1.1 The Crow
Sandy lanes filled with layers of water reflecting the grey clouds in the sky, from rains that dump and go, often called the infidel’s rain because those showers keep falling unpredictably to soak you on the road. I just had to run to school with a notepad and a pen in my hand, in flip-flops, splashing water sideways by stepping on the puddles with my foot tilted so that I don’t get wet. Water splashed on a schoolgirl but that was the only one I came across. Walls were blue; royal blue, an intense blue I can tell, on both sides of the narrow lane.
Early at this hour, roads are deserted and quiet. I was running to do an exam and something I detest very much because this Junior School Certificate Examination was imposed on us seventh graders and the papers were extremely tough going beyond what we have covered this year. A syllabus for the examination was again allocated very recently.
I turned to the big road, Evergreen Avenue, that faced the double gates of my school on Temple Road, and I came to a halt because those iron gates were closed and locked with chain and padlock. Those who remember our school might remember the electric pole standing beside the science laboratory with porcelain insulators on cross arms and several cables running over the street. I climbed that way over the wall and jumped down into the trees in the schoolyard. Nobody noticed and the classrooms were far out. If I came late and had to walk in through the other gate on San Andrés Street, I would pass directly in front of the Headmaster’s Office and obviously be detained for coming late. And I didn’t want that.
My classroom stood in the block alongside the school hall, which was another edifice, the administrative building. The school was quiet and every classroom filled with students seated preferably isolated, in other words, desks placed two feet apart. Student numbers were great and it took the entire classroom and the veranda to keep them inaccessible from cheating. Each classroom lit with a naked bulb of 200W because of the balmy skies.
Can you believe it? Miss Sophie Nadz sat at the teacher’s desk and I consciously crossed an arm across my chest to cover the school badge embroidered on the breast pocket – a red shield badge with a green letter M written in Old English.
“Kawla! You are half an hour late!” she called me by that name; a humiliating nickname fixed on me since I was a kid. It meant ‘crow’ reflecting on the promiscuous nature of the bird. Natives believe the bird is coquet. How would you describe a crow, socially monogamous and genetically promiscuous! Anyway, no other teacher would call me by that nick but not unusual for Miss Nadz to call me ‘bitchy’ because she knew me since I was a kid. Miss Nadz knows my mother too. She always called me by my nickname. Even my mom calls me Kawla.
It surprised me because she should not be here. She was no longer a teacher at my school. I heard she was the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education. Possibly, that could be the reason she came to supervise this very important examination. The ministry takes these matters seriously and we do indeed fear these guys because they mean business – very strict.
I couldn’t help it but drop an eye on her bosom. I don’t know how she cope with them – a thin figure like a toothpick with two big breasts and two round buttocks. She wore a blue tank top and a tight blue pencil skirt and that was very unusual. I do not remember her wearing a short skirt. Of course, I have seen her in middy dresses, maxis, pants and bell-bottoms. Miss Sophie Nadz used to wear long skirts with broad hems – broad in the sense a metre wide. She must be twenty years old when she was my class teacher in Grade Three. And in Grade Five, she came to teach us Science.
“Why, miss! I ran. I am only five minutes late!”
She drove four fingers inside my trousers from the rear because my uniform shirt wasn’t properly tucked in. “Your paper started at seven. Don’t you listen to the radio?”
Who the hell would listen to the radio? She was probably right. When I glanced at the classroom, I saw the students busily doing the test paper, seemed like they have been halfway through. Due to bad weather, today’s timing changed and it was aired on the radio. A sudden change in the examination timetable broadcasted on the radio that happened only once in my life.
“Go and sit down!” she said, “I will bring you the paper.”
The only seat vacant was mine and in the second row in front of the teacher’s desk. I sat down and glanced at her legs. Those knees placed together, black footwear slipped from her feet and she was in no hurry to bring me that paper. I was growing nervous feeling that I would fail this test and face the consequences. Was I punished for coming late!
