In a previous post, I mentioned that my secondary school in Nigeria did not allow provisions or tuck, as such snacks are called over here. No sweets, no chocolate, no garri, no powdered milk, no Milo, no sugar, no groundnuts, no nothing. The only food we were allowed, was the food served in the dining hall and even that one, you had to hustle for. If you were unfortunate enough to have a greedy senior on your table, you might end up eating half your daily calorie allowance for months at a time.
Of course, we did our best to break this law. Indomie used to enter our dormitories via people's underwear. The house mistresses' soon wised up and pat searches were introduced. Fortunately for me, my mother was a board member and so she visited my school often. On those visits she would bring perishables that had to be stuffed down quickly in the backseat of our car. I spent many a break time, swallowing meat pies, jollof rice and chicken. One time and I do think only once, she brought provisions for us. Perhaps they were not even for us. They were probably in the boot of the car and my sister and I, starved children that we were, jumped on them. A few packs of biscuit, some Caprisonne, some crisps, nothing much but in boarding school terms, we had hammered.
We sneaked our provisions back into our dormitory by an open window. Now we had got them in, the hardest part was stopping ourselves from getting caught. I used to wait till midnight to eat those biscuits and even then, I would crunch them very quietly to myself. This is not to say I was selfish. My close friends knew about my stash, I even gave them a few crumbs but we were very discreet. Every morning I would take my laundry bag and attach it to my dormitory window that overlooked an empty room. Then I would push the laundry bag into the empty room so the only part of it you could see from my room was the coloured strings attaching the bag to my window grill.
I thought I was safe. We all thought we were safe, myself and the others that had stuffed their goodies in their pillows and under their beds and behind wardrobes. But ladies and gentlemen, we did not know we had a spy in our midst. Perhaps, she never fell into any friendship group that had a contraband distributor in its circle. Perhaps she did but was dissatisfied with the few crumbs that were given her. Whatever her motive, she began to expose our hideouts.
The first person the school authorities took out was Ebun. It happened one Monday afternoon. Ebun came back from school, dropped her books in her wardrobe and went to lie on her bed. She did not hear the reassuring crinkle that usually told her that her packets of crisps were safe. She sat up and felt her pillow. She pulled out the foam. The pillow case was empty.
"Who stole my grub?"
Everyone looked up, including the spy.
"Ehn, Ebun your crisps are not there? Check well. Maybe you moved it somewhere else." We all said. She checked her pillow. She checked under her duvet. She checked in her cupboard. Still, no crisps. Ebun cried and we consoled her. The school authorities had struck.
"Don't worry Ebun. I'll give you a crisp when I open my packet."
After we finished commiserating, some of us went to change our hiding places. I left my laundry bag where it was. No-one could possibly look there...without information.
The next victim was Sumbo. She had hidden her contraband behind her locker. Chioma was next, her sweets were in her pant bag. At first, we thought it was a thief. But no thief would be so daring as to strike again and again in such quick succession. Then one day, I came back to my dormitory and found my laundry bag, neatly laid out on my bed, empty. This was the last straw. Something had to be done. Our room prefect, worried she might be next, staged a witch-hunt. We all lined up next to our lockers and she searched each one. No-one had the missing food. Our dormitory was not plagued with a thief but with a spy.
"Whoever casted about our grub will come last in class."
No-one really had the stomach to pronounce a curse any grimmer than that. After all, warped though our values had become due to sugar deprivation, we were not deranged enough to think the loss of a few biscuits were worth a life.
That night, all over the room, the remaining snacks were brought out of their hiding places and consumed. It was better to finish a month's supply of contraband in one night than not to eat it at all. Of course, no-one could finish their stock by themselves so we all enjoyed. Including the spy. We never found out who she was.