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In bare feet, unbutton blue shirt and a necktie hanging from his neck, was Mr. Perkins Rowland, a NewYorker millionaire. He continued walking softly yet hurting on Washington avenue. He's dead to the world but alive to his son who cost him a million dollar investment and job. He lost all, and now he must lose his son to justice....
PEOPLE WERE running at their best speed, scattering in different directions. A huge stone was rolling downwards from a mountain top. Helpless I was, lying on a tambourine at the foot of the mountain. I was hearing screams. I could see dust rising up and could feel the ground trembling. With all my might I struggled to rise to my feet and run but couldn’t. I couldn’t feel able to walk, not even able to move my hand or shout. The voice couldn’t come out however much I attempted screaming for help. It was as if all my body was dead but heart and eyes alive. Down and down, dust rising continuously, the stone kept coming near and nearer. I closed my eyes to die softly and innocently. ‘Puff’ it hit me. I screamed so high and woke up. My heart was beating faster and hard. Still, I could feel an invisible external force exerted on me. Oh, mum had fallen on me. I saw dad advancing towards her. He grabbed her off from me and slapped her. She spat into his face. A punch. A hard one from dad got her left cheek. She staggered and fell into the single sofa.
“I can kill you. Woman I can kill you right now.” He shouted, pushing her by the neck against the sofa. I saw mum’s hand stretching to grab a whisky bottle on the stool. It was far. She couldn’t get it.
“Papa, leave mum alone.” Mariza cried and ran to separate them. A five year old girl couldn’t. Accidentally dad hit Mariza with his elbow. She fell crying bitterly. That distracted them. He left mum, cursed and abused her and then spat on the carpet before dissolving into his bedroom. Mum hurriedly attended to Mariza. This house! I was tired of watching this live movie almost every day. I looked at the watch and it was 8:45pm. Before I drifted off to sleep, I vividly recall mum
leading me into my bedroom and sing me.
Unlike other days I woke up twenty minutes late the following morning. Like usual I knew mum was not in the house. She always left for work two hours before the alarm sounds to wake us prepare for school. I rushed to the bedroom to wake my sisters up; Jacklyn Rowland and Mariza Rowland. Mariza at her age of five years looked bigger than her age. She resembled mum and you would think she was her twin. Her hair was long reaching her butt. My mother was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was a woman, a wife and a mother. I wished I resembled her. Mum looked her age of fourty two. A woman with a simple and kind face, sparkling light blue eyes and a long face - slender, tall, with short curly hair, was Catherine Rowland. Jacklyn was ten years and the smallest among us. Many people would disagree that I was thirteen years. “You look ten,” many would say. I hated being called a young boy. I wished one day I woke up when I have a beard, muscles and when am taller than any man in town. Our big brother, Zach at his age of eighteen years was taller than our parents. His long and bony face plus the blue small eyes made him to look aged.
Jacklyn and mariza were not in the room when I checked in. I glared at their beds briefly. They were neatly covered each having a Ted bear on top. These are girls, after all when am a man, I will have a wife. She will be making my bed, I consoled myself realising that never a single day have I ever put my bed in order. I don’t recall washing my face. I had less than ten minutes to get at the bus stop. And in those minutes, I needed five to walk to the bus stop. And five to finish assignments that I intended to do very early in the morning before I go to school.
In a rush I opened the door to leave, I almost knocked Zach. He had come but collapsed down in front of the door. He was and looked very drunk. This wasn’t knew either. Zach would sleep out of home and come back in the morning when he’s very drunk. Some times he’d take days away from home without any of us knowing where he is. I pulled him inside and in the process he vomited on me. He dropped out in high school without a reason. He was that guy who cared about nothing and is worried about nothing and wanted to be nobody.
I cleaned the waste, changed the T-shirt. I didn’t want to change it because my best friend Samantha had told me the previous day that I look handsome in it. She loved it and it was her favourite among all my clothes. I kicked his butt and ran out to school.
Upon reaching at the bus stop, an old man confided in that, the bus had left five minutes back. I stood aimlessly at the bus stage. “What a day this is!” I thought. We were to have an exam and I had to present my home work. The school band was to perform for the mayor and the band club needed me. I stood, with my hands feeling the warmth of my pockets. A schoolbag on my back. It was heavier than usual. On looking down, I saw that my shoes had been dirtied, when Zach vomited. I squatted to fasten the dangling shoeraces and clean the shoe using a piece of paper.
