“Where have you been?”
I froze at where I had landed from jumping the wall. I looked in the direction of the voice and saw a cane and ball. Like a magician, my dad slowly materialized from the darkness.
You are probably wondering; “How did he get himself into this? Quite simple actually, “Abrofo Borla”.
I didn’t have any toys as a kid, my dad didn’t believe in that, he bought me books instead. So imagine my joy when I got home from school one day and found a football in the porch, the one popularly referred to as “shine shine”. This is an adult human head sized rubber ball with colorful patterns. You had to have one to be that guy.
My joy was short lived though, I was only allowed to look at it, never allowed to touch. I got tired of looking eventually, and decided to have a feel of that soft roundness. I didn’t just touch though, I took it to school. My dad would probably see it as stealing (if you can steal what is rightfully yours that is).
I couldn’t wait to show my friends the ball during breaktime, it was a beauty. Even more beautiful for being forbidden. I wasn’t that good a football player and never got to be captain or decide what game to play. But today was different, I was calling the shots. I had all the guys run up and down this sandy patch that served as our pitch, with the ball tucked under my arm, having appropriated a whistle from one of the boys. I really looked like a coach, and in the vein of what coaches do, I had them train, train real hard. A couple of the boys were slacking at this training, I put the ball in its net bag (yup, it had one. Dad went all out), and went to caution the slackers. A few threats to exclude them from the upcoming game had them training again.
I returned to my spot and called a halt to the training then. Now the game could start, that was when I noticed it, the ball wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I tried not to panic and began looking around, the boys didn’t join in the search at first, thinking it was all a joke (I was known for those). When my antics didn’t stop, they joined in then, we looked all over and saw no trace of the ball.
The bell sounded for breakover bringing our search to a halt. With disappointment, we headed back to class. Anyone who saw us would have thought we had lost our lunch moneys, little would they have known it was unfulfilled dreams. The boys really had been looking forward to kicking that ball around. I was sad for a different reason, my dad would definitely know I was the one who had taken the ball. And when he did…
Thinking of what he would do to me actually made me tear up, yes, the thought of the punishment I was definitely going to get made me want to cry already. The pain was hours away, but my body was already feeling it.
Throughout the lesson I couldn’t concentrate, thoughts of what awaited me at home kept me on edge. With the teacher’s back turned to the class Oko moved to sit next to me, he said he knew of a place where I could find a replacement for my ball. I was immediately interested, he saw the eagerness on my face. He had a wry smile on as he left.
On any other day, I would have ignored him, he was always telling colourful tales. His twin (Ate) always there to back him up. Much as I loathed believing Oko, his story gave me a modicum of hope. With this new found hope, I could concentrate a bit.
Normal classes ended eventually, now it was time for extra classes. We had French today,opting to leave wasn’t a difficult choice to make. I sneaked out to meet Oko at the appointed place. Which was at the back gate to the school. I was the last to get there, most of the guys from the afternoon’s training were there. We wasted no time at all, setting off as soon as I got there. Oko still hadn’t told me how I was going to get the replacement, but the numbers made me think whatever it was was worth checking out.
When we had put some distance between us and the school, Oko gathered us under this mango tree and proceeded to tell us what the big deal was. It was simple actually, he had found where “Abrofo Borla” was. We were all shocked into silence for a moment, and then everyone started talking at once. Oko raised his hands and we all went quiet, Abrofo Borla was that powerful. We had all been looking for it for years, I stood to gain more than just the ball, I could gain all manner of toys. Everyone thought the same, because the mood which had been a bit somber at first, was now all boisterous fun.
Abrofo Borla was a legend amongst us, it was our very own Prestor John. A junkyard reputed to have all manner of toys and electronic games. They had been dumped there by rich white people who had too much of such stuff. We had been looking for this since class 1, and now three years later, Oko had found it. Oko proceeded to show us a game boy he had taken from there. We were more than convinced now, he didn’t need his brother to back up the story. The gameboy was more than enough proof.
