The Wine Gift (Short Story)
Chibundu was very angry as he left the headmaster’s office.
“I’m the one that looked for trouble,” he blamed himself. “If I had just visited my parents and left as I planned, this embarrassment would not have happened.”
As he was about to start the engine of his ageing Toyota Cressida, some female teachers seemed to have recognised him and hailed, asking him to meet them.
He got out and banged the car door to join the ladies, who had all been his teachers at one time or the other during his days as a pupil at that community primary school. In his hurry, he forgot to remove his car key from the ignition.
He walked over to the ladies where they stood outside Primary 5A classroom, Mrs. Ugwuowo’s class. They exchanged pleasantries and the ladies were delighted to learn that he was a staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance, having obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics from their state university.
The women took in Chibundu’s handsome face, strong physique and two-piece suit. They began to tease him about his love life.
“Has any girl seized you yet? I’m asking because my Vero is still available o,” Mrs. Ugwuowo interposed. Vero was her second daughter and two years younger than Chibundu.
He assured them that he was still single and told them of his car key. They called a “versatile” young male teacher to help him.
Once the car door was open, Chibundu looked at the bottle of non-alcoholic wine on the passenger seat and made a quick decision. He picked up the wine in its green supermarket bag and went back to Mrs. Ugwuowo.
It was still break time and she had gone into her classroom. The two ladies with her were on their way to their classrooms but came right back as they saw Chibundu approach.
It’s just as well, he thought.
He presented the wine to the women as a token of his appreciation for their dedication in teaching him and their kindness while he was a pupil at the school.
The ladies were so pleased. They prayed for him, popped the wine and drank a toast to his health and prosperity with plastic cups from Mrs. Ugwuowo’s desk drawer.
No one subjected him to an “inquisition” about when and where he bought the drink, unlike the headmaster, he noted.
Chibundu drove away with mixed feelings. The headmaster, Mr. Ibe, had been instrumental in pulling him out of a gang of bad boys he had joined in Primary 6 and advised his mum to send him to a secondary school in a faraway state to avoid “reinfestation” as he called it.
Chibundu had always told himself that one day he would come to thank Mr. Ibe but the occasion was ruined because rather than express his gratitude first, he presented the wine and Mr. Ibe was engrossed in finding the expiry date.
After they both searched for about a minute, Chibundu saw it at the bottom of the label. But that portion was so squeezed as to make the figures unclear and Mr. Ibe rejected the drink on that account.
Questions were swirling in Chibundu’s mind. Should he have gone to substitute the drink at the supermarket? Was he wrong to consider Mr. Ibe’s response harsh?
He consoled hinself that he had visited the school and that his good gesture was appreciated, even though it was not by the person he intended it for.
Ⓒ Edith Ugochi Ohaja
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