Fiction: The Last Paper

January 15, 2016 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

By

Akinpelu Yusuf

 

 

Seriousness could be seen written everywhere. Students and books scattered here and there. Some in twos and threes and fours and even fives – prepping for the day’s paper. It was the course of the most dreaded lecturer in the department of Statistics. Mr Fallacy. The man of whom mention comes along witha plethora of innuendos. Students hated him and his course alike, like they despise failure. Now is the time it matters. Love it or hate, it’s a 3 unit course – you wouldn’t toy with GS 422 – and, it’s the last paper of the session. Carryover is not a negotiable option!

Reading and chatting rent the air. And so did silence and writing – which was concealed by the ever noisy examination premises. Some played too. But, whichever they did, it was just for two things: Pass or Fail. And they did know, of course. Just that, it’s the former they covet.

And they all have their plans to convert what they covet to reality. Even the belated arrivals do. Frank and Mick were one of them.

They had been friends since year one. They began as dorm-mates and ever since, their friendship had grown. Now, they are flatmates in their face-me-I-face-you room.

Mick, now moving faster swivelled like a week-old-baby “Guy we’ve got to hurry. We’re getting too late–”

“Chill chap. Don’t worry too much…” Frank cut in. He squatted to tighten the loose lace on his to-match sneakers. And he took his time to clean the patches of dust that settled on his latest designer shoe. “…everything is under control,” he completed, further fueling his friend’s fear.

“We have just five more minutes,” he said as he took a quick glance at his swatch watch on his right wrist admiring it like an editor ready for publication. “Remember exam starts by nine, Frank.”

Frank kept mute. He only looked. And he snubbed. Remembering how discreet friends they’ve been. How helpful they’ve been to one another. Truly, they’ve gained fame for this. True friends. Indeed.

 

 

 

With less than 100m to walk, students could be sighted in their numbers loitering, reading and talking. The paper had been delayed for 20 minutes. More time to read. More time to gist. And more time to ease tension. Lucky them, they often chant.

”I told you everything’s under control!” Frank exclaimed like a bet champion would do. He paused, then continued, in a lower pitch this time “You ought to have known me better than this, Mick. It’s been long.”

Now, it was Mick’s turn to keep mute. So he did. He only looked away. And he snubbed his long time friend.

 

 

 

Now at the hall premises, reading still rented the air. So did talking. And tension. All fouling the atmosphere. Typical of the two friends, they chose cheap talk. It was Mick who first breached his silence contract with his mouth.

“Luke, the lukewarm,” he said to Luke – whose height was only a few inches shy of his – with much sarcasm.

Luke stared at him with contempt. Then continued reading, almost burying his face inside his hard covered textbook.

Suddenly he said with grimace “Mick, the clown. What’s it this time?” He adjusted his thick lens glasses and sighed. Though, he looked soft as he said this, but, rage was written on his face like a red hot iron.

Mick was quick to notice this. “OK…Bookworm. I meant to say,” he said grinning, ignoring Luke’s countenance. Apology written in his voice.

Luke smiled bitterly. Looked at his face. Then, returned his gaze to his true love – his book. And finally looked back at Mick shaking his head. Feeling sorry for him. He said nothing. But, his demeanour said it all.

And Mick understood. He simply walked away.

Just then, Frank joined them. He shook hands with Luke and they exchanged pleasantries. He then whispered into Mick’s leafy ears. Luke just looked blankly at them shrugging. Who cares, he thought.

“It’s time guys. Hurry, lets get going,” Luke said when order came that the exam was about to commence.

“We’d be right there,” they chorused like they’d rehearsed for days.

Luke left them and headed straight to the hall. Ten minutes had passed, Frank and Mick were still not in. They have their plans. They definitely do.

 

 

 

The examination hall is a two-hundred-seater auditorium. But since it was exam day, it could only allow fifty. Two per seat. More like a stadium stand – showing an ascending order arrangement for easy and clear view. Dark it was, until illuminated by a white bulb. It was armed to the teeth with invigilators. Ten of them. And the students hated this.

