‘Mum’s off the boo….book, my father is in jail and now I stay here almost five yea…years now with a man who feeds me unless I feed his cat.’ Mrs. Pearl blew and laughed at

‘Mum’s off the boo….book, my father is in jail and now I stay here almost five yea…years now with a man who feeds me unless I feed his cat.’ Mrs. Pearl blew and laughed at the same time. When they settled at home, she sent her children to her room and invited Nelson to her study after haven fed him. The boy ate like a giraffe. While they sat opposite each other, the table in between like it was still her office in school, Mrs. Pearl began, ‘I know a lot has happened in the past days and till now, I am wondering what brought you to my house on that day.’

‘I was just…passing by.’ Came Nelson’s quick response.

‘No, you were about to knock, you wanted to ask something?’

‘Not really, I…I only needed to know.’

‘To know what!’

‘To know why I am not,…I mean, my own brain is not responding to whatever you are teaching.’

Helplessly, Mrs. Pearl’s eyes fell.

‘To be someone progressing is to foremost know who you are and from there you can discover what you are. I tell you, you are responding to something…to life and that is why you have come to ask this question and believe me my dear, that is all that matters. Your will, Nelson dear, now you go out there believing in yourself and follow the rules of life and more of your heart and see that you are beautiful, smart, hardworking…awe-inspiring and a whole light-of-brain.’

Nelson knew she was out of words on that sentence yet he played again and again her words in his head, proudly matching home to Socrates.

‘Now you start by ironing your clothes and looking good.’ That was the last of her trail of motivation, he giggled to it. He did not tell her about Hotel Intercontinental, of course, he didn’t.

Socrates was face-down, lost in smokes while Nelson took out the trash, cleaned and arranged their average apartment. While he was ironing, Socrates only darted his eyes here and there, he plodded to him and blew the smoke to his ears. ‘This has got to be a date little man, this has …you are going on a date and I don’t care! Feed my cat!’ Nelson quickly put off the iron and went to feed Socratonic. To quickly do whatever Socrates ordered was to survive with him and Nelson never found that difficult, after all, he was not frequent at home. On many harsh incidents, he had prayed no gang of what sort invade them one day and shoot down the house because he feared Socrates was into illegal stuff, big time. His money was always in cash. He would have taken a bundle to the man at Hotel Intercontinental but to steal is the last of his will. That meant that it is still in his will, he went to bed smiling and made a decision to take some money but changed his mind while he was having breakfast with Socratonic the next morning.

Mrs. Pearl munched a quick smile and shook his head when Nelson stuck his head through her office door, the next morning, showing off a clean cheerfulness. He disappeared quickly and the lady could tell that he has found the nexus. In fact, Nelson understood while American had to fight for Independence and why communism might be better than democracy. He made some notes of his thought. ‘A classless society…yet in democracy, the people might need a representative and the representative might smoke weed with all the money given to him to get bacon and hospital slacks, people are really that crazy just like Socrates….my dear fa…..’

He stopped half way while spelling ‘father’ and for a moment, the reminisce of home stole his head. Sarah, his mother made the best porridge he had ever eaten and the boiled corn served on Sundays were Nelson’s favourite. They ate all those while he giggled in between his parents all the time, to school, to Downtown cafeteria, to parks, to church. Yes, they attended church services although his father was sluggish about it. His fellow kids called him and his braces dumb but his mother, a smart-mouth woman often resuscitated his confidence. Nelson was like a jaunty child that had all the toys in the world. That day, the police pulled his father, Dick away and he had only said to Sarah, ‘I did not have an affair with her and I did not know how she died.’

‘Then how were you seen out of your pants in her home, Dick, her home and now she is dead, my neighbour and the only friend I have is dead.’

A picture of loud meaninglessness that would never leave Nelson, the ugliest was that in the following months, a stranger picked him up in school, he never saw his mother again. Then he recites that bible verse, ‘Can a mother forget her suckling child?’  ‘No! And I am not suckling and she is not my own mother.’ He repeated as usual, each time the thought of family come to him. He raised his bowed head to find Maggie, the class weaver-bird stirring at him. She gave him a middle-finger. Nelson smiled to that and looked up to an incoming teacher. He focused!

