(Good people, the previous story, Encountering an Altar Wolf, is now complete and available in the bookstore. I published it yesterday. Today we are having a proper Tuesday, and since I am back to good health, I expect that our normal schedule will return. I will publish part II of this story on Friday. Thanks a lot for your patience, concern, prayers and words of comfort during the time I was ailing. Asanteni sana.)
It is only 6.30pm, but darkness is already enveloping the house. Thirteen year old Mark rises from the dining table, switches on the lights and draws the curtains.
“I think I should go and cook now,” Joy, his eleven year old sister, says.
“Have you finished your homework?”
“No. But you know mum is going to beat me if she finds that I have not cooked.”
“It is okay, Joy. Just finish your assignment. I will cook.”
“Mother will throw a tantrum if she finds you in the kitchen.”
Joy twists her faces and starts mimicking her mother. “What kind of a woman are you Joy? Why would you allow your brother to cook? What do you think your father will say if he finds his son cooking?”
Mark laughs loudly, and his sister joins in. Mark is already too tall for his age. It is obvious that he is going to take their father’s giant frame, while his sister, who is only eleven years old, looks set to become as short as their mother, unless teenage hormones intervene and inspire an aggressive growth spurt.
“You know, big bro, I wish it was just me and you in this house. That is the only time we are ever happy. These adults always make us miserable.”
“That is true. But those adults feed us. Don’t worry siz, we will soon grow up and leave.”
“Next year you will leave me all alone when you go to high school.”
“Maybe mum will take you to a boarding primary school.”
“And lose her personal servant? That won’t happen bro, and you know it. I will slave here for another two years before I go to high school. And if mom gets her way, I will go to a day secondary school. Have you seen the way she campaigns against boarding schools on Facebook?”
“You would think she is the best parent on the planet.”
Suddenly the door opens and their mother enters.
“What are the two of you yapping about? Is there no work to be done in this house? Mark, have you milked the cows?”
“Yes ma, I have. I was just telling Joy to finish her school assignments. I will go and cook.”
“She has not cooked? What has she been doing the whole day?”
“You told us to go to that Sunday school event. It ended at three.”
“What was she doing while you were milking?”
“She washed the house, dusted the surfaces and washed the utensils that had piled up on the sink since last night.”
“And? Is that all?”
“That is a lot of work ma.”
Mark is the only one talking to their mother. Although he gets beaten as much as Joy, he has increasing been holding his nerve against his mother, although he has remained respectful.
“And you,” Agnes says turning to her daughter. “What do you have to say for yourself? Why haven’t you cooked?”
Joy, frightened, murmurs something incoherent.
Agnes pulls her by the ear, and she screams. Suddenly, Mark yanks away his mother’s hand from his sister’s ear and stands between them.
“Leave my sister alone,” he says in what would have been a growl, had he been an adult man. But he is a teenager, and his voice is just breaking.
“Ah, so you are man now. You can challenge your mother. Is that it?”
“Yes,” Mark says firmly. “Joy and I have had enough of your harassment. You and dad are always beating us over things that are not our fault.”
“Who do you think you are to talk to me like that?” Agnes snaps, staring up at her son, who is already a head and shoulder taller than she is. She tries to slap him, but he catches her hand midair and holds it firmly.
“You are never going to lay a hand on me ever again, mother. Never. And as long as I am in this house, you will not beat Joy either. I have had enough.”
“Ah, so you are a grown up man now. You have figured out that you can beat me, haven’t you?”
“No mother. I am never going to beat a woman, much less my own mother. I don’t like the way dad beats you. In fact, I will never even beat another man. I will never try to use my physical superiority over anyone the way dad does with you, or the way you and dad do to us. But from now on if I am attacked I will defend myself. And Joy is part of me, so if she is attacked, I will defend her too.”
Agnes is taken aback by the maturity in her first born son’s words, but she does not yield ground. So mother and son stare at each other coldly for a few minutes, before the son’s eyes soften.
“Mother, you should know that we love you. Joy and I do love you very much; but you have been mistreating us, and we have feelings too. We are not kids, mom. We can see that you are always angry and bitter, and that anger and bitterness is what you transfer to us through unwarranted beatings. But it is not us that you have a fight with, Mum. It is dad. If he beats and mistreats you, it is unfair for you to transfer that anger and bitterness to us.”
This time Mark’s words cut deep into Agnes’s soul. She has never thought about her attitude towards her children before. In her mind, she has always been disciplining them as any parent should. She loves these children, but even God knows that they drive her up the wall, just like their father. Her face softens as she looks at her son.
“I don’t hate you and your sister. I am just trying to bring you up as responsible adults.”
