I REFUSE TO SIT HERE DOING NOTHING. James chuckled. He had chosen this specific bench because of that piece of writing. He had been feeling lifeless for some time now. In fact, he had felt lifeless ever since the suspension. What had he done wrong? Absolutely nothing! He had firmly believed that the end justifies the means and he wasn’t going to stop now. He felt the urge to rebel against the system; The system he had served so dutifully served all his life had turned its back on him when he was old and weak. He hadn’t rebelled even as a teenager. There was nothing to rebel against. He had nothing; He was nothing…
He was going to sit there and do nothing! This was a first for he had always acted. This had earned him the nickname of Muscle man but he didn’t mind. He had done everything for himself from a very early age and doing the same for others to advance in their lives is something he considered noble; Especially the youth who were the true owners of the country.
‘The country belongs to our children; We have only borrowed it and some day we will have to return it.’ He couldn’t quite recall whose words these were but that mattered not now.
He thought of the country and felt sad. It was in the hands of demons; Demons who were now too powerful to stop. Too powerful to be stopped. He remembered the first demon he ever met. He had been teaching for a while now and was on a walk with the school principal. Suddenly, a boy came running from behind them. He was panting when they stopped him and so they let him hold his breath.
‘Kim, what are you doing outside at this hour?’ The principal inquired. James had heard the praises of this Kim. His father was some rich dude whose generosity had kept the school afloat. They said that the boy was humble. That he was respectful and submitted to all authority. James took one look at him and knew that it was all an act. Kim wasn’t the only actor, though, for the administration too was lenient on him.
‘I…,’ he scratched his head, an obvious precursor to some tale. ‘I had forgotten my clothes on the hanging line then I thought it might rain.’ He was looking at the principal right in the eye. James felt like slapping him but thought better of it. Kim smiled and the principal patted him on his left shoulder. It was clear to James that the principal was at a loss. It was as if his hands were tied. Could he really not smell the weed that oozed out of every one of Kim’s clothing?
‘Ok then. Try not to forget them next time.’ James had stopped observing them both and now only eyed the young rascal. He was surprised when the principal continued walking without even ordering the fellow to go to class. He didn’t follow the principal, though. He remained behind still staring at the young boy. He saw it! He saw the smile turn into a sneer even as they maintained eye contact. Kim passed him and proceeded on his way with no hurry. If only he had thought to keep up the good boy act even after the principal had left, then maybe James would have considered sparing him. For the next few weeks, James hunted Kim like a hungry lion. He hunted him as though the world depended on it. He would go to his bed at night, he would stand on Kim’s classroom window for minutes on end waiting for a chance to storm in and confiscate evidence. His efforts bore fruit when he took the step to defy his superiors and did a random inspection on Kim’s box. No one could save him now. The board had to part with the millions Kim’s dad donated annually as they expelled him.
Due to his performance, James had risen rapidly through the ranks. He was made principal before he even got to forty! He deserved it. All of it. He had been a workaholic and promotions only made it worse. He missed his children’s birthdays, their baptisms among many more. His wife felt neglected but she knew what she was signing up for. The kids didn’t. But they were proud of him. All of them. He had meticulously chosen the perfect prefects body to help him in cullying the student population. Expulsion was a norm but due to his strict nature his school frequently led in the region. Soon, however, a threat emerged that he hadn’t prepared for.
There was a wave of liberation going around the schools in the country demanding democracy. They said that teens had to be taught to navigate within a democratic space. James had frequently joked that he would be the last principal to accept democracy but it was now dawning on him that even if he was the last, he too would fall. And he did. Principal’s don’t really have a say in who they admit. The list of those placed in the school comes from Jogoo house in the capital. It’s also difficult if not impossible to get rid of all the rotten apples so when democracy was first introduced, James wasn’t sure he was willing to work with or even share power with some characters. The most popular student for the post of school president wasn’t even in his good books. After contemplating the road ahead, he decided to act. He wasn’t going to let some underage crooks outsmart him. No! That was unheard of. He was going to rig the election.
It seemed that his stars were out of order for his attempts were discovered before they even bore fruit. Chris, the popular candidate whom James had been against, led his fellow students in a peaceful demonstration thus not only proving his leadership wits but also that he could match and even exceed James’ ploys. The board suspended James after a few hearings. He still recalls looking into Chris’ eyes during those hearings. They looked so similar to Kim’s many years ago. Perhaps he had reincarnated. He was called to Jogoo house to take his termination letter. The youthful fellow dressed in a lean suit threw the letter at him and informed him that his retirements benefits had been withheld until he was cleared of the charges. He picked it up slowly then looked at the young man again. The guy was younger than his youngest son. He didn’t even have the courtesy to look at him in the face as he spoke. His words came out half-baked because of the gum he was chewing. As he continued typing on his desktop, James thought of how decadent society had become. The fish rots from the head and so the administration too had to be rotten. If only he had gone into public administration instead of education, perhaps he could’ve been the one who fixed this country.
He made a stop at Jeevanjee gardens to rest a bit. He couldn’t afford the fare back home so it was going to be route 11 from then onwards. He got into the garden using the wrong entrance. At least it was wrong for him for he hated smoking. It was only when he was out of breath and had coughed uncontrollably that he realized why. The entrance he used was closest to the smokers’ zone of the garden.
‘Those kids must be smoking themselves silly by now,’ he thought before proceeding on to seat at a bench. A bench he had chosen specifically for a certain reason.