Patch by Mucheru Njaga

 

Loosely based on author Mucheru Njaga’s own experiences at boarding school, Patch is a coming of age story that illustrates the growing epidemic of teenage bullying. Set in the serene countryside of East Africa, Patch follows Gabriel, a troubled American teenager who is transferred to an international all-boys boarding school for the wealthy and privileged. He soon finds that the school’s impressive exterior hides a world of abuse and intimidation at the hands of a group of well-established student leaders known as “Prefects.” Freshman Gabriel defies the status quo and challenges the authority of the Prefects for the first time, showing that bullying is not something to be endured.

Read an Excerpt!

Welcome to Prince of Wales

“Ah, yes,” Nigel’s replied meekly, wondering just where this was leading.

The countryside was heavily jaded in shades of green which blanketed the fertile

tea fields sloping across the hills of East Africa. The lush and rich land starkly contrasted

with the weary and overheated local tea pickers who curiously turned their direction to

the black limousine winding down the road. For one brief second, they envisioned

themselves living such an affluent life, before reality took over and their calloused hands

continued the laborious task at hand. Inside the plush interior of the air conditioned limo,

was a different type of contrast.

“This is it. This is where it all begins, son,” the father announced as the limo

emerged from the shadows of the tree-lined drive. It was a journey the father had

anxiously and proudly anticipated making with his son since the day he was born, 14

years ago. Nigel, on the other hand, did not mirror his father’s excitement.

For the umpteenth time, Nigel watched his father pull out his gold ring to polish

the blue crystals which spelled out “Head of School 1950.” For the umpteenth time, Nigel

turned his head, choosing instead to gaze at the landscape in silence.

“This is a big step. I’m proud of you, son,” his father said, stroking his hand

across Nigel’s hair.

Again, Nigel didn’t respond, refusing to feign interest to appease his father. It

wasn’t with excitement, but rather with dread, that Nigel peered over the top of hill as

they drove through the white colonial gates and past the sign, “Welcome to Prince of

Wales Boarding School.”

While their limousine was out of place among the tea fields and pickers, its

opulence was lost among the sea of luxury cars and seemingly identical black limos

which lined the parking lot of the high school. This day was designated to receive the

incoming freshman, and young boys and their parents from across the globe were being

welcomed inside the historical main hall. Scattered across the parking lot were alumni

and parents sharing the usual cordial greetings and their mutual admiration of the twostory,

pillared structure which sprawled across the campus grounds.

The chauffeur dutifully held the doors as Nigel and his father exited the back seat.

Pausing only for a brief moment for Nigel’s father to admire the clock tower which sat

above the wide entrance, their silence was broken.

“Take a good look, son. This architectural masterpiece is older than I am. You’ll

walk through those doors a young boy. In four years, you’ll walk out of them a man.”

To the side of large Venetian pillars leading to the main hall were wall after wall

of names depicting the school’s alumni. Many of the names were familiar, some famous.

They represented wealth, new money and old, prestige, and power. The walls bore the

names of the social and political elite, as well as generations of royalty, all heirs to the

stature and status of the esteemed Prince of Wales Boarding School.

Nigel had heard about the wall for years, so he wasn’t surprised when his father

pointed to a name prominently displayed among them.

Sir Charles Churchill – Head of House 1950

“That name will never be forgotten, Nigel. In good time, yours will be forever

embodied among this wall, too. That is an honor and a privilege. Always remember that.”

“Yes, Father,” Nigel agreed.

Their shoes clicked on the highly polished floors inside the main hall as the

sounds of a strong, deep voice pulled them toward the assembly of hundreds of parents

and their incoming freshmen.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome your children, not just as proud, new students

to Prince of Wales High, but as new Patcharians!”

The opening remarks by Principal Boon Fletcher were met with thunderous

applause by the eager parents, who stood in recognition of the monumental occasion

marked by Boon’s words. Nigel’s eyes, however, lacked emotion as they scanned the

crowd, finally settling on the elderly man who spoke behind the podium and the towering

display of over 200 school trophies which served as his backdrop. To many, it was a

grand and impressive scene, but Nigel preferred to have no part of it.

Boon waited for his audience to quiet before inciting them again.

“Patch, yeah!” he cheered.

“Yeah!” yelled the parents, excitedly returning their response to the school’s

cheer.

