The Joy Of Meeting A Fake Professor

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We hosted "Professor" Gol-gosi at least twice every year when i was at Primary School.

With high shoulders and hairs sprouting out of his nose, his shot-putt head which had a thin fringe of white hair that ran along his temples and down the back of his head brilliantly gleamed in sunshine.

Then, we were innocent children with their school uniforms smelling appallingly of smoke and urine. At the mere mention of his name, we trembled in fear. We called him "Professor" simply because our teachers also called him so. However, not even once did he show up at school with a sheaf of papers to read us notes so that we could copy or pick his brain.

During those days, acquiring a degree certificate - or several of them for that matter - really counted for something. A whole village would wonder loudly and talk in whispers about you and you converted into an overnight hero.

Anyhow, Gol-gosi hadn't become "Professor" by any known published works, research or by extra teaching and could not, therefore, maintain that coquettish liaison with any academic subject. But to everyone, he was just that - "Professor".

Though he featured nowhere near a true university don, he looked intelligent, very cultured and equally very cosmopolitan.

Gol-gosi had a peculiar way of tucking his trouser legs into his socks may be because of his single-wheel bike which had fixed pedals and a thin saddle on which he sat and rode with his arms spread out wide for balance.

He also carried with him his trademark bag in which was his magic paraphernalia. On his multi-coloured painted face, Gol-gosi always wore horn-rimmed eyeglasses with one lens badly broken in a cartoonist spiderweb design but this did not stop him from wearing them.

Every time he entered our school compound, he did so in style. He would come running along with his bike, jump onto the saddle and with an ear-grating pitch his whistle would screech, announcing his arrival. Pumping at the pedals as fast as he could, he would pedal back, forth, make instant turns or move in incredible looping circles on the ground, his raffia hat in one hand while his bag dangled and swung wildly in the other.

Next, he would  move on to prop his bike against the classroom wall while we all paid an entertainment fee of a shilling per kid, one of the school teachers making small round marks on our tender palms with a red biro to avoid cheating.

Grown-ups from far and wide swarmed into the school compound in droves, anxiously looking forward to this entertainment. And for hours on end the whole school would be held at ransom, all learning activities paralysed.

Every time before Gol-gosi performed any acts of magic, he would hook us by getting us on his punchline of joke upon joke, leaving us in stitches as he laid his tools on the teacher's table after tasting the tip of his magic horn. He followed this with a haughty laughter, a chucking of his hat into the air and then an incantation, threatening to turn the boys into girls and vice-versa.

This would raise our terror quotient since we believed this could really happen. We would stare at him wide-eyed, sucking at our pens thoughtfully, regrettably scared and shaky. He would "eat" fire, balance two beer bottles, one on top of the other on a stick clenched between his front teeth and because to us this was way beyond our imagination, we would clap, laugh and laugh.

He puzzled us every time he crunched a razor after another in his mouth only to literally spit biscuits from the same mouth in turn. We would look at him with palpable anxiety in our eyes.

Sometimes Gol-gosi would choose to call any courageous boy to the front so that he could make him "lay" eggs. After smearing such a boy with his magic spell all along making frantic dances and saying many incantations, he would thwack his back off with a fly-whisk, holding his up-turned hat between the boy's legs.

Almost instantly, boiled eggs would drop into his hat from the boy's pair of shots till it would burst at the seams. And it would now be the turn for pupils, teachers and parents to chaotically stampede, scratch and scramble for the eggs while in the meantime Gol-gosi "turned" water into soda and allowed them to eat and drink.

Then, his was an isolated job and we, therefore, wondered what a great "Professor" he was. But one day he made good his cosmic joke of hanging himself from the classroom trusses and walking free unscathed. This attempt was, however, foredoomed to fail. Things simply didn't add up.

First, he darted a look round the room, knotting a rope. Then he plunged himself from the roof to the floor and for real the noose had him by the throat in a grip of such velocity that his eyes started from his head. He immediately kicked wildly in the air, causing his meticulously tucked-in-shirt tails to work themselves loose, exposing a most moth-eaten panty that had a questionable elastic. We cheered him on, of course not knowing he was in the throes of death.

Then, he hung limply, a yellowish-green urine oozing and dripping down onto the floor from his trousers. A sudden push and pull of chairs followed and everyone stood to leave. Realizing that something seriously had happened, our class teacher, with the agility of a cat, immediately scrambled and scaled the class-room wall to sever the rope with his penknife so that Gol-gosi fell onto the floor like a sack.

With his neck now free, he began to breathe heavily and muttered deliriously to himself as his body tried to adjust to the sensations that assaulted it. He had terribly failed, obviously coming under pecuniary embarrassment after tasting a glimmer of himself.

He rose bathed in perspiration, wearing an unbearable resignation in the shake of his head as he imagined what would have happened to him. And when he talked again, his voice was faint, as if separated from him by an infinite distance of space.

In the intervening time, we all wavered between open alliance for the "Professor" coupled with a concealed effort to find out what had happened to him. We huddled in small groups all over the school compound, talking in low and awestruck voices since in our childish reasoning, this thing was well-nigh inconceivable

"'I'm done," he said raising his hands up.



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