Short Story: Maponya’s violent demand for an heir

I reached for my phone several times, to make the call to Baraka, that would set my mum free, but I could not do it. The damage would be incommensurable to what mother was already going through.

That evening, I had walked out of my mum’s kiosk feeling extremely exasperated. I had convinced myself that I would be able to share in her tribulations if only she let me. I came to understand why Baraka had been her favourite. I wasn’t jealous though.

I wish I had not listened to the two ragged old men who were smoking next to the kiosk’s door. But I was grateful to them for enabling me to learn the truth. I tried to restrain myself but I just couldn’t as I listened to the details.

I understood her. Her unceasing nightmares were close to betraying her. Her son would hate her and her husband would kick her out of his house.

She was visibly petrified. Why was this happening at such a crucial time in her beloved son’s life? She had long vowed to take her dark secret to the grave. She worked tirelessly to ensure that we, her children, never found out. But it had all been in vain.

“Stop! Stop! Please don’t do this to me,” she kept screaming out in her dreams. The nightmares had started the day after Baraka called her to inform her of his plans to introduce them to the girl he wanted to marry.

My father would spend the day mimicking her screams.

“What has become of you? One of these days I will lock you in the dogs’ kennel so that you can scream with them,” he teased. She would laugh it off to mask her agony.

Her son Baraka was now a grown man and 30 years seemed an ideal age for him to get married. He had a well-paying job in the city and so his mum’s objection to his proposal startled him. But he agreed to wait for her explanation when he got home.

She became more and more worried and I wondered if I should talk to her to let her know that I knew why she was suffering. I found myself entangled in her emotional torture.

How could she tell him that the pastor was back in town and he was going to come for him? She would have to tell him the truth.

She had named her son Baraka after her late father — a taboo among her people to name a firstborn child from her own home instead of the husband’s home. But she had no option. She had to protect her son from finding out the truth.

“Aren’t you going to bed,” I asked her.

“Not until Baraka arrives from the city. I have to talk to him,” she said nervously.

“Then I will stay with you,” I told her.

“Sally, please go to bed,” she implored.

She was trying to avoid her nightmares, but I didn’t want her to suffer any more. If I kept her company, it would be easier for her to stay awake.

It was past midnight and the Laudadi bus from Nairobi, which stopped at the road near our house, had not yet arrived.

******

I recalled what the old men were talking about outside my mother’s kiosk.

“The pastor has been released from prison,” said Matangwe.

“Really? I thought he had been given a life sentence?” asked Manyasa.

“Haven’t you heard? The president has awarded all death-row inmates amnesty,” said Matangwe.

Their conversation then moved to my mother and how the pastor’s release would affect her.

She had been a maid in pastor Maponya’s house. At only 15 years she was able to handle all the house chores in the huge mansion, which housed visitors from all over the country who were seeking a miracle.

Things started to change when pastor Maponya complained to his wife that she was overworking their maid and that her salary needed to be increased. Pastor Maponya’s wife agreed to increase her salary and to employ another maid to help her with the chores. My mother was also allowed to attend service and have dinner with her employers. She grew close to the Maponyas.

However, the pastor soon started making aances towards her, which she rejected. He became persistent, insisting that she needed to bear him a son — an heir. But, she continued to refuse him. One night, the unimaginable happened and he forced himself on her violently. She had sobbed when testifying in court.

When she found out that she was pregnant, she vowed never to let Maponya see her son. She was not afraid of him, despite his constant threats that he would come back to claim his son — his heir.

******

“So I am the son of a rapist?” Baraka asked my mother, unable to hide his disgust and hurt.

“You are my son, Baraka. That monster has no claim over you,” my mother said, trying to reassure him.

Baraka ran out of the house, confused and hurt. All we could do was watch him disappear into the night.

SOURCE: THE EAST AFRICAN