“Patch, yaah!” Boon continued, louder yet.

“Yaah!” the parents’ replied, thrusting their fists into the air.

“Patch, yeah!” roared Boon.

“Yeah!” echoed the audience.

“Patch, yaah!” bellowed Boon’s voice through the mike.

“Yaah!” the crowd cheered in unison, all of whom were now on their feet in a

display of unity and enthusiasm.

Principal Boon coughed and smacked his chest while waiting for the cheers to

subside. Then, the out of breath 68 year old principal and long-time fixture at Prince of

Wales used the opportunity to joke, “I’m getting too old for this!”

His remark received its anticipated response, and the crowd’s laughter dimmed to

a more solemn reception.

“My fellow parents, it is our pledge to turn your boys into the finest gentlemen the

world has seen. If you would, please take a moment to look around. The alumni in this

room and around the world are a strong testament to what Prince of Wales can do for

your child. Now, I’d like you to please welcome 1950 alumni Mr. Sir Charles Churchill

of the esteemed Churchill family based in London!”

Nigel’s father immediately stood, nudging his son to do the same, as the crowd

turned their attention and applause to the father and son duo.

“And we have the French ambassador to America and his son,” boasted Boon.

The impeccably dressed ambassador raised his hand in recognition of the

audience’s applause.

“And, all the way from Dubai, with us today is Sultan Abdi Saleen and his son,

Ali Saleen. Welcome, Your Highness.”

Simultaneously, the Sultan and his son raised their hands.

“And, from the United States, we have Senator Charles Liberman.” Boon

announced.

As the Senator stood and waved to the crowd, Boon’s message to him drew

laughter. “You have our support for the Presidency, Senator. One fundraiser with the

parents in this room and you’ll serve three terms!”

“And last, but definitely not least, you have yours truly,” Boon continued, holding

up his alumni school ring. “Fifty years and it still fits like a charm,” he proclaimed before

kissing his ring in a show of loyalty.

“Now, before you leave your young sons with us to embark on their journey, I

want to introduce you to a special group of young men who are really responsible for

making this school what it is. They are the guardian angels entrusted to tirelessly guide

and watch over your little ones. It is them who turn our boys into men. Without them,

there would be no Prince of Wales; there would be no Patch. Ladies and gentlemen,

please give a well-earned round of applause for our school prefects.”

On cue, 30 young men marched into the hall, identically dressed in crisp navy

blue blazers and gray slacks with sharp, razor edge creases. Their movements were

carried out with military accuracy and precision as they fell into a straight-line formation

at the front of the hall and dutifully gave the parents a 90 degree bow.

Each prefect had a bunch of keys dangling back and forth from their index finger,

giving them a distinguished look of importance. If anything announced their presence, it

was the sound of metal keys ringing. The resulting applause was evidence that the

prefects had sufficiently impressed the parents with their flawless behavior and

authoritative command.

The crowd hushed as two more prefects entered and stood in front of the rest,

awaiting their introduction. They were immaculately dressed in the same uniform as the

others, but their stature was also noticeable.

“And these two gentlemen are the leaders of the school prefects.” Principal Boon

proudly announced. “Please welcome Head of School Wandera.”. Wandera, an 18 year

old senior, stepped his towering 6’4” frame forward, acknowledging the introduction

with a raise of his hand and a brief smile. “And, his deputy, Aron Sarge,” Boon

proclaimed.

Nigel sat silently while the rest of the audience applauded as the five and a half

foot tall deputy head of school won the parents over with his baby face. Sarge’s smile

was directed at the parents, but his gaze fell and stayed directly on Nigel.

“These young gentlemen took an oath before they became prefects to protect and

serve every single student in this school. They report directly to me on everything that

happens here, so rest assured that your boys are in the best of hands,” Boon explained.

“That said, it is now time to say your final goodbyes. Fellow parents, it is now your

child’s turn to benefit and grow here. Let their journey begin. Thank you.”

Amidst the final applause, mothers hugged their sons and fathers shook their

hands in a symbolic gesture of the transition they were about to make. Nigel knew better

than to express any anxiety over his father’s departure, and listened silently to his parting

words, “I’m proud of you, son. Remember to pay attention; they have much to teach

you.”

