small boys stood fearfully before their Principal. The teacher had made her report
- fighting during recess - and was on her way back to her class. That was Mr. Brown's
way. The teacher, he would say, was only a witness after the fact. Therefore, he would have to deal with the boys himself. That
would preserve the boys dignity. It was an old-fashioned way, and Mr. Brown knew
it. But then, he was proud to be an old-fashioned man.
"Fighting during recess."
Mr. Brown repeated the charge after the teacher had gone.
"A crime rewarded by corporal punishment."
The boys winced. Mr. Brown
was a champion flogger. In his younger days he was a cricketer and footballer
of great repute. His name had even been printed on the back page of the Guardian. Even now, at almost 60, his fast bowler's left arm could wield the vice principal
to great effect.
"The vice principal and I will have some work to do today."
Three pairs of eyes automatically sought the principal's desk, where
the vice principal lay. Which child (or teacher) had given that name to the short
leather strap had long been forgotten. But the name had stuck fast, and the vice
principal, like Mr. Brown, was now an institution in this small R.C. School just outside Arima.
"Well," continued Mr. Brown, "let us proceed. What class are you in?"
"Standard 5M, Sir," came the reply in unison.
"So you have been here long enough to know the rules. You will tell me what happened. If one of you started the fight, he alone will be punished. If you are both responsible, you will both be flogged. What
have you to say for yourselves?"
"Kevin start it, Sir," said one boy. "He cuff me in my face."
"Is that true, Kevin?"
"Yes, Sir, but I had a reason.
Is what Rory say, Sir, that make me cuff him."
"Kevin," said Mr. Brown, "you should know better than that. You cannot try to make other people responsible for your actions. How many times have I told this school that every human being is wholly and solely responsible for himself?"
Kevin looked straight into the Principals face.
"Sir, if I wrong I will take my licks. But first you have to hear my side of he story."
Mr. Brown was a just man. The
boys appeal struck a chord deep within him.
"You may proceed, Kevin.
What have you to say?"
"Well, Sir, we was talking 'bout cricket."
Mr. Brown ignored the grammar in the interest of fair -play.
"I say how we going and show them Englishmen this year. I say how it go be white-wash down here just like how it was white-wash up there. Rory say no. He say that the West Indies go be a mash-up team
next year, because Lloyd retire."
"That is no reason to hit anyone."
"No, Sir. That is
not when he hit me."
"No, Sir. Wasn't
then. He say we only beat England by fluke last year, because all their best
players was ban. But now the ban finish and now we go see the strength of the
lion. He say how West Indian wickets go fall cheap, and English runs go flow
Mr. Brown could well understand Kevin's feelings. Unlike this little boy, he had watched his West Indies team grow almost from its first test match to its
present supremacy. But Kevin was wrong.
Boys could not be encouraged to go to blows over talk.
"You still haven't shown cause for striking Rory, Kevin."
"I didn't hit him for that, Sir."
"Well, why DID you hit him?"
"Well, Sir, I tell Rory that the harder they
come, the harder they will fall. I tell him we have all the fast bowlers we had
before, plus Tony Gray to make it better. And don't talk about batting! Is true Lloyd gone, but we still have Greenidge and Richards and Haynes and Dujon
Mr. Brown cut in.
"You are presenting a very convincing cricket argument, Kevin,
but WHY did you hit Rory?"
"Sir, that was when I call Larry Gomes name. Then Rory start to laugh. He say, when
cocoa-payol could ever play cricket? He say that the man is the boringest batsman. He say that Gomes is not a true West Indian.
He say the man does bat like a girl - only chook-chook here and chook-chook there.
He say that Gomes does only make runs because the bowlers does fall asleep watching him bat. Is that is why I hit him."
Mr. Brown shook his head in deep disapproval. He walked over to his desk, and returned with the vice principal in his hand. A crime had been committed, and punishment had to be administered.
He placed a firm hand on the offenders shoulder, and began his task. And
as he meted out justice, Mr. Brown gave a running commentary:
do it *WHACK*
do it *WHACK*
is our *WHACK*
bad-talk him *WHACK*