The teacher sits on a wooden platform which is raised about twelve inches from the floor. When I sat at my desk, right in front of her, ten feet from the platform, all I could see was her dangling legs. She wore that skirt, blue colour, and those yellow legs were appealing, a silky shine embraced those thighs touching together but I was too concerned about the paper. Half an hour elapsed and some students left, chairs vacated and it seemed the outdoors getting darker and rain showers approaching.
There she shuffled her legs trying to get her toes on the shoes and briskly flashing her underwear, a white pair, in repetition. She rose from the chair and came up to me and passed my test paper; Part One. I sat staring at those legs and palish skin.
She never wore such a short skirt and I noticed this; she got four buttons in front of the skirt and one of the buttons didn’t match with the other three. It was blue but not the same tone, kind of sewn on hurriedly.
An hour later, I glanced around and noticed that very few remained. Almost every other desk was vacated as the students left after their assignments done. I could not finish the first paper.
“Time!” And just like that, she shuffled her toes into the shoes and rose. Stepped down from the platform and reached me.
“I’m almost done, miss!” I uttered.
“What exactly is this?” the teacher snatched the paper from the desk, “This is just a blank sheet of paper! I have given you additional time!” Miss Nadz leaned over dropping her face close to me and too close for comfort. “Look at me!”
I dare not. You know, those big boobies seemed to jump out of the anchorage, sandwiched in the cleavage and she wore a wide neck. I could even smell them. I knew what I did to her in Grade Five. I looked straight into her dreamy brown eyes.
“You are repeating Grade Seven this year,” Miss Nadz reminded, “If you fail this test, you will leave school even if you get pass marks in the Promotion Test.”
Now this was another debate where the schools and the education authorities dispute whereby the latter maintain that a pass in the JSCE mandatory for entrance into secondary school and eliminate the Promotion Test. The schools argued that the curriculum did not match.
What was going on in my mind! I just wanted to tell the teacher to leave one of those finished papers on my desk so that I could copy them out.
She passed me the second paper and went back to her desk. An hour later, I was the only one in the classroom. Rain began to pour.
She called me and when I stepped up to her side, she clutched an arm and turned me around to do a body check; a health check – elbows, fingernails, toenails and the elementary.
“Drop your trousers!”
She opened her very large tote bag and dug out a small silver-plated box, “Go to the toilet and get yourself a shave! Whiskers and moustache and your pubic too.”
I ran to the toilet in the rain. There was no light and dark inside, graffiti on the walls, squat toilet and bad smell. This tiny box contained a double edge razor neatly placed in pockets padded in purple. I had to assemble the razor and did my face on guesswork without a mirror. I scraped the bottom knowing she would double check on everything. Miss Nadz – she was an extremely meticulous person. I was shocked to see how much hair was removed from my body.
She sat in front of the Headmaster’s Office in the veranda and looked more naked in the legs. “What do you intend to do after school?” asked the teacher putting the silver kit into her bag.
“Vocational training,” I said to sound something believable, otherwise, I am not a ‘vocational’ guy.
“I think you can do better.”
“What exactly,” she asked, “Civil or Maritime?”
“I have not thought of that.” I have no idea what the difference is.
“Sit down, Kawla!” I sat down on the seat next to her. “I can help you on a subject to major,” she continued to say touching powder on her petite face, looking into a small mirror. A heart shape face, little chin and profound lips. Her hair combed over the forehead and the ears in a side flow to drop over shoulders on mid back. I always remember her hairdo in that style. She sat with those very thin legs crossed. “You must finish school,” that was her advice, “I noticed you doing the paper, scribbling without interruption. I believe you did well with this paper.”
Really! I thought I was idling behind the desk. Or she was just hoodwinking me.
“What is the stream you wish to choose?” asked the teacher.
“Arts,” I mumbled and thoughtlessly ran a palm on her smooth long thigh. She stopped her powder and dropped an eye and I idiotically took away my hand.
Don’t ask me why I did that. I have no idea what made me do that.
When I came out of the school gate, all I wanted was to get back home. I paused briefly by the blue lane, in the rain, clutched the notepad between knees and took off my shirt. Then quickly pulled it on inside out so that the school badge was hidden from any possible passerby on the road.