Stag Date

Chairs clatter about and a thunderous scrapping on the floor is heard as desks give way to mighty shoving. Someone scampers across the room towards the door, two others in the opposite direction towards the windows. They are the guards who look out for lurking hyenas; hyenas that would take more than their share of the kill. The action lasts only a minute and the deal is done. The stags have made a date. We’re not talking candle-lit dinners here or lunch away from the mid-day sun.

Wolves have their packs and lions the pride for company. Boys? Well, boys have ‘their boys’. We existed in cliques while at primary school. Each had a head, his marshalls and the underdogs. It wasn’t much of a democratic arrangement given the heads were never chosen, they made it to the top. What were a man’s muscles created for? There were the ‘rough-guys’, an unruly lot who commanded respect on account of their thirst for settling scores like men, and had an unrivaled sense of humour. They had little time for girls. Football and wrestling were their main agenda. The ‘soft-boys’ consisted geeks who smooth-talked girls with academic balderdash and, needless to say, had to have a god-father from the muscled group.

The date. Stags don’t meet to discuss succession, they make use of antlers to settle the deal. Someone had taken more bone than he could gnaw, so I felt, and this did not go down well with the ‘chief’. It had to be determined who was in-charge. Fists clung on collars as chests heaved. One shove, and someone was forced into reverse gear at full speed. The offender was pulled along since his victim’s fingers were still neatly wrapped around some part of his upper garment. They made a nice heap on the floor, writhing and flailing their limbs about, when someone shouted, ”Wasee!” This was the warning that someone was coming. The room was well-arranged in no time and all faces wore an innocent look, this after menacing gestures had announced, ”We will meet at 4.30pm behind the University Bookshop.”

Hyenas? Such a bad name to call the teachers and girls but spoil-sports, they were. A sign of live entertainment and some ‘daughter of Eve’ would be at the staff-room or even worse, the Deputy Headmaster’s office. It wouldn’t be much of a problem if the wrestlers would be the only partakers of the switch but usually, the whole crowd of spectators drank the same bowl of soup with the cheer-leaders having theirs served with a little more salt. Wasn’t it then commonsense that when any fight begun one had to take the role of lookout, just to save skin?

His name escapes me. Let me call him Anthony. Well, I may have hailed from the bunch of soft boys but I being Deputy Head of Class, he ought to have understood that I operated on a whole new level. For such, he wouldn’t have wagered a dime and two boys found themselves rolling on the dusty floor. Trying to separate these two from fighting would render the intruder a third culprit so no one dared pull such a stunt. All this is just a nibble; the feast awaits.

We lived in a university compound for that is where my father held his job. The institution had a kindergarten, primary schools, as well as a high school, for the staff’s children within the compound. I was in one of such. This was situated near the bookshop and, sandwiched between the two, was a lonely spot; our battle-field. It was well away from any enemy’s path, enemies being the aforementioned teachers and girls, and now, a new breed: parents. Woe unto you if on getting home, Steve’s mother had shared the grapevine. There would be no mercy and sleep would be far from the pleasant cruise everyone knows it to be. The clock struck four and escorts assembled. Were not knights escorted into the ring as the crowd cheered? There was no turning back. Rucksacks were packed and ready, lockers neatly arranged and locked.

The grass was nice and soft but my trembling body had little time for that. I put down my bag and so did he. ‘WHAM!’ my palm slammed across his face. Everyone exclaimed. It was unexpected. He doubled over as blood lined his lower teeth. His crew inspected his mouth and I wore and uncharacteristic callous air. “Do you want more?” I asked as I picked my bag. Error is to human as human is to error, so the saying goes. In other circumstances, I would have dismissed this as a consolation for spilling milk; an attempt at holding hope of healing through second chance. I wish it were true in my situation. “YHOO!” I cried, as a hard object, probably the toe of some new shoe made contact with my seat. By this time I had to appreciate the softness of that lawn. Blows consumed my back and my face was all tears and pain. Silence followed. My head swum and I could not recognise my feelings. I looked up to see a couple of boys running away. They probably didn’t want to have anything to do with a dying or dead man.

Paul, one of my inner circle helped me up. I had to work out a new route home. I was a sight to behold. A nearby fountain helped me save face but there was no question as to who would have the school clothes laundered: the last thing I wanted was getting questions asked, especially on a matter such as this. I didn’t have any strength left to cry but the blanket offered a welcome embrace. One thing though, I hoped against hope that the machinery responsible for getting the sun up the sky should break down. Nature is one to disappoint. Birds sung in a new day.

Morning assembly wrote a new chapter to a story I did not want to read. The mention of my name and that of Anthony brought to my attention the drone I had all along been ignoring; the drone of the Master on Duty as he made his speech. Left limbed sportsmen draw the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. They make strikes that yield the ball in a curved path and score spectacular goals. A left-handed teacher? That is another sensation all together. One lash from him and you are saying the major-scale backwards. When such a Mr. Njoroge makes mention of your name, his speech peppered with the word ‘fight’, there are better places one would want to be.

A harsh beginning to a new day. Mr. Wainaina is making tapping sounds on the blackboard as he excitedly explains how a ‘X’ sign between two numbers results in a bigger number. A lot of things hurt; my back, my behind, and now, my heart. It was Grace, the beautiful girl I had a crush on, who told on us.

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