Your mother was never a good wife to me!”
“Shhh! Stop, father, don’t say such things…”
“Why not? Uh? Tell me why a man cannot say if he
was cursed with a wife?”
“Because mother will hear you and she will be
“What are you talking about?”
At this point there is some movement in the
That will be mother, I tell myself.
I know because she usually gets back at this time.
I try to listen closely. The sufurias are making that
clanking noise again. That will be mother putting
dinner on the fire.
I know it’s fried fish as usual. Every day we eat the
fish that remains from her sales at the market,
except on the days when she has sold all the fish—
a good day she calls it.
Then, if she doesn’t buy something for the house
like Panga soap, or salt or cooking fat, she gets a
quarter kilo of meat. I pray for such days. But I can
tell today that it is fish. The aroma that rises from
the kitchen need not tell me so.
I sit there next to father as he smokes his usual
Sportsman. Not Rocket, not Super Match; he
instructs me with a firm voice each time he asks
that I go to the shop to buy his cigarettes.
Like a mad man I run along the dusty path to the
shop, keen not to provoke father’s anger for he is
not a very patient man.
The smoke is not good for me at my age, mother
says, but father insists that I sit next to him every
time, even when he is smoking.
So I always sit, and cough quietly.
Where else would I sit anyway? Of course not with
mother in the kitchen. That’s no place for boys,
father has taught me. Doing so would amount to a
thrashing and father doesn’t joke with his
thrashing. He handles it proper, landing every stroke
squarely on my buttocks, so I know, the kitchen is
not my place. Here, next to father’s cracked sole, I
Every day he goes on about how mother is not a
good woman. But he keeps on saying was. I wonder
why Mother doesn’t seem to mind this. She never
speaks back to father.
She used to and father would beat the living light
out of her, but then one day she stopped, and then
her voice just became more of a whisper. Frail and
distant, only heard in the dark when even the
chiming of the clock sounds like the machines down
at the sugar factory. I hate it because I have to
strain to get what she is saying.
She doesn’t speak much nowadays anyways. Only
at night when she comes to ask me if I have taken
my medicine and if I have said my prayers. She
says one must say their prayers for God to bless
them. I say my prayers without fail. She kisses me
goodnight on the forehead. It’s usually cold.
Mother always gets in through the back of the
house. I still wonder why. Maybe father told her not
to use the front door anymore. I think that’s why
she only speaks to me and not father too.
I only respond when father is not around to see her
talk to me. Father has told me not to talk about
Aunt Merab who stays with us also tells me not to
talk about her. I don’t understand why. What
mother did to upset them that much? But I still talk
to mother when they are not looking and she tells
me everything will be fine.
Aunt Merab is mother’s younger sister. She started
staying with us when I was still a little boy – barely
two. I don’t like her very much, but she helps
mother with the chores. I think father likes her, Aunt
Nowadays, mother cooks and Aunt Merab serves
the food to father and me. Mother doesn’t eat and
she just sits there watching us gobble down the
lumps of ugali.
I don’t like it that way, but father and Aunt Merab
insist that I shouldn’t speak to mother who just sits
there and look on.
She must be hungry, I say to myself. I’ll sneak
some food to her when they are not looking.
But even when I do, mother doesn’t eat and so I
end up being scolded by Aunt Merab who says I’ll
invite big rats into the house.
I sit there now, next to father, stroking my beard,
and father goes on and on about how mother was
never a good wife.
He hasn’t stopped. He never will.
Aunt Merab, who is now father’s wife is inside
making tea. I will not drink it. Father is still
smoking; I bought him the cigarettes from the
Supermarket in town.
His hair is greying and he has lost so much weight
that his skin clings tautly to his bones. He coughs a
lot now too.
The folding chair is old and creaks every so often. I
look at the sky through the window. It is dull and
grey. I think it’s going to rain soon.
I was to leave an hour ago but father insists I have
to wait for the tea. I told him no, but even in his
frailty he still has a firm voice and the child in me is
still scared of it. Still trembled at the sound of it.
The same voice that told me no so many times
when I asked if I’ll be going to school.
My son, Junior, is outside playing with other kids
from the village. My wife, Pauline, and I need to get
him a sibling soon.
I should have had a sibling too. I hope I never
complain about his mother as my father does about
mine all the time.
He goes on with his grumbling and his muted words
cut deep like a sharp blade. He speaks of mother
with so much hatred that I ask myself if he ever
loved her a single day.
But I know he did. Once, perhaps, I think. I’ve seen
photos of them as young adults. There was
happiness and peace in it.
Aunt Merab walks in with the tea in a kettle and
rusty mugs. I can’t drink tea from a woman who
replaced my mother.
I get up to leave. Father tells me to sit down.
But I won’t.
I am not a child anymore. Not that child anymore.
I wish I could tell him I loathe him with every fibre
of my being.
He says he will tell the whole village how bad
mother was. I smile.
I know it’s all bluff and mother in her grave knows
She’s been dead twenty five years now and father
has never told anyone of how he was less a man
and mother had to lie with his younger brother to
He never will. He has to cloth his shame this man.
Prince patrick onyeka is a nigerain writer and engineering Student
at caritas University Enugu state. Writing is his passion
and he believes through writing he can explore the
world in depth.