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(The metaphors in this story and the characters of captain Javert and Mr. Valjean are borrowed from the story of Les Miserables written by Victor Hugo)

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His mind was working overtime. He was perspiring profusely. He searched for his small towel and wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead. The back of his shirt was wet and soaked. He removed his face cap and tilted the a/c vents all to himself. Brad was having a preview in his mind how the meeting would go. He cleared his throat and struggled to swallow some saliva. He was dry. He brought out his water bottle from the cup holder and drank from it. He cleared his throat again and opened his mouth to speak but no sound came forth. He shut his eyes tightly and reclined the back rest of the Toyota Camry car. Mr. Moss coughed a little. Brad was startled. He opened his eyes and pulled the back rest up again.

Mr. Moss’s eyes were glued to the road. He glanced sideways every now and then to look at the side mirrors. He opened the glove compartment of the car and brought out a can of hazel nuts. He opened it and popped some nuts into his mouth. He did not offer, Brad a piece. Brad knew that anytime his dad offered nothing it meant “till we sort this case out, we ain’t buddies.”

A gazelle leapt across the road and Mr. Moss let out a little yelp followed by a swear word. He flipped through the channels. He settled at the classic FM station that was playing the Rhapsody by the Vienna Clarinet Connection. Was it a deliberate attempt to annoy him? Mr. Moss knew how Brad hated Rhapsodies but he settled for it.

“Dad could you turn it down a little bit?” Brad muscled some courage to say.

Mr. Moss did not say a word. He popped some more nuts into his mouth and the road opened up to a wider dual carriageway and Mr. Moss, stepped up the gas and put the car on cruise control at 120km/hr. This was their first time of using the new route since the completion of the road and they were approaching the toll gate. Brad glanced at the google map and it indicated thirty minutes to destination.

Mr. Moss coughed and rolled down the glass and spat out the sputum on the road. The breeze fastened some of the sputum to the sides of the car creating such a mess.

Why was Mr. Moss acting like this today? He would normally use a tissue to house his phlegm. He was so reckless this morning. Perhaps he was stressed Brad thought, after all, he had taken a day’s unpaid leave to visit his school to check things out for himself. Things were a little tight at the moment and his dad needed every dime. His older brother was at uni and needed some support. Since after the departure of his mum, his dad had changed considerably, Brad thought. He worked more, laughed less and kept to himself a bit more.

Brad remembered Mr. Biney his RE teacher who always talked about God. “Call upon Him in the day of trouble and He will answer you.”

He bowed his heart and mimicked talking to someone, an invisible person.

The weather changed and it began to drizzle, the wipers were making the abrasive noises as it struggled to wipe the windscreen of the car. The music had changed now to Les Miserables musical – ‘Do you hear the people sing?’ Brad’s mind quickly went to his English teacher’s lesson on spider diagram – write down the keywords. He thought of angry men, slaves, sing, barricade, join us, hear, music, beating of your heart, echoes beating of heart, fight, right, people who will not be slaves again. He wondered who would join him to sing this song of freedom. He didn’t want to be a slave again to fear. He wondered if any teacher in the school would chip in a good word for him. Only one he thought, then the trip would not have been a total waste.

Brad’s father had decided that he would see every single teacher to get an idea about his son’s performance. He could not be paying such exorbitant fees for his son to produce such a result. In his mind he had already made up his mind that he will sort Brad out. He knew he had to slow down with work and spend more time with him. The options he was left with were not so palatable. Brad would have to transfer to a government school where schooling would be free. He would have to seek for a good school. He would have to relocate to the catchment area in order to qualify for a placement. Is that what the family needed now? The other option was a faith school. For you to qualify for a placement you needed to be an active member of the church. He didn’t go to church. His head began to ache. Then he heard “To the barricades.” He wished he had a barricade to run to now. Brad thought of Rev. Biney. If only he could see Rev. Biney, maybe he would chip in a good word for him. His dad had said that the only way he would allow him to stay in that school was if only there would be one teacher shower a flowery praise on him, that would be his life line.

Sitting at his classroom desk, and looking through the window pane, he saw a large man with his hair rustling in the wind walking down briskly and a much younger version of him trudging behind him. They disappeared out of view. Then a rap on the door. This was going to be the deciding factor. All the teachers they had visited said how great a potential Brad had, however if there was no conscious effort for him to translate that into success, his continual stay at the school would be a waste of funds and everybody knew how expensive St.Xavier’s school was.

Mr. Moss always ended his conversations with the teacher politely. “Thanks so much for your time” and would walk away. He would tuck in the little notebook into his pocket.

“Come on in.”

“Good morning Mr. Biney” Mr. Moss said stretching forth his hand.

“Rev. Biney” Brad corrected. The first time he had spoken in three hours.

“Sorry Rev. Biney. I am Mr. Moss, Brad’s father.”

“Good morning. Good to see you” Rev. Biney replied.

“Please tell me about Brad and be honest.”

Rev. Biney remembered the last time, they had a staff meeting and discussed his case. It seemed hopeless and knowing how the dad was struggling to pay his fees and Brad not being able to cope with the work and even more so, his behavioral tendencies. He needed real help and the father needed to transfer him to a school closer to where he lived to enable him keep an eye on him so that his interests would best be catered for.  It was decided that it was best to ask his dad to withdraw him from the school. Could he lie to this man? His heart sank.

