Punctuality is a word we seem to love the sound of but are oblivious to its meaning. My dad unfortunately is an exception, he grew up in the village and had to wake up at dawn to go to the farm. This habit had stuck with him till now, so though he lived in the city; he still woke me up at 4:30 am to prepare for school. I was just 8 and in class 3.
This particular morning I was a bit late. Mostly because of Mr Acquah’s dogs. They were two and were always tied up, I loved to rile them up whiles I waited for Mr Acquah to get me his file. One had pounced and almost gotten me, I had stood too close. There was a small tear in my brown shorts. That had shaken me up a bit, I had to sit down for a while before I left.
I used to get to school quite early, early enough to wake the night security man. With the number of times I met him asleep, I feel he used me as an alarm clock. Relying on me to tell him his shift was over. He wasn’t the only one. My route to school happened to pass right in front of my class teacher’s house. So I would pass by his end to get his file and take to class for him.
I will get there and find my classroom locked, I usually sat outside and read till the other children got in. And that’s when things got interesting, with no adult supervision around; arguments usually ended up being resolved with fists. More often than not I was the referee, someone had to step up and mitigate the violence.
All through the walk to school I had been thinking about the dog. I was a bit late as a result, which is to say a bit after my usual time. That was still earlier than most people though. I arrived to hear shouts of;
“Nelson is beating Azumah”
I was a confused at first, until I saw the combatants. Nelson was big for his age, he could easily pass for a 14 year old. And there he was straddling Azumah, who was no pushover himself. I mean that literally, Azumah was a corpulent little boy. He wouldn’t move an inch unless death came calling, which happened to be Nelson at the moment.
They all made way for me when I got close, Nelson turned to see what was happening and that was all the distraction Azumah needed. He heaved and threw him off. I quickly got between them, holding Mr. Acquah’s file towards Azumah, he seemed the more angry of the two. That did the trick, he calmed down instantly. This trick worked because of the history behind it, a couple of the guys had once got into a scuffle with me and messed up the file not knowing it was Mr. Acquah’s. Their subsequent suffering had generated a healthy fear for the file, one which I exploited to no end. With both parties separated, I was able to find out why they were fighting.
Nelson had vacated his seat to go pee, Azumah had promptly occupied the seat and wouldn’t move. This seat happened to be Nelson’s school bag.
Azumah’s reply when asked to move had been;
“Soldier go, soldier come”
This had riled Nelson up, he decided to forcibly move him, soldier to soldier that is. And that’s what I had happened upon.
Loads of students had shown up by the time we were done with all that, and with Nelson having his bag back; they was no need to continue the fight. We all headed to our various classrooms which were open by then.
In class, all I could think about was the dog that had almost bitten me. I kept thinking about how to get back at it. If you let people disrespect you, they tend to keep doing it. I came up with various ways to get back at it, but none would have the effect I wanted; total obedience. So I discarded them all.
I spent both break periods trying to come up with something and failed. Almost got into trouble during my last class because I was distracted. My breakthrough came from an unlikely source, Mr. Acquah. When I went for his file to take home, besides the usual remark of;
“Take good care of it”
He gave me money to buy food for the dogs. Someone was about to go on a hunger strike.
I was supposed to buy banku and okra stew for the dogs. I did and even went as far as putting it in their bowl. That was as far as I followed instructions though. I had no intention of feeding them. So after putting the file in the designated place on the porch, I went back to them.
I was feeling giddy, I had been waiting all day to get my revenge. And now that it was finally time, it felt so good.
The dogs were fed once a day, so it was safe to assume they hadn’t been fed in almost 24 hours. The food gave off a great aroma, I was tempted to try it myself. With the sense of smell of dogs being what it was, I couldn’t begin to imagine what they were going through.
I had kept the food just beyond the reach of their leash. I had a polythene bag next to me, into which I was dumping the food morsel by morsel. I watched them squirm and struggle to get to it. Once in a while, I would dip a finger in the soup and flick it at them. They licked it up so quickly. We were at this for over an hour. When they noticed there was almost nothing in the bowl, they started barking and pulling at their leash. I couldn’t be bothered, those chains were strong.
It was when I poured the last morsel into the polythene that it happened. Power, the dog on the left lived up to his name, he had been straining at his leash the hardest. This was the same one that had attacked me in the morning. He showed his power.
Right as the last bit of banku went into the polythene, Power’s leather collar broke and then he was free. I don’t think he noticed that for a second because he was still just jumping around barking. I wasted no time, I threw the polythene onto the roof, there was no way I was letting them get the food. I dashed to the porch as it was the closest enclosure. Power followed me then, he slammed into the porch gate. I grabbed the nearest thing which was the file and hit him with it.
I didn’t slow down, I jumped the porch wall and made a bee line for the main gate. I didn’t look behind me but I could hear him panting and it was getting closer.
There was no time to open the gate, I threw my backpack over the wall and jumped for the top of the wall. I managed to grab hold of it and flip over. I landed in a heap outside, with the file landing on top of me, all torn up from when I hit Power with it. I hadn’t even noticed I was still carrying it. Breathing deeply, I made to grab my bag, from above me I heard someone ask;
“What happened to my file?”
I started and looked up. Right there in the flesh and looking ominous was Mr. Acquah, standing right over me.