Weighing over one hundred and fifty kilogrammes, he could barely fit into that chair. The desk in the classroom, could barely contain him. The desk had to sit on his laps or he had to sit sideways in order to be able to relax a little bit. Big Bondus was seventeen years old and had a large frame for his age. His head was massive like a crocodile head and his body was like a hippo body. He walked in a slow manner and stood at six feet three inches tall. Big Bondus was repeating the year and was a little older than the other students in his class. He had extra-large palms and wore a size 16 US for footwear. His mates called him Big B.
In his class, students teased and bullied him. The younger and slimmer kids would make a remark at him and run off. Some would try some physical unpleasant games with him and run away. They all knew that before he gets off the chair which was always a task for him, to dash after them, they would have long escaped to a zone of safety. Big B had learnt to cope with this. He would often times ignore these kids and once in a while stretch his hands to see if he could grab any of them. Yet, they would be elusive. His greatest weapons were his large palms, big frame and large feet. Once he stamped on a boy’s foot and almost crushed it.
How many times would Big B report to teachers, how many warnings would teachers give to erring students, how many consequences would teachers mete out to the bullies? It was a real tricky situation, that needed a sustainable solution.
Big B was not exactly the bright type. The processing speed in his brain, needed an upgrade. It took him a very long time to process simple instructions. He was a boy who had made genuine progress over the three years he spent repeating the grade. He has had about three English teachers and was used to being shoved about. Because of his weight and bulk, he wasn’t very quick at doing things physically. For example if everyone walked down to the grocery shop at an average speed of say ten minutes per kilometer, he would trudge along at fifteen minutes per kilometer.
Seated in the marking room, the English teachers had been marking for about one hour. Sometimes when a teacher stumbled across some hilarious item, he or she would share it with the rest of the team and the team would either smile, laugh or grimace. Somebody stumbled across an answer booklet that had the numbering on the exams paper neatly copied out onto the answer sheet. Then the candidate had started copying down the questions one by one without any of the questions being answered. The marker passed the sheet to another teacher to have a look at, in case there was something he was missing. The other teacher had a look at the script and said “there is nothing here, except the numbering.” That meant that the student would score a zero.
“That must be one of my students” Mr. Itula said. “It must be Big B.” Since it is only identification numbers that the candidates wrote, you wouldn’t know whose script that was. In addition, teachers were not allowed to mark or see the scripts of their students. When the script was turned it had the writing “Good to see you” at the back. Only one student could do that. It took him a full year to learn that sentence and the moment he learnt it, he sang it like a song. Anytime he saw anyone, it was always, “good to see you”.
Walking down the long hallway, Mr. Kurt saw a little crowd ahead of him and heard some noises. The noisy crowd was apparently laughing, jeering or cheering at something. Scenes like this were not unpopular in school during lunch times. An all-male school like St. Bartholomew’s had boys with high levels of testosterones and what you would expect was, anything that took some energy out of them, would be welcomed. The students would either be playing football, basketball or table tennis during the lunch break. Some would look for some quiet corner to just sit and have a chat with their mates. Unfortunately some would stumble across trouble or seek to make some trouble or revenge with perceived foes. It was all adventure for them. It made the school tick.
As Mr. Kurt neared the crowd that was jeering and booing, he peeped inside the circle. Mark was being held by his two shoulders mid-air by Big B.
Mark was one of those kids who thought he was smart. He was pesky. He loved picking on Big B. He would poke at him and run off. He would snatch his pen and dart away. He thought he was invincible. It was an unexpected meeting, when he opened that big door to jet into the hall way and here was Big B right in front of him. It was too late to turn back. Big B’s patience had paid off. “Now I got you, you little git and I am going to teach you some lesson boy”, Mr. Kurt could imagine Big B say.
Mark was perspiring in the forehead. He had no strength left to resist. Nobody dared to go separate him from Big B. Big B might be slow but if he got a hold on you, you were dead meat. Mr. Kurt likened him to Lennie in the legendary tale of Of Mice and Men. Mr. Kurt parted his way through the crowd and walked towards the big man. By this time, Big B was shaking Mark with such vigour. Mr. Kurt was scared for Mark. He tapped Big B, on the shoulder. Big B didn’t turn around. Mr. Kurt tapped him again and whispered in a stern voice “let go of him”. Big B turned around, looked at Mr. Kurt and dropped Mark to the ground, but didn’t let go. He instead jerked Mark towards himself and lounged his head at Mark’s head. Mark was dazed. He was disoriented and was swirling. Mr. Kurt had to approach this with caution because, once, a teacher was manhandled by an angry student because the teacher did not approach things with caution.
“Hello big man, I am glad you have taught him a lesson” Mr. Kurt said.
Big B beamed with a smile. He must have thought, ‘I am not in trouble after all.’
Mr. Kurt knew what would be working on his mind was, ‘I might as well make him a dead meat because I am already in trouble and I am caught red handed.’ But hearing those words calmed him down two notches.
For Mr. Kurt, it was a case of fifty percent damage was better than a hundred percent damage.
“I think he has learnt his lesson let go of him now” Mr. Kurt continued.
Big B pulled Mark one more time to himself and head butted him the second time and let go of him. Mark fell to the ground, motionless. Mr.Kurt removed Big B from the scene and called for support and the ambulance.
For the rest of the term, Big B lived in peace. Unofficially, the caution phrase for bullies at this school was “remember Mark”.
Uwem Mbot Umana©2017
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