We all fell silent again when Oko told us where the Abrofo Borla was. Ntwemtech, not only was it far from our current location, it was an all boys high school well known for their notoriety. I looked around and could see the boys losing their resolve. There was no way I could make it there on my own, and I really needed to replace the lost ball; so I spoke up.
“You boys should think about it, we only need to do this once, and think of all the fans we will get when we bring the things back.”
That steeled their resolve a bit, and then Oko chipped in;
“I went there yesterday, the boys are not yet in school.”
And that was it, you could see them all thinking this wasn’t as difficult as it sounded. I had my doubts though, but my need was great. Oko had stuttered a bit when he spoke, most of the guys were lost in thought and hadn’t noticed.
With all in agreement we embarked on our quest. The skies had darkened as we had our mini convention. Scared we might get there late, we decided to take a shortcut through Efo Kordzo’s place. Efo Kordzo’s House had a back entrance which opened unto the next street. We easily shaved off a half hour off our time by using this shortcut. He had a big sign on his wall that read “BEWARE OF DOGS”. Usually, that would have scared me, but anytime we passed this way, I made it a point to press the door bell and throw stones at the gate. None of these antics had elicited even a bark from the “dogs” that were supposed to be in there. I had come to the conclusion that he just wanted to scare away would be thieves. I explained this to the boys and we quickly climbed the wall.
The street on which we had accessed the house was usually dead, until school was out that is. We managed to get to the other entrance without any trouble, only to find it locked. To top it, the back wall was really tall and covered with barbed wire. Who does that? Covers only their back wall and leaves the front ready to give you a hug. We had no option than to turn back… Our run of bad luck didn’t end there, right as we exited the building we saw our headmaster’s car. Quickly we all took to our heels, no one needed to be told what would happen if he caught you cutting classes, even if it was just extra classes.
We hadn’t discussed what to do during something like this, I instinctly made for the other road, the one the shortcut led to. I wasn’t the only one with that thought. Oko and a few of the guys were already there, after me three more guys joined us. We waited for a while but no one came. It was quite unfortunate but we couldn’t wait forever so we left. The headmaster’s car had served to effectively split us in half.
Some good came out of it though, we had managed to cover some ground. It began raining then, nothing heavy just a light shower. We decided to keep going, hoping the rain will lessen and stop eventually. It never did, it only got worse, we were forced to seek shelter in an uncompleted building.
We hadn’t been paying any particular attention to our surroundings, if we had we would have noticed this was Shanpawpaw’s lair. Seems the headmaster’s car had rattled us more than we thought. No sooner had we entered than Shanpawpaw came running in with two of his cronies. They caught us unawares and soon had all of us herded into a corner.
Now, this building was a two storey structure, the space in which we found ourselves was meant to be the living room judging by its size. Most of the windows, besides one in the corner had burglar proof fixed. I spied it and judged the distance from myself. It wasn’t too far.
With all of us gathered in the corner, Shanpawpaw had us line up with both arms outstretched and palms facing downwards. His two cronies stood guard at the doorway with their belts coiled and in hand.
We all knew Shanpawpaw to be a little unhinged, and kept glancing at each other, fear written all over our faces. Oko had even peed a little.
Shanpawpaw motioned me to come forward, and asked me to smack the back of everyone’s hand. I thought to play smart and hit Oko just a little.
I found myself on the floor, Shanpawpaw had slapped me from behind.
“You figure say joke we dey joke for here. I say beat am!”
I didn’t need to be told twice, I quickly got up and smacked the hell out of those hands. Everyone had a turn. We had learnt not to cry out after Oko had gotten his own special slap from Shanpawpaw when he cried out. He still kept whimpering though. We had been at it for close to a half hour. Shanpawpaw and his cronies were laughing and jeering. Our pain was their comedy it seemed. I am sure I would have found it quite funny too if I wasn’t busy being whipped silly by my own friends.
