Extract: “Flying” By Elnathan John

“I fly.”

She didn’t say anything. Perhaps she didn’t hear, I thought. But it was already out, already in the air between us and I knew I had to continue.

“I fly. When I sleep, I fly.”

She looked at my hands that were rapping on the table. I stopped. She leaned forward.

“Who else have you told about this?”

“Nobody. Emm, just Samson.”

“And what did Samson say?”

“He said I am mad and he laughed at me.”

“OK, first thing. You will not tell anyone else about this. Do you hear me? Nobody!”

“Yes ma.”

“Second. You are not mad Tachio.”

For the first time I wasn’t afraid to talk about my flying, not ashamed. Flying wasn’t such a bad thing. She made it all so real, people being born before and coming back. My dreams took on new meaning and I looked forward to the night. Flying became more exciting and I gradually started being able to choose where I would go, where I would fly to. I stopped crashing. It was in that month, that first month of secondary school, the month she created the post of dorm leader and put me in charge that I started enjoying flying.

The bells ring and I run back to class. I am in the E section in the records but tomorrow I will jump to G just to check Gideon’s story. His big scattered teeth make me think he was a donkey in his last life; he acts like a donkey.

The boys in the class are looking at me funny and passing little notes behind me, and everyone it seems knows something I don’t. Their murmuring has become loud and Mr. Ezra the Mathematics teacher with dark lips, who holds the chalk like a cigarette, asks what the matter is. They go quiet and he continues teaching. The notes still fly around and I am getting really annoyed. I want to punch somebody in the face, and tell them their life history.

I think of Bakut’s accusation and of the day, last year, when I had a cold drink in AuntyKeturah’s office. She asked me if the boys were unhappy about anything. I told her about the mangoes and the stories Bakut and Abednego were spreading about her selling mangoes. I thought of mentioning Samson, but Samson borrows me his extra clean socks when mine are dirty. Did I do a bad thing by telling Aunty Keturah about the lies they were spreading? Did they not cause it by saying things that were not true?

I walk to the dorm alone after the last class. Some JSS2 girls walk past me, turning and laughing. The principal has forbidden senior boys from punishing junior girls. Only senior girls can punish junior girls, otherwise I would have stopped them and asked them to kneel down for an hour. When I take off my shirt in the dorm I see why they were laughing. Someone has glued a sheet of paper reading “I am a big fool” behind my shirt. I wonder how long the paper has been there. It could have been any of the boys in my class.

Bakut sits whispering with Biggie on his bunk below mine. I know they are talking about stealing mangoes. They make me feel like I have a disease. No one is talking to me.

Even Samson just waves at me as he goes to sit with Bakut and Biggie.

I know they want to go this evening. My head struggles between telling Aunty Keturah or Bimbol the guard, between getting the boys punished, being hated and joining the boys and sealing my lips if she asks me who went out to steal mangoes.

Gideon sneaks out first and taps the window from behind the dorm to say that it is safe to come out. Then Bakut and Biggie follow, taking pillowcases to fill with mangoes.

I get down from my bed and walk around the dorm. At the other end of the dorm where the JSS1 boys are, some louvers have been left open. I walk toward the louvers and ask them who it was that left it open. Before the boys around the window begin scrambling to shut it, I see the Principal and Aunty Keturah walking toward the farm from a distance. My heart races and I run to our end of the dorm.

“Aunty and Princi are going to the farm,” I shout to Abednego who is standing by the window waiting for the rest to return. He slides out through the louvers they have removed to alert the others.

They come in one after the other panting, barefoot and sweaty. They have plucked only four mangoes. Under my bonk they laugh loudly. Gideon puts back the louvers gently.

“Men, dey for catch us o! Who told you Princi was coming?” Bakut asks Abednego.

Abednego points at me. They are all surprised and look away. Bakut takes the four mangoes out from the pillowcase. There are seven boys that will share it. Two of the boys, Ishaya and Monday don’t like mangoes. As suggestions fly between the boys on how to share the mangoes, Bakut throws me a mango. I understand it. It is his way of telling me they have forgiven me.