Rebecca had rushed out of the class before others, he wondered why and quickly followed. In few minutes, she was standing in the corridor with Duke, turns out they are finally together. Nelson quickly flew pass them, some kids around Duke threw a laugh. The thought of running away to the bank of a river arrived well to him but he had made up his mind to talk to Rebecca. He needed to, like his world depended on it. Sharply, he cornered and took a good viewing position. Rebecca and Duke alongside his friends had come out to cram the parking space, shouting their talks. Nelson stood at a pace where he can be seen by them, his gaze was on Rebecca, holding hands with a Senior, feeling fixed but neither welcomed nor fitted. Nelson felt a little happy for her that her dream had come through, her dream, also, a mistaken dream. He must talk to her, he must focus and follow the plan. He must. Duke’s friends took the front page as he glided towards them. Before he could politely say, ‘Excuse me Duke, can I have a word with Miss Rebecca?’ his ass was already of the ground. They laughed at him again.

‘I must talk to her, it is important.’

‘What is more important right now than a can of trash over your head.’ One of his friends was already running in with a trash can that gruesomely went over Nelson’s head. Rebecca said nothing but looked struck while the others laughed wickedly.

‘Look at crazy freak, just ironed his clothes and some dead sweatshirts and felt he could talk to one of my girls.’ Duke’s voice trailed with other voices. Nelson could still hear the voices of humiliation when he picked himself up and while he showered back at home, Socratonic watching his glorious nakedness from an open roof. 

 Rebecca was bemoaning to Abi, ‘Oh why…oh why oh why was he that proud. Abi, I tell you that Duke is proud. He said it like I was not there? It does not matter, I really like him but….I feel like puking.’ Abi made a puke-face, ‘Puking on Nelson you mean?’ Rebecca hesitated but answered ‘yes’ eventually and continued, ‘Nelson looks like a jailer, like our janitor or someone who will become a serial killer.’ Abi was lost but she added, ‘Should we not go with Mum and Dad to the hospital, you might be sick again.’ Rebecca frowned, ‘You little witch get out of my room! I’m not sick, I just don’t know what is wrong with me! Aaaargh!’ The shout sent Abi parking.

Nelson could tell that Rebecca and her family heads to the hospital on some Saturdays which could be that day yet he saw no Rebecca walking out of their door with her long bold limb. He guarded their home for three hours between 9am to 1pm before sauntering away. He wondered if Rebecca could ever find it burdensome to reflect on what Duke said about his girls. The new week proved his worry, unnecessary. Rebecca was with Duke in all corners and most of all, she has become friends with Maggie and another senior. Nelson spent all week trying to focus on his debate speech before the election. Mrs. Pearl had told him to write from his heart yet the ideas he thought right were not forthcoming and so was Rebecca. In those weary days, Nelson utterly disbelieved the man at the Hotel Intercontinental and was beginning to lose the momentum from Mrs. Pearl. Most times, he heard himself saying to Socratonic that the election was devil’s plot to humiliate him further. Another new week began and Rebecca was still far away. In one of the days, Nelson’s legs thronged the corridor to reveal Rebecca and all her entourage at the open terrain in front of the school. The senior was arguing with Duke, she leaned away from her car, pointing fiercely at Duke. Nelson started walking towards them. Maggie pushed Rebecca, Rebecca did not push back, she merely covered her face and began to sob, then a car crashed in, a boy looking really tough jumped out of the car and shoved Duke to the ground, Rebecca was the next he attacked, a crowd began to build. The boy jumped on Duke on the ground, introducing him to blows before he turned around again for Rebecca, Nelson was already within. He parted the small crowd and stood in for Rebecca. He and the boy who turned out to be Maggie’ crack head older brother had a full fist fight to the extent of Nelson twisting his neck.

Surely, the school authority stamped Nelson’s detention but the students must always stare at him like a hero, like lord of the fights! He had been doing incredible things with his arms lately. Duke said no word to him in detention. The girls were free on feminine terms with Maggie stating that she did not call her brother to act. And that crack head? He found himself in the hospital for at least five days on constant watch without doing drugs. When Nelson came to know that he was still a political candidate, he blew hard and watched the sky for a minute. He had thought the fight will further render him invalid as a candidate but no, Dr. Droid had announced that the election will on its own embarrass who needed to be embarrassed. The students looked at Nelson but Nelson somehow fancied that kind of look. He felt like they wanted to do things like him, like they will one day throng him to teach them how to be free. It was on one of such lonesome days that the doll blinked, Nelson was given the most humiliating punishment, to pick trash, while he picked, he saw those familiar legs in front of him, the helpless boy looked up and there she was, Rebecca.

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