Atieno Juma


The rain is unrelenting. The thunder is loud and persistent with its roar. At this time of the night, lightning is all that seems to light up the sky after long, dark intervals. I observe all this from the cracked kitchen window of our one bedroomed house, placed on the second floor of the three-storey flats.

I go back to bed with the hope that the weather keeps him from coming home tonight. For a moment I even hope that he does not make it home ever! After several of such thoughts, I hear the front door open succeeded by a thud on the floor. My eyes grow larger with fear from the sound of heavy boots proceeding toward the bedroom. It is him!

I hope he is intoxicated enough to instantly sleep at the earliest opportunity of his body making contact with any semblance of a bed.

His work boots make their heavy steps toward the kitchen. My heart drums harder against my chest with every step.

The kitchen lights are switched on. My eyes, which are but a display of fear, meet his drunken gaze. I pull the blanket over my head and feign snoring.

I hear him open the dish where mummy and I keep the food for him just in case he comes home late, of which, it is all he ever does – come home late among other things.

There is a hole on my blanket that I conveniently use to peep at him. I peep just in time to catch him at his drunken carelessness. I observe him as he struggles to uncover the dish. By the time he does, the contents – ugali and sukuma wiki which should be cold by this hour – pour all over his chest and slide down his dark blue rain coat, all the way to the kitchen floor.  He places the nearly empty dish – which only bears traces of what would have been his evening meal – on the kitchen counter and without turning off the lights, he heads toward the bedroom. The bedroom door shuts with a slam.

I hear his voice in a quarrelsome tone. I do not hear mummy’s response until she begins to let out muffled cries. The bedroom door opens. One of them rushes to the front door. By the sound of the steps I can tell that they are from bare feet. I hear the front door being locked, at the same time I hear the heavy steps proceeding out of the bedroom.

“Give me the keys!” He says to mummy with a powerful roar.

I hear mummy crying but it is only when her cry grows louder that I am convinced I should step in and do something. Anything!

I behold mummy bleeding from a scar carved above her left brow which is draining blood down the left side of her face in a single stream. She is in nothing but white underpants and a matching brassiere, which is slightly stained with blood. The shuka she apparently had on is lying just at her feet.

Daddy’s right hand, which is wielding what used to be one of the legs of their favourite stool, gifted to them on their wedding day, is raised with the possibility of finding a destination on mummy’s head. I scream out all the breath in my lungs. He shifts his menacing attention towards me. His hands lock my neck and drag me into the kitchen. My hands are keen on freeing my neck from his grip. He pushes me on to the lower decker of the bed which is set in the kitchen, next to the wall.

At this point I am uncertain of his next course of action until he picks the knife placed on the sink and points it at me.

“Do you want to fight me?” These words repeatedly come out of his mouth escorted by his breath, which is a foul mixture of hard liquour and cigarettes.

I respond to his question with a frightened look. With anger building up on his face, I can almost feel the knife being driven through me. It causes an unexplainable feeling on my stomach, then on my chest and finally my whole body. I begin to cry.

Mummy enters into the kitchen. The apparent sight has her hands over her head with her eyes to the ceiling, perhaps summoning Heaven’s strength. Tears slide down her cheeks.

The next thing I see is my father placing the knife on the kitchen counter and exiting the kitchen. Mummy’s helpless stare toward Heaven worked!

Mummy’s eyes find sight of my equally teary eyes. She pulls me closer. I rest my head on her heartbeat and with eyes closed; I lose myself in its rhythm and her warmth.


Mummy’s hands gently shaking me is what wakes me up in the morning.

“Wake up and get ready for school,” she tells me.

I observe her face which still has its usual motherly glow despite her swollen left eye and the crack in the middle of her lower lip. I take notice of the plain white cap on her head which to me is a rare sight. Perhaps it is meant to conceal facial evidence of last night’s experience.

“Hurry up it’s getting late,” these are the last words I hear from her just before I get into the bathroom as she leaves the house for work.

Within thirty minutes, I am through with my bucket shower and I have put on my school dress, checked in mild red, with a plain white collar.

I head to the kitchen to fill a cup for brushing my teeth with water from the kitchen tap – the only tap in the house that is generous enough to give out water throughout the weekdays.

I observe the knife placed on the sink. The same knife that would most probably be the tool associated with my painful end. All the other dishes used during last night’s meals are clean and kept neatly in a plastic, mesh tray to dry. Perhaps mummy was afraid of even holding the knife that would have ended her only child’s life.

I open the tap but it disappoints me. I fill the plastic cup which I picked from among the washed utensils in the tray, with water from a plastic, five-litre container that once contained hair shampoo probably brought home by mummy from work after its contents were fully used. It even has a sticker on it with a woman with soft and neat looking African hair, smiling with glossy lips and overly done make up.

As I turn to head toward the bathroom to brush my teeth, I hear the bedroom door open. I pause immediately and turn my head towards the sink.

Once I hear the bathroom door shut, I dash to the sitting room, insert all the three exercise books on the study table bearing the name Atieno Juma, into my school bag.  I notice a book on the floor, just below the study table. Pictured on it is a staircase with eight steps and two girls in uniform, both with their left feet on the eighth step. It reminds me of how hard I need to work in my final year in primary school so as to gain admission into my dream high school – the much acclaimed Alliance Girls.

A thought crosses my mind of what I would like to pursue once I get to the University, preferably the University of Nairobi, which is well known for producing admirable female figures in society.

The bathroom door opens and closes. Heavy steps proceed towards the bedroom and it crosses my mind that daddy, just like he always does, slept with his shoes on.

I wait for the bedroom door to close as I put on my white socks and black school shoes, polished by mummy, probably early in the morning when she usually wakes up to do the house chores. It takes a while before the door shuts with a needless slam. I put the textbook inside my bag, take my navy blue school sweater that is on top of the study table and I immediately leave the house for school!

2018-03-15T12:05:02+00:00 0 Comments

About the Author:

Winston Owino
Reader, Thinker, Writer, orator.

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