“Why then did you want to beat up Joy a few minutes ago? Why were you pulling her ears? She is eleven years old mother, yet after coming from that church function that you insisted we attend she came, cleaned this monstrous house, washed utensils and started doing her homework. What did she do wrong to warrant a beating? You are an adult mother, but I am sure you could not have done much more than she has. Joy is just finishing her school work, what is wrong with that?”
“You know your father doesn’t like having his meals late.”
“It is 6.30, and I had offered to cook so that my sister can finish her assignment.”
“Your father doesn’t like seeing you in the kitchen. You are a man, Mark. And men don’t cook. That is the work of women.”
“Joy is not a woman. She is a girl. She is just eleven years old.”
“So what do you want me to do?” Agnes asks, her anger rising again.
“Come home early and help us with house chores. Or hire a house help.”
“You know we don’t have money for that.”
“You don’t? You are a government employed secondary school teacher. Dad is a wealthy businessman. And we have had house helps before. What changed? Why can’t you employ someone to do the housework while Joy and I focus on our studies? You know we want to be successful in life too.”
“You don’t know anything son.”
Suddenly they hear the unmistakable hum of a Hilux pickup rolling into the compound. The conversation ends abruptly. Joy wants to go and cook but her mother stops her.
“You go and finish your homework, sweetheart. I will cook.”
“Okay mum, thanks.”
“I will help you mum,” Mark offers.
“No son; that will land me in trouble.”
“That man will always find trouble with you, mother. But it is time we set the boundaries.”
Donald pushes the door of the house open, drops his car keys on a stool and heaves himself on a sofa, without talking to anyone. Mark dutifully brings him tea in a flask, and a cup.
“Why are you serving tea like a woman?” his father asks. “Where is your mother? I did not marry you. I married her.”
“She is preparing dinner.”
“And your sister? What is she doing there seated while you serve tea? She is the one who should be learning how to perform domestic duties, not you.”
“She is completing her homework.”
“So they asked you to do their work?”
“No dad. I volunteered.”
“Agnes!” Donald shouts with a scowl on his face. Mark has always been amazed at how quickly his father’s persona changes when he leaves public spaces. Out there, especially in church where he is the treasurer, he is a charming man, an adorable husband and father. But inside this house he is a scowling monster.
“Why are you delegating your work to my son? Why did I pay your bride price if you are too big headed to even serve me tea?”
“I am sorry Don. Mark volunteered and I…”
Donald jumps up from his seat and raises his hand to slap his wife. But Mark swiftly, pushes his mother away and blocks the slap. Surprised, Donald stares at his son.
“What do you think you are doing?”
“You are not going to beat my mother and sister again while I am in this house. You have to kill me first.”
Donald laughs scornfully.
“So you are a man now, uh? You reckon that you can challenge your father.”
Mark does not respond. He is frightened, but he stands firm.
Suddenly his father tries to slap him, but he blocks the blow, nearly dislocating his arm in the process. But the older man is angry now. He punches his son in the jaw, and Mark sees a thousand twinkling stars in a strange universe. He collapses as the blows keep coming, but his father hoists him up with one hand and continues beating him with his free hand and his knees. The last thing Mark hears before passing out are the screams of his mother and sister.
Image by Fedhi Bouhaouchine from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/man-sad-portrait-black-and-white-7166710/
To purchase any of the books in our e-bookstore (including the latest one, Encountering an Altar Wolf), you can follow either one of two main ways:
- MPESA Automated Digital Payment Method. Log in to the bookstore- register if you are new-(https://www.maroncha.com/book-store ). Select the book. Add to cart, check out then pay by inserting your number on the space provided then clicking ‘confirm’. You will be able to download instantly from the bookstore. A copy will also be automatically sent to your email.
- Pay Via Till Number. Log in to the bookstore- register if you are new-(https://www.maroncha.com/book-store ). Select the book. Add to cart, check out then pay via the Buy Goods Till Number provided. Once you get the message from MPESA, insert the MPESA code on the space provided then click ‘Validate Code’. You will be able to download instantly from the bookstore. A copy will also be automatically sent to your email.
If you are completely unable to use the above two methods, you can still purchase your copy manually. The only disadvantage of this method is that you will have to wait for a few hours before you get your copy. But eventually it will come.
- Pay Kshs. 100 to Buy Goods Till Number 297264 and send an email to email@example.com (or DM Sanctuary Side on Facebook) stating your MPESA name. Use the name of the book as the subject of your email. If you send a DM to Sanctuary Side on Facebook, kindly also include your email address. I will send your copy once I verify your payment.
- Pay Kshs. 100 to Buy Goods Till Number 297264 and send an SMS/WhatsApp message to 0105571156 stating your MPESA name and the name of the book you wish to purchase. I will send your copy once I verify your payment.
Remember you can always DM Sanctuary Side on Facebook, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a WhatsApp message to 0105571156 if you have a query or feedback.
See you all on Friday.