Without waiting for Amalize the school’s timekeeper to finish ringing the bell for the close of the day, Ejike quickly flung his bag around his neck and dashed out like someone escaping from a burning house. The smile, grin, and chuckles showed that he was actually in an ecstatic mood.
Within a few minutes, he had run past the rice plantation and had crossed the Udemili bridge. He couldn’t stop to greet the villagers working on the farm leaving them to wonder if he was being chased by a marauding band. Ejike only stopped a few times on the road to catch some breath as it seemed he was running short of oxygen, and after a few minutes he would zoom off again with renewed energy. He had only one goal in mind: to tell Grandpa the best news ever.
“Good morning pupils,” Mr. Nwafor, the headmaster had greeted as he mounted the podium that morning.
“Good morning Sir,” the pupils shouted in reply.
Something was noticeably different in the headmaster today. Mr. Okafor was a stout man, dark like nighttime with a protruding stomach similar to that of a pregnant woman after six months. He was 5 feet tall with beards covering about two-thirds of his face. What he lacked in height he made sure to cover up in terms of strictness, maybe a bit too much.
Mr. Okafor once sent three boys to the Ogbulike swamp to cut Achara leaves as a punishment for unruly behaviour just two days after a man had killed a huge python there. He knows the names of every pupil and could easily recognize them from afar. He was such a mysterious man who never smiled and so was feared by pupils and teachers alike.
However, today was surprisingly different. Everyone could tell that something extremely good must have happened to have effected the drastic change in Mr. Okafor’s countenance.
“My dear pupils,” he continued, “I am very glad to address you this morning. You see, some of you here have made us so proud, not just in the community but in the country as a whole. You could remember that the Year 5 pupils had their entrance examinations a few weeks ago, well their results are out and that is my reason for joy this morning.”
Everyone was already anxiously waiting for him to explain what exactly was making him happy, afterall this wasn’t the first time that pupils of the school would pass their entrance examinations in flying colours, so it was obvious that today’s news would be exceptional.
“This year’s result is the best since the founding of the school. Our school’s result happened to be the best in the whole state!”
There was thunderous applause from the pupils at hearing that. Mr. Okafor motioned with his hands and the applause stopped.
“Not only that, the governor was so impressed that he had instructed for a library and an ICT lab to be built in this school and adequately stocked for you.”
The screams and applause that followed were loud and deafening that it could be heard far away. Mr. Okafor allowed the pupils to express their joys for a few minutes with deep satisfaction written all over their faces. He looked handsome when he smiled which might have made some wonder why he always wore a frown.
Mr. Okafor motioned with his hands again and everywhere became quiet.
“Now, here is the biggest news. One of our pupils had the best result, not just in our community, not just in our local government, not just in our state, not just in our region, but in the whole country! This special child has won a scholarship until he finishes his university education. Do you want to know who this person is?”
“Yes sir,” the pupils chorused.
“Well, the name of the child is …”
Grandpa had just finished telling Ejike the tale of why the crocodile lives in the waters. After the story, Grandpa asked, “So what did you learn from the story?”
“I learned that when bad things happen, we can be sad but we should not allow those incidents weaken us, instead we should come out of them even stronger,” Ejike replied.
“You’re right, my son,” Grandpa said. “You see, people often say that ‘Life is not a bed of roses,’ but I say to you ‘Life is indeed a bed of roses.’”
Grandpa could see Ejike’s puzzled look at hearing his last statement and so he explained further, “Life is beautiful with pleasant moments and wonderful situations that can be likened to the pretty flowers of a rose, at the same time, life can be painful with bitter moments just like the piercing thistles of a rose flower. Our lives, both yours and mine are proof of that.”
Ejike adjusted his seat and moved closer to where Grandpa sat as if to hear him better.
“It was during the long vacation about seven years ago that your mom and dad brought you to me to spend a few weeks because they had urgent matters to attend to. Business had been bad for your parents and sister still someone duped them of millions, customers dragged them to court and everything became messy. They thought it would be better to let you stay with me throughout the holiday while they try to settle the issue over there. You were just a boy of about four years of age. There was nothing I could do to support them financially so I promised to take good care of you until they returned. Unfortunately, they never did, they were involved in a fatal accident and died on the spot. That was how you came to be here.”
A drop of tears escaped from Grandpa’s eye and landed on the floor. Ejike was already sobbing and amidst those sobs, he confidently said, “Don’t worry Grandpa, I’ll do my best and make you proud.”
“I believe you my son,” Grandpa replied. “Study well, be the best you can be, and make us proud.”
“The name of the child is …” Mr. Okafor repeated and then paused for what seemed like an eternity. The whole assembly was as silent as a graveyard, the heartbeats of the Year 5 pupils could be heard in that deafening silence.
Mr. Okafor cleared his throat teasingly and finally said, “The name of that special child is Ejike Ofute!”
The whole assembly roared in unison as Ejike who could not what was happening was pushed to the podium where he shook and hugged Mr. Okafor. The whole assembly was euphoric and Ejike could not wait to inform Grandpa about this grand news.
He ran into the compound singing happily but stopped when he saw people gathered in there, their faces looked gloomy while some women were crying. As soon as they saw that he was trying to make his way inside they tried to stop him but he dribbled past them and forced his way into the living room. There on the floor laid the lifeless body of his beloved Grandpa.
Ejike could not believe his eyes. In just a day he had experienced the best and the worst situations of his life. At just a tender age of eleven, even with the scholarship, his future now looked bleak. He fainted and hit the ground with a thud.
Life is indeed a bed of roses.
Humble Ogbonna, a Diction and Phonetics Instructor with a passion for writing sent in this entry from firstname.lastname@example.org