“Perk!” A soft voice from a distance.
I recorganised the voice and couldn’t help smiling. Samantha, had passed her head through the windscreen and was calling me. I hurried and joined her in the car. Samantha was a daughter to my teacher, Becky. She was of my age but looked older than me. She was taller than me by a few centimetres. Her soft oval face and black long hair made her to resemble the Phillipino girls. I loved her hazel eyes and long chin. Sometimes I called myself a fool for loving her. Boys in my school had less to do with fat girls. Friends always teased me. “You are three times your girl friend...you can’t even afford to carry her...” They would say. I never cared for I knew that was a big lie. I was twice her weight.
“How is home?” Samantha’s mother asked a question I hated. I disliked talking about home, for it’s a home without love, a disorganised home. I remained quiet and lowered the windscreen and looked out.
“Did your parents fight again?” In a low concerned tone, Samantha asked as she patted me on the shoulder. I remained silent. I loved Samantha and indeed she was the only person I loved and trusted among all the children at school.
“Perkins, tell me,” she persisted.
“Same stories at home,” I replied.
“But can’t you stop your parents from fighting?”
“What can I do? What do you think I can do? And if there was any thing I could do, don’t you think I would have done it?”
She should have realised that she had asked a silly question, for she fell silent. I stole glances at Becky. Her nose pointed in the air. Her face was oval like her daughter’s. Every time she turned the steering, muscles surfaced on her hairy hands.
“Guys, tell me all is ok.” Becky demanded.
“Yes, am wondering why Perk’s parents fight like unlearned people.”
Now she was making things worse by involving her mother in our talk.
“Perkins, tell me some thing you haven’t told me...”
I knew this time she demanded a response even if she spoke softly and patiently.
“Well teacher, it is not a good story. And it will ruin my moods if I give you the details.”
“Mr. clever, you never know I maybe of help. Many times I have seen you in class stressed. It seems you’ve got something heavy in your mind!”
“What I know is that his dad doesn’t love him and often fights their mother…”
“Samantha, shut up!” Becky rebuked her.
I was also getting upset as to why Samantha was going that far. For, I thought that if her mother gets to know much about my family, she may warn her daughter about me. Also I didn’t want her to call my parents to school with an aim of talking to them. If this happens, then I would be answerable to dad. He would smash me. And am sure dad would not go to school. I just didn’t want to prolong things.
We arrived at school but I hadn’t loosened my guts to confide any thing. Samantha and I hurried to class. Becky looked at us till we disappeared into the class. The teacher had just begun teaching his algebra. I hated him, as much as I hated his subject. He called me to workout a number on the blackboard. It was another reason why I hated this teacher. He would never leave minus calling me to workout a number. “You will one day become a great mathematician. You will even count the stars.” He would tell me in his poor accent. This tall snappy man was as hairy as a bear. His eyes were so small and so were his ears. His nose was small but long and he often suffered from flu. I and Samantha code named him ‘Mr. Small’. He was a teacher with the poorest dressing code. He wore small shirts that never fitted him and his trousers never touched the shoes. We always saw his red shocks from Monday to Friday. I think even on Sundays he wore the same shocks.
As I was working out the equation I heard murmurings, whispers and shortly a huge laughter from the class. Was I failing the number? I rubbed every thing and started afresh. The laughter didn’t die and this disturbed my mind. I didn’t know what was wrong.
“What a dirty boy you’re!” The teacher exclaimed. Still I didn’t understand what was going on. Some of the classmates started shouting out, “Sama…Sama…Sama…”
I turned and faced the pupils. I saw Samantha bothered to the point of crying. To find out they thought I had done a dirty job in my pant. I hadn’t seen it myself. I recalled that this should have got to my butt when Zach vomited. I had thought it was only the T-shirt and shoes. What a shame! There was no way I could convince them, I ran out of the classroom crying.
