There was a knock on my office door, and a smallish head poked into the room before I could even answer. I looked up from the pile of papers that cluttered my desk. The head stared at me, expecting me to say something.
“Enter,” I beckoned. Slowly the head retracted, and the door was pushed wide open. Smallish Solomon Forson walked into the room. He stood in front of me, and I stared at him silently for a while. He seemed uncomfortable.
“Sir, please I can explain!” Solomon blurted out.
I was surprised. I held myself from asking him if he even knew why I had asked for him. I wanted to see how this would play out.
“Go ahead, I’m listening,” I said, my face portraying a seriousness I didn’t even feel.
“Today, I forgot my money for food at the canteen. I was hungry too, and when I told Johnson, he said I should eat with him. But Maxwell, the Canteen Prefect, saw us eating together and went to report us to Mr. Kumah. Mr. Kumah too, he won’t even listen to what you have to say pε he wants to lash you -”
“Don’t use those words when you’re speaking English,” I interrupted, referring to the words from his local dialect that kept infiltrating his English.
“Sorry sir. He said because we aren’t supposed to share food in school, we are bad boys. He lashed me and Johnson four four, and then told us to go and sweep the water on the floor of the boys toilet. (That dirty thing, kai!) So after we finished sweeping the thing (we did it some basabasa -ei sorry- but Mr. Kumah said we should go) and we went to class the Mathematics teacher, Sir Hammond, said we were late, and we should kneel down in the corner. When we were trying to tell him that Mr. Kumah punished us, he said we were talking during punishment, so he gave us two knocks two knocks. And then Kofi Emma, that foolish sascatwan – oh sorry – that boy said that we were lying that Mr. Kumah didn’t punish us biaala, we were rather playing with brooms in the toilet. And Sir Hammond too got annoyed saying that we were lying about Mr. Kumah, and that only bad boys lie about teachers, so we should do maso yε din fifty fifty-”
“I said speak only English. And if you use profane language again, I’ll give you a worse punishment.”
“Sir please I beg! And the class people too were laughing at us, because Kofi Emma said we were playing with brooms in the toilet. And so when I did the maso yε din up to twenty-three I said I can’t do it again, if police come and arrest me kraampo I won’t continue. So they’ve brought me to you that I’m a stubborn boy.”
I was laughing hard at his story. It wasn’t becoming of an assistant-headteacher, but it was funny how indignation had given the small boy such confidence. I admired it, in fact.
The old bell on the table near my office door caught my eye. And reminded me of the reason for which I had asked to see him.
“Because you’re a stubborn boy, I’m going to monitor you closely. So I’ll make you the new bellboy, which means you have to come to school early, and always wear a watch. Understood?”
The boy looked at me with uncertainty, and immediately beamed when he realised I wasn’t pulling his legs.
“Yessir! I’ll collect my older brother’s watch! Wait-” he paused, grinning even wider.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Does this mean I’m higher than the Canteen Prefect?”