Short Story: Mama’s tears

Mama knew she would have a bad day when Papa arrived home from work and noticed that dinner wasn’t ready. A feeling of anger spread from his throat to his chest, and then rage crawled up the back of his neck.

“Mama Chinedu, where is my food” Papa yelled.

“I’m sorry. It will soon be ready” Mama said with a calm voice.

Mama’s day moved from shit to crap when the gas in our gas cooker got exhausted. Mama pleaded for papa’s patience. She rushed down the street to Oga Paul’s shop to get little kerosene to fuel our kerosene stove. Reaching there, she met a lot of people. Oga Paul’s wife was absent, because of their child’s illness. He was unable to attend to his customers within a short period of time. Mama spent over 15 minutes at Oga Paul’s shop.

Papa had been looking for an opportunity to pick up a fight with Mama. The unfortunate, unannounced exhaustion of our gas, coupled with the inevitable delay at Oga Paul’s shop seemed like the perfect opportunity to pounce on her.

That evening, Papa removed his belt and beat the living daylight out of Mama. He pounced on her like a predator on its prey. He pounded her to a pulp. Mama cried in whispers because she didn’t want to attract the attention of the neighbors.

Mama was practically drowning in a pool of her own tears. I and my elder brother, Chinedu, always cried along with Mama, whenever Papa, the wife beater treated her like dirt.

Papa ruled the household with a heavy hand. We lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper. He did not like seeing us play with other children. We played only when he was not around.

I remember the day Chinedu mistakenly spilled tea on Papa’s white shirt. He beat Chinedu with a big stick. Mama tried to stop him, but he also gave her a share of his cruelty. Chinedu was beaten to a state of unconsciousness; he could barely move his hands. Mama rushed him to a hospital, and there it was confirmed that my brother had some broken bones. Mama almost cried out her tear ducts. Papa didn’t show remorse for what he had done. He said “spare the rod, spoil the child”

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I often wished my father were as nice as Amaka’s father. He always played with them. The other day, I met him playing PlayStation with Obinna, Amaka’s elder brother. On his birthday, his whole family poured water on him, they laughed and celebrated with him. It reminded me of the unfortunate calamity that befell Chinedu, when he mistakenly spilled tea on Papa. Amaka’s father would have approached the same situation in a different manner.

***

Mama sat on the couch in our living room. Tears filled her eyes as she gently caressed their wedding picture. I walked up to her, and I managed to gather enough courage to ask her why she was still with Papa. “I still love him. He brings out the best in me” she said. She talked as though she were a metal gong, and Papa was a town crier, who always brought out the best from her, by hitting her hard. Mama also said she still stayed with him because of me and Chinedu, and also because the Bible preached against divorce. I just couldn’t fathom her lame reasons. They were not enough to stay with a man that beats her and their children every day. The same man that crippled their only son.

My classmates knew about my father’s tyranny. Our social studies teacher, Aunty Rose, once treated the topic “domestic violence.” As the class went on, half of the class stared at me. I felt very bad. I wondered why it was called domestic violence because Papa always behaved like a wild animal. The phrase best explained what our English teacher called a euphemism.

Mama’s liberation finally came

She was cutting vegetables in the kitchen when Papa rushed to the kitchen with his shoes. He shouted at Mama for not polishing his shoes. Before we could say jack, he started beating her. In the process, she mistakenly stabbed his heart with the knife. He died on the spot. Mama cried because she had killed the love of her life, but on the other hand, she didn’t want to rot in jail for mistakenly killing her husband. The Nigerian police would never see it as a mistake or self-defense, they’ll probably say she murdered him in cold blood. Mama knew she had to silently dispose of his dead body. We helped her wrap his body, and gently, silently put his body into the boot of his old Mercedes Benz. We successfully disposed his body at river Benue.

A few weeks later Mama reported him missing, and the Nigerian police assured her that they would help her find her missing husband.

Mama couldn’t stop crying, because she knew she killed her husband.

My only solace was knowing that Papa’s death, with ironic compassion, had liberated Mama from a deep despair over a miserable marriage.

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