(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)
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.”
“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