“Mr. Moss, I have always enjoyed teaching Brad. He is such a lively young person, so full of energy.”

“Thanks.”

“I have always enjoyed the perspectives he brings to the lesson. Very moral and very justifiable. His sense of justice is very apt and he hates seeing people being downtrodden. He is compassionate and forgives easily. I think he will make a good priest.” That voice “To the barricades” came resounding to him.

Brad was like a man awakened out of a sudden slumber.

Was that the problem with inspector Javert who was determined to ruin the life of Mr. Valjean for stealing a piece of bread? What was his crime at St. Xaviers that he will have to be banished to the monastery?

 

 

Uwem Mbot Umana©2020

12 Comments

  1. Interesting read. A student who has issues coping with school work( probably also feeling the absence of his mother, missing her love and care) a father who is still mourning the departure of his wife and who is not an attentive father at the moment. The possibility of the son being banished to the monastery. Who does that anyways?! He has to make that decision for himself and no one else!

    • Thanks Solape for your comment. It is interesting how the departure of a loved one, can make us behave in life. So many times, these are taken for granted and without the right kind of support, can lead to people acting in ways that we may judge as inappropriate. People grief in different ways and having that understanding is so important.

  2. An aide memoire for short story reviews.

    1. Introduction
    In the introduction, you should include some basic facts about the story, including
    the title, the author and the story genre. You should also say something about
    your opinion of the story, along with your reasons for liking or disliking it.
    2. Summary
    Briefly summarise the story. Discuss the setting, the main character(s) and the
    main events or problems that the characters experience. Do not give the ending
    away!
    3. Personal reflection
    Discuss what you like or dislike about the story. Give reasons to support your
    opinion. You may want to compare and contrast the story with other stories you
    have read by the same author or in the same genre. You can also compare the
    story to your own personal experience or a current event in the news.
    4. Critical analysis
    In the critical analysis, some questions to explore are:
    • What is the author’s purpose for writing the story? Is the author
    successful in achieving this purpose?
    • What is the setting of the story? Is it appropriate to the genre?
    • How well are the characters developed? Do they think, feel, speak and
    act in a believable way?
    • How well is the plot structured? Is the action suspenseful enough? Are
    the events too predictable?
    • What is the theme, or the central idea, of the story?
    • Does the story have a ‘coda’, or a lesson? What is it?
    • Does the story have a ‘twist’, or an unexpected ending?
    • Does the author use any literary devices, such as metaphor, simile, or
    alliteration?
    5. Conclusion
    In the conclusion, you should evaluate the story and either recommend it or not
    recommend it to others, depending on whether you think it is worthwhile reading.
    Before you begin writing the review, make sure you read the story closely and take good notes.

  3. Oh my! Poor Brad.

    I understand the eerie feeling of having your last hope dashed. It’s pretty painful.

    But why could Rev. Biney have done? He couldn’t lie.

    Now, Brad’s deeds have caught up with him. If only he knew beforehand.

    I don’t like the uptight attitude of Brad’s father. A father is supposed to be caring and encouraging, no matter what.

    In all, this is a nicely written story.

  4. I couldnt help reading to the end. From the beginning, you knew Brad was in trouble, but what kind? Not until we move closer do get to know that the problem stems from his poor performance in his academics. The Rev Biney is in my opinion economical with the truth because rather than hitting the nail on the head, he commends Brad’s character, his sense of judgement and that he would make a good priest.

  5. 1. The title of the story is Brad’s Last Hope.
    It was written by Victor Hugo. The story is actually talking about someone who is almost in a hopeless situation.
    This story shows the pain of a father spending so much on his son’s education and the son doesn’t seem to be doing well in school.
    I like the story because, it shows that Brad’s father was disciplined.
    I did not like the fact that Brad was scared of his father.

    2. The story describes a young man and his father,who has been spending so much on his education and he is not happy about his son’s performance in school and wants to find out if he should continue or stop wasting his money, eventually it was suggested that his son will make a good priest.
    The setting of the story seems to be an urban setting.
    The main characters are Brad, Mr. Moss, and Rev. Biney.
    The main event was Mr. Moss going to Brad’s school and the problem was with Brad was not doing well in school. And this made Mr. Moss feel bad because,he spent so much on his education.

    3. I don’t like how Brad was afraid of his father, this does not show a good father to son relationship which can give room for fear which is not encouraging in raising u p children as you can not help them when they are faced with challenges.
    The discipline of his Dad didn’t achieve much. Because,he could not relate well with his son.

    4(1) the purpose the author has for writing this story was to analyse how some children attend expensive schools and don’t know the value of it
    (2) the setting of the story is an urban school and it’s appropriate for the genre
    (3) the characters are well developed they act,speak ,and express themselves well.
    (4)The plot is well structured.

  6. I agree with you Lilian Eseme. A father to son relationship is very, because it is part of the communal aspect of every family.
    Also, Brad’s behavior of not being able to speak to his biological father is not at all good.
    I like the story, it has a really good plot and it stresses and emphasizes the importance of a good father to son relationship.

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