“Why this? Uhn?” someone said among the students. It was a male voice.

Tension soaked the air. Silence crept in fouling the atmosphere, too. And so did sweat. Despite the mid-December harmattan. There was absolute serenity!

It couldn’t be short of that. Especially when it’s Mr Fallacy’s course. His only-God-know-from-where-questions would run you ragged any day anytime. And students dreaded him so much. Perhaps, not just for this, but also because he blends this with stiff disciplinary competence.

His course has special rules in order to pass. “Being caught cheating is an extra year. If lucky enough, fine. But if I discover myself, its expulsion. It’s unnegotiable,”  he would reiterate after every class of his.

But to Frank, it’s different. To pass, you have to be Smart. And Sharp. And Shrewd. He, Frank, has all three. And it has forever worked like magic. Smart dude, Sharp dude, Shrewd guy, he often calls himself.

Like he always does, today wasn’t going to be an exception. Xerox was the code to pass, to him. And surely, Mick benefitted, too.

“On what number?” he asked as he was about to start his third question. Just one more, he is done.

“Two. Al-l-l-almost three,” he stammered.

“Be fast!” he ordered passing the chip to him with swift carefulness. And he did receive it with same.

No examiner could have noticed that. Surely, he’s smart. Very smart.

“Sharp guy–” he whispered almost to himself unable to gush him completely.

“Ehy! Not now. Come on.”

Some minutes has passed after this when the chief invigilator bawled from the front of the hall.

“Five minutes more. Dot your I’s and cross your T’s,” he said, stood, and stared, his eyeballs travelling round the hall beneath his bottle-bottom-size spectacles like a beast in the jungle. His XXL shirt belted into his baggy chinos. Unfashionable. Untrendy. If there was an award for colour riot, he would scoop one, definitely. Nevertheless, his Mathematics prowess is second to known. Top notch is the word. He is a mathemagician. And so they call him.

Mick cursed under his breath.

Now, the hall was almost empty. They both have been able to complete three questions. Which to them was a C, at least. And they’re satisfied.

“Lets go and submit,” Frank said, now standing.

And they both headed for submission. Their heart filled with glee. Lucky they are once again.

“Frank, you’re a magician”

“You can say that again, chum”

Students can now be seen jubilating. Finally, they are through. You can’t expect anything less, it’s their last paper in the University. After four years of hardship and endurance. Surely, they can celebrate. Frank and Mick were not left out. They joined in the euphoria. And theirs would never go unnoticed.

 

 

 

Now tired, they both headed home to continue the merriment.

“Tonight, the night club is gonna rock!” Frank grinned trying to show his joy as much as he could.

“Yup!” snapped Mick rather quick.

At the entrance, the bombshell dropped. All hell was let loose. A mix-up had occurred. All students had been asked to tuck the photocopy of their final clearance into their answer booklet. And Frank, Mr Smart has erred. He has mistaken his xerox for his clearance.

“Wha…? What have I done?” He said fumbling with his pockets. All that was in them was his clearance and the key to the entrance and some money. The deed is done!

“Why now. Why not long ago,” he said as a pool of tears flooded his eyes ready to out flow their bank.

“This is a great mistake. Shit!” moaned Mick in his most worried voice of all time.

They are done for, no doubt. They had submitted concurrently. He could be traced. And if they do…

They need not be told, doom is aloof. And they have very hard choices to choose from – Abscond from school; Or dance to the rhythm of expulsion. Or perhaps suspension – and this is never going to be, since Fallacy was in charge.

Four years of waste just at the brink of time. It’s a dent to graduation. A dire dent to Amos Frankline’s and Stone Michael’s future.

 

 

 

 

 

Akinpelu Yusuf

Akinpelu Yusuf is a prolific writer and speaker. He nurtures the ambition of becoming a forever to remember journalist of his epoch. He is a devoted Muslim by faith. He is student of statistics in the university of Ibadan and likes thing creative.

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