heaved a sigh of relief which was short lived.
“You will still be punished.” He continued. “We don’t hit girls in this family.”
*First published on Malcolm’s Blog at saymalcolm.wordpress.com