Okon burst into the small room with grave expressions of disappointment and sadness sitting across his little face. Mama Okon and Papa Okon were seated on the old, worn-out sofa in the middle of the room when he came in.
Today was the end of the first term at school when report cards were distributed. Okon had come last but one in a class of fifty two students the previous term. He has always come last but one every term. Mama Okon and Papa Okon had threatened to disown him if he came last but one this term.
When they saw the expressions of sorrow on his face when he burst into the room, they knew it had happened again. Papa Okon slowly rolled the big morsel of fufu in his hand, his mouth agape, as he stared at his unintelligent son.
Okon walked to a seat and sat, unperturbed by the presence of his parents. His big school bag clung to his back like that of a soldier in the battlefield. He kept breathing heavily and bowed his head in defeat.
“What happened this time?” Mama Okon asked reluctantly. She already knew the answer.
“I failed,” Okon whispered in shame. “I failed the challenge.”
Papa Okon slowly got up from his seat and like a predator bidding his time as he awaits his prey in the jungle, he carefully scanned the small room for his belt. He was going to beat the devil of failure out of his son today.
“What do you mean you failed the challenge?” Mama Okon asked.
“Akpanobong, my friend, challenged me to donate N1,500 to him today,” Okon answered. “He said the N1,500 was for charity and if I did not have the money, I would have to bath ice water.”
Mama and Papa Okon looked at their son, confused. What the devil was this blockhead of a child saying?
“Mama, you know how much I hate ice water,” Okon continued. “I have to give Akpanobong the N1,500.”
“Nsi nam eyenem?!” Papa Okon barked in Ibibio. “What is wrong with this boy?! What was your position in school my friend?!”
“Papa, I …. I did not fail,” Okon said nonchalantly as he shook his head. “That is not the problem, Papa. I need the N1,500.”
Papa Okon looked startlingly at his son. Was this boy taking him for a joke?
“Okon, so me and you are now mates that you can lie to me about your result in school and then demand money on top?” Papa Okon said. “Nno belt ado,” Papa Okon said to Mama Okon, pointing to his belt which hung by the arm of the sofa. He intermittently twisted and stretched the leather belt as he approached Okon.
Okon tried to reach for his report card as quickly as he could, but it was too late. Avalanches of whips landed on his head, back, arms and every other exposed part of his body.
“Sio iceblock ke fridge di!!!!!” Papa Okon screamed at his wife.
Mama Okon returned with bowls of iced blocks. She could not dissuade her husband from beating their son. The boy was simply too stupid academically and needed this kind of treatment to awake his brain. Papa Okon collected the bowls, smashed them into bits and rained the iced blocks on his son.
“Ayom N1500? Unam ikot ke ado!” he kept cursing as he flogged his son.
After about fifteen minutes of intense “treatment”, Okon lay on the floor, bleeding and panting for air. By now, he had succeeded in retrieving his report card from his bag. It lay in a pool of his blood. Papa Okon pick up the report card, flapped it and flipped to this term’s column. Okon had come first.
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