Fifteen minutes later, the parents had cleared the hall, leaving 200 boys to make

small talk and introduce themselves to their new classmates.

No one noticed the prefects, or the fact that their previously smiling faces had

suddenly turned to cold blooded, unmoving stone.

Chapter Four

Principal Boon’s Office

Boon returned to his office after giving his speech, happy to be done with the

annual orientation and activities which surrounded it. He was more than ready to return to

business as usual, but he immediately saw that he had one problem to contend with.

Throwing his glasses onto his desk, he bellowed, “You again! I thought I told you

we were finished. Who let you in here?” “I did, sir,” replied Vincent, a 17 year old who

wore the same uniform as the prefects, minus the tie.“Well, you can just turn around and

let yourself out.

The Boon we saw at the hall welcoming the new students with smiles and open

arms was long gone, this was the real Boon. “Please…Please don’t make me beg, sir,”

pleaded Vincent.

“You don’t have to. It won’t do you any good because we are finished,”

admonished Boon. “Now, get out of here.”

Not one to take no for an answer, Vincent continued, “Please, sir.”

“I said we are done,” Boon sternly reiterated.

The words sparked Vincent’s temper, and in haste, he slammed his hands down

on the principal’s desk and loudly demanded one more time, “Please!”

Realizing there would be repercussions for his actions, Vincent couldn’t deny the

fury in Boon’s eyes. Immediately, he calmed down and changed course.

Now pleading, Vincent took it down a notch. “Please, sir. Give me one more

chance. You need me.”

“Vincent, get your damn hands off of my desk. NOW! Haven’t I told you

repeatedly that as a prefect, you must watch your temper at all times? Well, apparently,

you still don’t.” Vincent obediently removed his hands from the desk, but remained

standing in front of Boon’s desk. He wasn’t going to give up this easily.

“You’re lucky I didn’t have you expelled. Now, get out of my sight. I don’t want

to see you again.” Boon turned away. After waiting for several seconds, he stood and

commanded, “I said Get Out!”

Vincent turned his heels toward the door, pausing to catch and hold Boone’s stare,

and leaving him with one parting remark.

“You will need me one of these days, sir. I promise you, you will need me.

Remember that.”

Boon dismissed his warning with disgust and a lack of tolerance that was growing

rapidly. He fought to control his rage as he ordered Vincent to leave one last time,

leaving no doubt that he meant it. As Vincent closed the door behind him, Boon’s final

words seared straight to his soul. He vowed to himself that this wasn’t over—not yet, not

ever.

Back in the main hall, Wandera cranes over Sarge’s shoulder and whispered,

“Shut the door”

Chapter Five

BAM! The slamming of the door to the main hall rebounded around the room,

bouncing off the walls with such force that it caused most of the 200 boys in the room to

jump with a start. Immediately, the idle chit chat came to an abrupt halt, leaving the room

in eerie silence as the students looked up to see what it was that commanded their

attention.

Forty pairs of eyes pierced through them, sending flaming daggers into the

student body. The most demonic of which came from what some would have perceived

the most unlikely source—Sarge, the smaller, baby-faced prefect who had just been

introduced as deputy head of school.

Cold, calculated, and commanding, his words were a stark contrast to the boyish

innocence of the friendly image which had won the trust of their parents. Left in its place

was a vision of visceral hatred that left no doubt of its target.

“Your prefects stand before you, yet you do not have the decency to stand up!”

Perplexed and confused, the freshmen didn’t move, stunned and uncertain if they

were to take him seriously or if this was simply a joke, in which case they should chuckle

in response.

“I said, Your prefects stand before you, yet you do not have the decency to

STAND UP!”

The last two words were delivered with resounding force and accompanied by a

startling rage as Sarge leapt toward the front row, causing the students to recoil in defense

of whatever was to come.

“Jump on your knees!”

The freshmen scrambled to comply with the order by lowering themselves to their

knees, frightened to further ignite the fury of this prefect-turned-devil. The other prefects

remained perfectly still, emotionless to the obvious confusion and alarm which the

deputy provoked among their charges.

With a snap of his fingers so loud that its echo didn’t go unnoticed, Sarge’s action

received its intended result, causing the freshmen to flinch and jump in response. His

piercing eyes closed in on their target.

“You,” he ordered, pointing his index finger directly at his victim, “Come here.”

