The School Head and his Deputy choked through the words that had been carefully chosen to admonish the senseless impertinence of my defence
My expulsion from school had turned out to be an indisputable certainty, and the bleak landscape of my future life spread ahead of me with a sombre cheerlessness that drove chills down my spine.
The way I had effortlessly professed my innocence had, however, left me faintly satisfied that I could not have done any better.
I was being accused of conspiracy to conceal a wrongdoing of the most despicable nature in a Christian boarding school. It was supposed that together with four other Form Four boys I had carried a drunken teenager whom we had mistaken for a new Form Five student into the boys’ hostels.
A tarmac road cut through the mission school, marking the boundary between the boys’ hostels and the main school campus.
The boy had been found lying by the roadside that fateful Saturday afternoon, with one empty beer bottle by his side and another one half empty. Next to the beer bottles was a trunk labelled Joseph Mabvaneko.
Demarco and his friends, in an act of a strange ingenuity, carried the drunkard and “his” trunk to the Form Five hostel, as the school was enrolling Form Five students, that time, and the office was open, even on a Saturday.
As all the drama was unfolding, Joseph Mabvaneko was at the Head’s office, receiving his induction as a new A-Level student.
The drunken boy finally stirred from his drunken stupor, but not without emptying his bladder on the school mattress. As he tried to discover his way out of the unfamiliar environment, he bumped into the Boarding Master, and whatever happened afterwards complicated matters for Demarco and his friends.
How my name was sucked into the scandal was such an act of malice that should have made the devil to start seriously considering repentence.
I denied the charges with an innocent simplicity that did not help matters. I concluded my defence with a question that peeved the School Head and made the Deputy Head choke through the words he had carefully chosen to admonish the senseless impertinence of my defence.
“If the Head and his respectable team really believe that I was involved in the case, why do all the witnesses against me come from among the accused?” I said.
“Remember you are talking to the Head of the School,” the Deputy Head said with a stammering voice.
“They said you were one of them and that is evidence enough to warrant expulsion from school,” the Senior Master said as if the final decision would inevitably be his.
“If they could attempt to hide a wrongdoing in the manner they did, what makes you certain that they could not just implicate someone they just do not like?” I said, knowing that I was only hitting a brick wall.
The Head concluded that the next hearing would have to include my father. A report had already been compiled which I was supposed to sign, but with the little audacity left in me I said, “I do not refuse to sign that document, but I will only sign it in the presence of my father.”
“Your rudeness is a curse to your character,” the School Head said before dismissing me for lunch.
I had a faint hope that Demarco and his gang would say the truth in the end. I knew that it was because of Felly that they had decided to drag me into the muck with them.
Demarco always treated me as the obstacle between him and Felly as if being Felly’s lover was his constitutional right. Felly and I were student librarians and a great friendship had developed between us.
As I lay in my bed that night, I tried in vain to admonish myself for regarding Felly as the primary reason why I must fight expulsion.
The so-called expulsion was a kind of forced transfer in which your offence was not written, and the reason for your transfer was parents’ request. No I did not want to be torn away from Felly as a result of Demarco’s machinations.
I had been barred from attending lessons until my case was concluded, and the speed at which my life was sinking into mire depths increased. At supper time the following day, Lucy, Felly’s friend, handed me a note from Felly. It read, “I have been admitted to Mutambara Mission Hospital, chest pains.”
My thoughts began to swim.
The hospital was only half a kilometre from the school campus and one did not need a written pass to visit a patient admitted there, but my case was different.
No student with an undetermined case was allowed to leave the school campus, unless otherwise escorted by the school authorities. “Felly, what a time to fall sick!” I said to myself.
Being expelled from school was one thing, but not visiting Felly in her moment of pain was an unprecedented devaluation of my worth in Felly’s life. I had made up my mind that I would not miss the lunchtime visit the following day. I would go to the Head to request for a written pass.
I did not care what risk I was talking, but what difference would it make, after all, my father was coming to collect me within two days?
I was greatly surprised that my courage had not yet melted away when I knocked at the Head’s office. “I was about to send for you,” the Head said with the gentleness with which he had addressed me when I had won the first prize at the district debating contest the previous month.
“There is some written evidence on your case.” A sudden darkness landed in the office, and the Head and the desk in front of him disappeared from my sight, but that was only for a moment. When he resurfaced, he was loudly reading a handwritten note, “ Dear Sir, I think Martin is being falsely accused of having played a role in the case that has caused grave concern among the school authorities. The time when the whole thing occurred, Martin and I were assisting the Librarian in taking stock of library books. I am sure she can testify to this. Yours faithfully, Felicity Ruramai Zihuni.”
I nearly shouted, “So she has a middle name!”
But I did not shout. I visited Felly at the supper time visit. Her life was no longer in danger and she was in high spirits, waiting for the doctor to authorise her discharge the following day.
Yes, Demarco had every reason to hate me. Felly was undisputably the beauty queen of Mutambara High School. My classmates and all her friends allowed us a whole thirty minutes alone, before taking their turns in pairs to see her.
Nhamo Muchagumisa is an English Language and Literature teacher, and he writes from Odzi. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on +263777460162. Email him at: email@example.com