He was a law unto himself. He had his boys who were loyal to him. He came to school and left the school anytime he liked. He didn’t do any work during the lesson. He didn’t do any homework. His mother had been to the school on countless occasions and now, she didn’t bother coming in anymore. Social services were involved with the Nutter’s and the Nutter’s didn’t like that.
The last time the Nutter’s were visited by the social worker, they did not respond to the bell. It was evident that there were people in the house. The TV was on. Loud talks, laughter and swearing could be heard. But when the bell went ding dong, a portion of the curtain was pulled aside and once the social workers were sighted, no one opened the door. The Nutter’s did not respond to the persistent buzzing of the doorbell. The social worker would have to go back to his office and write a report and the usual procedure would be followed. The cycle would continue because the Nutter’s didn’t give a monkeys to anything and anybody.
Katrina had Benji when she was fifteen. She was barely able to look after herself, talk less of another person. She would have benefitted from parenting classes. However, the biggest question was from who? Her own mother had her when she was about the same age. It was like a cycle now in the lineage. Benji at age fourteen could barely read. Even though, His chronological age was 14, his reading age was that of an eight year old. He was always hanging out with his cousin, Nitch before Nitch got sent to Feltham. Benji and his cousin Nitch were into petty crimes here and there. They had now graduated into selling weed for their uncle – Big D. They were such a bad influence for other kids. They had started recruiting other boys into their gang. They sold and distributed weed. They spent big money on trainers and vain items. Katrina’s boyfriend Kevoy, was a scam. He didn’t have a stable job. He was supposed to be a decorator. He hardly turned up for work. He was into drugs and big talk. He was a big weed distributor. He spent his days napping at the Nutter’s and went out at night. He would come back the next morning with a wad of notes. He gave some to katrina. Katrina cooked him nice meals and took orders from him. Benji abhorred Kevoy. So, they stayed out of each other’s way.
Things took a different turn when Kevoy and Big D had a clash.
Benji of course took sides with his uncle Big D. That night at the local estate, a big row erupted between Benji and Kevoy. “Get your sorry ass out of our flat” Benji ordered Kevoy. He brought out a gun and to everyone’s surprise, fired at Kevoy thrice. No one had an idea that he owned a gun. Kevoy was rushed to the hospital and he made it by a hair’s breath. Benji was arrested by the police and was sentenced. He couldn’t go to prison because he was still a minor. He was sent off to Feltham for 18 months and Kevoy swore to teach the little git a lesson of his life when he got out.
Benji thought that he was a toughie and went to Feltham with that notion.
Nitch had just been released from Feltham. The news was all around the hood that Nitch was back in town. He reconnected with his mates, those still surviving and those within the hood. It was Nitch who brought some news about Benji.
Sitting in the old derelict yard of the Community Centre, puffing into the air, “men you need to see Benji. Oh darn! They did some real bad stuff to him. He is as quiet as a mouse now. They beat him and forcefully did some things to him. They humiliated his manhood. He is now a courier for the big boss. When supply comes in from outside, his duty is to ferry it from the agent to the big boss. If any gram goes missing, he is done for. If he gets bullied by anybody and the stuff is taken off him, he is done. You need to see these guys. They are big and mean. They have been there since 14 years of age waiting to turn 18 so that they can be sentenced to proper prison. Oh Benji can’t wait to get outta there.”
Few months later, Benji was sighted at the local sports grounds during the sport’s day of his previous secondary school. He had a bulldog he was trudging along with. People did not know that he was back. When Mr. Knowles, saw him standing, from a distance, he waved at him and he simply nodded in return. Mr. Knowles walked over to him.
Benji nodded his head.
“How are you?”
Again, he nodded.
“Good to see you again”
The nodding continued.
“When did you get back?”
He didn’t say a word.
“Anyways, it’s good to have you back.”
He nodded his head again.
In the local grocery store, Mr. Knowles ran into Katrina.
“Oh Hi Mrs. Nutter.”
“Hello Mr. Knowles.”
“I didn’t know that Benji was back. I saw him during the last sports day event.”
“Oh he is back, he has been back for about three weeks now.”
“I saw him with a bulldog and it was kind of awkward meeting with him. He didn’t say a word to me.”
“Since he came back he does not leave his room except in the evening time. He stays in his room all day. In the evening he goes for a walk with Maxim.”
“Maxim is the bulldog, he goes about with. He went out one day after his return and came back with Maxim. I asked him where he got Maxim from, he would not say anything.”
Few weeks later Mr. Knowles was in Richmond when he saw a photo of a missing bulldog, exactly the same as Benji’s bulldog.
“Benjamin, you must have your heart back. You cannot afford not to listen to your heart. That dog clearly is not yours and you do not want to go back to the coppers” Mr. Knowles sounded to him.
At the mention of the word “coppers” Benji’s heart skipped a beat.
“That dog is stolen and how it got here to Croydon from Richmond, only you can explain. These dogs have emotions. The owners have emotions and they are waiting day and night for Maxim to come back to them. Don’t you care how they feel? Supposing Maxim was kidnapped from you now, just like you kidnapped it from the owners, would you be smiling and pretending that you were okay with it?”
“Take that dog back to the owners” Mr. Knowles commanded Benjamin.
Benjamin broke down in tears.
“I’m scared Mr. Knowles. I am too scared.”
“What are you scared of?”
“Of life. I am scared of Kevoy. He told me he would get back at me when I got out. They did bad things to me in there and they said they will come and get me. That’s why I stole Maxim to protect me. I don’t want ‘em to come and get me again. I don’t want to do bad things anymore. I don’t have friends. I want to go to school. I want to learn. I want to move out of this area. I want to start a new life.”
“Benji, we gonna get some help for you. We are going to work through this together. First, you have to return that dog and apologize to the owners. Then, we are going to get you some help. Everything is going to be fine.”
Benji’s back was hurting. His eyes were red. He worked night shifts and went to college in the daytime. He remembered the words of Mr. Knowles “everything is going to be fine.” That pumped some more courage into his body to keep him going. He looked at the future. It was bright. The path might be tough but he knew that with the help and support he was receiving from his mentor, he would be fine.
“Someday I will travel to schools and talk to young people and warn them of the danger that lays ahead if they misuse the opportunity they have right now” Benji said to himself as he opened the entrance door of Croydon College.