One of the boys, Derrick, staggered and fell. When shouting at him refused to get him back on his feet, they walked up to him and started prodding him with their feet. Derrick was at one end of the line with me being on the other. We hadn’t planned this but this was too good an opportunity to let slip, I didn’t bother alerting any of the other guys I made a beeline straight for the window without the burglar proof. I flew right through it, tucking and rolling as I landed. Karate lessons came in handy. Up up and away I was. I heard footsteps behind me and run faster. I couldn’t let them catch me. I was so lost in thought I wasn’t watching where I stepped, next thing I knew, I was lying face down in the mud. I didn’t bother getting up, judging by how close the footsteps were, I couldn’t escape anyway. I lay down silently with my hands covering the back of my head and hoping my uniform would server as camouflage. The battle was the lord’s.
It took a while to register but I recognized Nicholas’ voice.
“Why are you lying in the mud?”
Considering all that had happened, this was quite a silly question but I let it go. They all looked just as dirty as me. I realized there were only four of them. Oko, Nicholas, Derrick (surprisingly) and Isaac.
Apparently Shanpawpaw and his cronies hadn’t chased us, when Derrick hadn’t responded to their prodding, they had run and left him. Good thing he was only faking. The other three had given up and gone home I think.
Taking note of our surroundings now, I realised we weren’t too far from Ntwemtech. The rain had also stopped and people were coming out of their houses now. We were getting quite a lot of glances. Five school kids in mud splattered uniforms, rain soaked to boot. I in particular looked like a dried up turd. Mud caked all over.
We couldn’t just stroll through the front gate. At this point we should have given up, but rather, I came up with a plan. There was a drain 50 meters to the left of the main Ntwemtech gate, if we could make it there we would just crawl through it.
It took a while but we found the drain, it was full, the rains you see. The guys hesitated, I wasted no time and jumped in, only to find out it had metal bars barring it. I came out and told them the news. They didn’t take it kindly, we lost Derrick then, without a word he turned around and walked off. No one bothered to stop him, we all understood him. A boy can only take so much.
Oko proposed that we go to the side where their boarding houses are located and climb the wall. Since the students weren’t in school and that part is screened from the road by trees. We agreed, albeit reluctantly. Climbing walls never did us any good.
Getting to the wall, we could hear sounds from behind the wall, but Oko was quick with an explanation;
“Those are the children of the teachers”
Being the smallest, they boosted me up so I could have a look. I couldn’t really tell whom the noise makers were, but they were in colourful slacks and everyone knew Ntwemtech boys always wore white and Khaki. They were a little far off too, so I didn’t look for long. I passed on the information and in a matter of minutes we were all in the school.
We all turned to look at Oko, waiting for him to lead us to the promised land. Oko rose to the occasion. With his head help up high, he boldly strode forward and motioned for us to follow. The idiot was putting on airs now, we let him have his moment, we were almost there. Oko led us, taking turn upon turn and yet we never arrived. We eventually stopped in front of a bungalow, this one was walled and looked bigger and better than all the others. With nary a word to any of us, Oko opened the gate, dashed in and quickly locked it from behind. We were all taken aback and confused.
That was Nicholas, I turned around only to find Ntwemtech boys all over. From behind the gate we heard Oko;
“You Kofi, today you won’t let me train some, Nicholas too, you are always beating me. Isaac de3 you always write my name when writing names of talkatives”.
And then he added; “These are the boys”
The Ntwemtech boys had us form a queue and marched us to their dormitory. I haven’t worked so hard in my life, we cleaned and scrubbed all the washrooms in every house at Ntwemtech.
Oko had lied about them not being in school, about the location of Abrofo Borla (it does exist though), about everything it seemed. It explained how a cry baby like Oko had hang around after all we went through.
The Ntwemtech boys let us go around 10:00 pm, I was sore and hurting all over. I had to walk quite the distance to get home, I got home to find the main gate locked. Not having learnt my lesson from all the walls I had climbed, I proceeded to climb this wall too.
And now you know my story.
I took one more look at the ball and cane and slowly walked towards them. Getting closer, I recognized a second shadow beside my dad, Monsieur Akankude, my French teacher.