Obediently, Nigel did as told and slowly rose to his feet. He hesitantly walked

toward the prefect, stopping just short of arm’s distance.

“Closer.”

Nigel complied, moving in one small step, jerking back slightly when Sarge

reached across to place his hand on his left shoulder.

“Your father is an alumni here, is he not?”

Uncertain where the line of questioning was going, Nigel paused before

answering in the affirmative.

“Then you are somewhat familiar with our,” Sarge halted in mid-sentence just

long enough to clear his throat and create the desired emphasis. “Oursystem.

His familiarity with the system, however, didn’t prepare him for Sarge’s next

words as he calmly issued his directive.

“Good. Since you are familiar with our system, I’d appreciate it if you would

show your fellow rabbles here how to jump on their knees.”

In shocked disbelief, Nigel didn’t budge, unwilling to admit that he might have

heard him right and hoping he didn’t. Three seconds, maybe four, ticked by before he

dared to respond.

“Excuse me?”

Sarge’s sharp backhand caught Nigel’s face and sent him reeling to the floor,

while his fellow classmates winced in fear and sympathetic pain, thinking that this

couldn’t be real. It was a nightmare beyond their wildest imagination.

Sarge found even further dominance as he stood over Nigel, lecturing him and

repeating his command.

“Are you deaf or are you hesitating?” he screamed. “I want you to show your

fellow rabbles how to jump on your knees!” Picking Nigel up by the collar, he showed

amazing strength for a young man of his size. “Now, jump on your knees, Rabble!”

Unable to contain himself any longer, tears streamed down Nigel’s cheeks. He

had never felt more helpless or homesick in his life.

“Jump!”

Nigel could feel the tension in the room as all eyes locked on him. The other

freshmen were waiting to see what he’d do, some praying that he wouldn’t do it or that

Sarge would change his mind, and others wishing that he would jump and get it over

with, more frightened of the repercussions he’d face if he refused.

One freshman who was overhead saying, “What the hell is this? I didn’t sign up

for this” was quickly warned to shut up by another. There was no sense in calling

attention to themselves. Nobody else wanted to join Nigel at the front of the room.

Nigel’s teary eyes panned the crowd quickly before looking down at the planks of

the hardwood floor. Still on their knees, his classmates held their breath as they watched

him take a deep breath, close his eyes, and…

It happened fast. Nigel quickly leapt up into the air, bent his knees, and landed

with an ear shattering thud. His painful scream pushed several students to tears and others

to cover their faces or ears in shock. They were all traumatized and watching Nigel bent

over and shaking in pain was more than they could bear.

But one person wasn’t surprised. He wasn’t shocked or even slightly bothered by

the events. As a matter of fact, if anything, you could say that Sarge was proud of

himself, satisfied that he had once again performed his duty. With a slight smile toward

the prefects lined up behind him, he turned to the incoming class and smugly delivered

his finals words.

“Welcome to the real Patch.”

During his adolescent years, Mucheru Njaga attended one of the most prestigious boarding schools in Kenya, one designed to transform boys into gentlemen of power and status. But underneath the school’s pristine façade was a brutal system that encouraged abusive student leadership—a system Njaga both endured and perpetuated. As Njaga rose through the ranks of the student leadership system, he assumed the role of the bully. His debut novel, Patch, tells the story of triumph over fear from the dual perspective of both victim and bully.

Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Njaga moved to the United States after his time at Prince of Wales Boarding School in Kenya. Njaga studied creative writing at Hunter College in New York City, combining his love for movies and video games by writing screenplays and video game programs. He discovered that one of his main passions was writing stories targeting youth and their life challenges, drawing inspiration from epic tales such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

After reading an article about a boy who committed suicide because he could not cope with a local school bully, Njaga was struck by the familiarity of the boy’s struggle, and Patch was born. Loosely based on Njaga’s own experiences at Prince of Wales Boarding School, Patch is a coming of age story that illustrates the growing epidemic of teenage bullying.

Njaga currently lives in San Francisco with his fiancée and is working on a screenplay adaptation of Patch in addition to the sequel. Njaga’s life goal is telling stories that capture the essence of human nature, and he hopes to bring old and lost ancient African folklore stories to life. For more information, please visit www.mnjaga.com.



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