The bell knelled at last. Jimmy heaved a sigh of relief. The last fifteen minutes had felt like an hour. He desperately needed the loo.
Although the teacher was the first out the door, Jimmy flew past her running to the toilets. He got to the toilets in time to see his brother, who was in class seven, hand over money to Waweru, the oldest pupil in Olympics Primary School, Nairobi, a revered pickpocket and ‘businessman’. Waweru then gave his brother a small packet that Jimmy doubtlessly knew what was inside. His heart took a sinking low.
“Ken, dad warned about…” Jimmy’s brother crossed the space between them faster than Jimmy’s imagination supplied the motion, drew his hand back and punched Jimmy hard sending him sprawling on the urine-puddled stinking floor.
Jimmy picked himself up and stared at his brother. “I’ll tell…”
“You say a word of this and you are dead,” Waweru warned.
Ken’s veins stood out on his face and neck as he glowered at his younger brother. He pocketed his precious packet and said, “Tell anyone, and I mean anyone, and I’ll tell everyone you cheat in your exams.”
“You know I don’t do that. I study…”
“Yes, you do. That’s why you are always number one.”
“Everybody knows I am bright. And you are stupid. That’s why mom and dad hate you…”
Ken, eyes wide, bulging and glinting murder, jumped at his brother but Jimmy sidestepped him smartly. Mr. Kamau’s voice, the teacher on duty, chasing the older boys to class saved Jimmy from his brother’s attack.
Jimmy sighed in relief as he pee-peed the last drop of piss. He had to do something; tell the First Lady what had been happening. Everybody else was afraid of Waweru. But he was not. Not when Waweru, a celebrated dunderhead-turned-drug-peddler, was the cause of his brother’s ceaseless beating at home.
Ken had been warned time and again to keep off Waweru’s company to no avail. Waweru and his gang of delinquents were a menace in the whole of Kibera.
The thought of snitching on Waweru stirred real fear in Jimmy. How could he fight drug barons, or lords, or whatever they were, on his own, and as a kid?
Dithered, Jimmy decided to go to class.
“James Onyango,” he heard the big booming voice of the First Lady as he was about to enter his class. “Did you find your brother buying drugs, by any chance?”
Jimmy stopped on his tracks and turned to face his head teacher. He handed her his lines, every one neatly done, but she was not mentally handicapped or something. He knew she knew he was lying to her. God, the First Lady was God. She saw and heard everything. Her ears and eyes were everywhere.
When asking ‘nicely’ was not effective enough, she resorted to threats. And trust the First Lady’s threats were worse than Waweru’s, or his brother’s, no matter how subtle they seemed. She had no idea what would happen to him if, and when, Waweru got wind of his talking to the authorities, Jimmy thought.
As he stood there trying not to bite his tongue, his peripheral vision caught the resemblance of Waweru making the universal gangster ‘I’ll kill you’ sign. Just then, Jimmy knew that he had to do something, the right thing; the only thing he was sure would be a step forward to ending the sale of drugs that was going on in the school.
Young as he was, in class five, he was the brightest, and every teacher’s beloved, pupil in Olympics Primary School. Ten but going twenty. He knew what drugs did to those who got hooked to them. He himself wanted to be a footballer, his fantasy to play for Harambee Stars; drugs would put a sharp end to that.
The First Lady did not have to go all third degree on him. He told her everything he knew, including all secret spots in the school where aspiring addicts bought Dextrosol sachets that made you see ghosts when you ate it.
When the classes were over, Jimmy lurked behind long enough to allow everyone go. He had an alternative route home where Waweru and his gang won’t waylay him.
Hardly had he walked out the door when Waweru stood at the door and demanded to know what he had told the headmistress. Jimmy shook-dance for an instance but decided pronto that fear was what empowered bullies like Waweru.
“That you sell drugs…” he began.
“You what?” Waweru almost jumped on him. “You’re dead, dog.”
Jimmy was all waters inside; next thing was to water himself.
Jimmy looked around. The school was deserted. Where the hell was anyone when he needed help, even the all-seeing First Lady. He was yanked to reality when Waweru grabbed his tie, his intent all too obvious.
Jimmy struggled to grasp for breath. There was no way he was going to let this bully kill him. Not without a fight.
He kicked aimlessly until he caught Waweru’s leg square. The bully yelled in pain and let go of the tie. Jimmy turned too late to run that Waweru grabbed him again. His heart plummeted to the pit of his stomach. He was well dead now.
Everything turned fuzzy. The sun eclipsed and night besieged day. He saw a million stars twinkle in his eyes, his heart pounding like a mill and his life slowly crawling away from him. However, just as he was about to give up fighting his eminent death everything suddenly stopped.
From a distance, he heard a booming voice say, “What are you doing?”
Thank you, God. Jimmy went weak in the knees with relief. He had never dreamt a day when the First Lady’s voice would sound so sweet.
“Waweru, you well know that bullying is a crime in this school, don’t you?”
Waweru stared at the First Lady, not the kind of teacher you ever forgot. She was the only authority in Olympics Primary School bowed to, even teachers thought twice before dreaming of crossing her.
“Jimmy, you are supposed to be on your way home,” she spoke as if he was her favourite daughter.
“Yes, Madam Principal.”
Jimmy needed no further bidding. The last thing he heard as he turned the corner of his class was Waweru being ordered to the First Lady’s office.
Jimmy could only imagine what would happen to Waweru.