FIVE MARKS (SHORT STORY)
With the story below, I wish UNN students the best in their exams commencing this week. I extend the same good wishes to all young people in other schools as they pursue their studies.
I also dedicate the story to my colleagues- lecturers and teachers everywhere.
Mrs. Chidinma Ikeuno’s confidence was growing by the minute. Since she came to her daughter’s fiancé, Dr. Obinna Ezeji’s office 50 minutes earlier, he had been nothing but charming. She could see why her daughter, Nneka, loved him.
She didn’t notice the uber-strictness Nneka had said he exhibited. He was very gracious and friendly to the three students who came with a request for material to write their term papers with. He briefly discussed their various topics with them although the term papers were for courses taught by other lecturers in his department – Linguistics. He even personally picked out five books from his shelves for them.
As he attended to the students, Chidinma appraised his physical features. Obinna was plump and about 1.78m (5 ft. 10) in height. He smiled a lot which made him look younger than his 31 years. Chidinma also liked his complexion – he was fair like her. He could easily pass for the son she never had. She imagined that her grandchildren would be cute.
Before the students interrupted their conversation, they had swapped family stories which confirmed the report her family got when they inquired about his roots. He came from a Christian home. His father, a headmaster, and his mother, a seamstress, provided a stable and loving home for him and his siblings.
As soon as the students left, Chidinma declined Obinna’s offer to take her to lunch and launched into the reason for her visit.
“Nneka told me that she failed your course,” she intoned.
Obinna confirmed that with his ever-present smile on. “Yes, the course is Computational Methods for Linguists.”
“You have to pass her. She cannot be failing a course you are teaching when she’s practically your wife,” Chidinma, the wealthy business woman used to having her way, demanded.
Obinna did not lose his cool. He patiently explained to Chidinma as he would to a child that lecturers are not supposed to let their personal relationships influence their teaching and grading of students.
Chidinma sarcastically asked him which lecturers he meant. “The ones in heaven or on earth?”
“Lecturers change grades all the time and they do it for personal reasons,” she insisted.
Obinna laughed and leaned back in his chair. “Wow, I didn’t know you had such a poor view of lecturers,” he responded.
“How many marks are we even talking of? Five marks, ordinary five marks. Just find five marks to make her pass.”
Obinna, still smiling, began to open the drawers in his desk and rummage through them one after the other.
“What are you doing?”
“Searching for the five marks as you instructed me.” When he noticed the dismay on Chidinma’s face, he burst into laughter.
“What sort of demonic laughter is that?” she queried him.
He was still shaking with laughter but managed to respond, “My laughter is demonic? I suppose your request by contrast is angelic.”
Chidinma was changing her view of her prospective son-in-law fast. He was not only refusing her request, he was having fun doing it. She felt his responses so far revealed an underlying psychopathology. But she didn’t want to give up yet.
“I’m not asking for an A or B. Just let her pass. Another carryover will give her an extra year in school,” she pleaded.
“No can do,” Obinna maintained. “If she works harder next time, she will certainly pass the course.”
Chidinma’s massive bosom was heaving with anger. As she gingerly picked her Hermès handbag from his desk and stood up, she expected Obinna to beg her to stay. The least he could do was apologise for hurting her feelings even if he wouldn’t grant her request, she thought.
But he did nothing like that. Instead, he accompanied her to her 2021 Honda CR-V EX parked in front of the Chinua Achebe Building some 30 metres away, making small talk and laughing all the way with his colleague going in the same direction.
Chidinma did not join in the banter because she had made up her mind that there was no way she would allow Nneka to marry such a “twisted” human being.
“It is one thing to be wicked,” she told herself, “but it is more sinister to do so with smiles and laughter. Obinna is sick and I’m glad I found out before the traditional rites of marriage were done.”
Ⓒ Edith Ugochi Ohaja
Hope you enjoyed the story. Let’s chat.
***Do you think Obinna should have granted Chidinma’s request?
***Do you think he’s sick as she claims?
***If you were Nneka, how would you react to what transpired between your mum and your fiancé?
This story was first published on my Facebook page, Aunty Edith, on April 1, 2023.
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