Later, the teacher called me to his office. He told me to sit and wait but he never explained why. After a while I was surprised to see Zach. He had come to take me home. I was now annoyed with him because it was all his mess that I earned myself a ridiculous shame. We reached home but I didn’t say a word to him and neither did he ever mind. He was a person who cared not whether you are upset with him or not. On reaching home, I ran into my room and cried to God to bring peace and love in our family. I was afraid that Samantha might have got upset with me.
“Little boy, I’ve gone out, take care,” Zach told me without concern. I looked at him wordless. He left a heavy smoke in my bedroom which chocked me and intoxicated my lungs into coughing out dryly. ‘Being angry with someone doesn’t help. Be a forgiving person my boy’ those were some of mum’s encouragements. Having heard her whisper I rose to my feet and walked to the Church on next street. I found two people in the Church, they were on their knees praying. I was still disturbed in mind. I sat on the last seat of the middle row. I passed my eyes from corner to corner of the Church. Among many words pinned on the wall, ‘repent and you shall be forgiven’ spiritually captured my bewildered thoughts. While still fixedly looking at that wallpaper, the people I found praying stood up and started to walk out. I noticed that these people were in deep love. My mind quickly went to the wedding picture of my parents. ‘You bitch!’ I heard dad’s voice. I still saw him crash the photo frame after beating mum. Tears flowed down to my cheek.
“Little boy, any problem?” It was an old lady. She was fat, short and too old that her cheeks were falling and all her hair was grey. She was attired in a blue dress and flat open shoes.
“Am okay,” I responded after staring at her.
“Really? You don’t look to be.” Intervened a man. I had not seen him. The man’s eyes were still lively but his face wrinkled. He’d combed his grey hair backwards. He was in short sleeved shirt on top of a white T-shirt inside. The white canvas shoes on him matched with the shirt. I sensed that they were getting more concerned about me. “You guys, do you have a boy of my age?” I found myself asking them. I noticed that the man was getting impatient but the woman getting more and more concerned about me and finally she requested me to have a walk with them. They led me to a coffee shop where we had a wonderful time. They later resumed asking me about my family, a topic I didn’t like to talk about. I excused myself and no sooner had I turned my back on them, home next. I never wanted someone to question me much about my dad - A man who does not care about his wife and children. A man who doesn’t have love for his family but all he does is to fight his wife, and shout at his children.
On my way home, amidst perplexion, I walked reluctantly, thoughtfully wishing and imagining. From a distance I saw our neighbour’s son, Stewart standing vacantly at our door; apparently he had been there for some time waiting for me. I was so delighted. It was a month since I last saw him. It was a kind of surprise to me for he had gone to Africa and I had no idea when I would see him again.
We were in the same school, same grade, and of the same age. He had dark hair, which he maintained with a haircut. It gave him a handsome look. He was ever smart. We were like twins. I was taller than him only when I left my hair to grow taller. Upon much anxiety and enthusiasm to shake hands and hear Stewart tell me the stories and legends of Africa I crossed the road. He incidentally turned and saw me then I saw him smiling widely. “Have you just arrived?” I asked while still yards away.
“No, I arrived last night. I was so tired.”
“Welcome back, Stewart!” Mum exclaimed on seeing him. She was surprised. We had chatted for over two hours inside the house when mum returned. Her coming back from work interrupted us. She terminated our conversation by asking Stewart several questions about Africa.
The interesting and funny story Stewart was telling me had taken me up. As he chatted with mum my mind was adventurously in Africa: picturing myself holding a spear and dressed in a West African way going out to hunt a lion. Oh no! I doubted if the story of a lion hunt was true – I doubted that Stewart and other African hunters hunted down a lion, caged it and took it to the zoo and they were paid heavily. I accepted other stories but not that one.
I stared at his necklace. “Am wearing a crocodile’s teeth.” He’d told me. I couldn’t urge with him, how could I? For, I had never seen one. There was no way I could tell whether it’s fake or not. Stewart always wanted to be a hero. I knew that of him. He was a shy boy but I noticed that he’d turned to be brave and he stressed every word he said showing boldness and courage. “Africa, Africa, I must see Africa.” I said in heart.
The stories about the funny backward lifestyle in African communities were amazing. The lifestyle, weather in Africa was another impression. Where will the chance come from? I became perplexed thinking about that. If dad never took us out, not even for a dinner, would he listen to me? I lay back in the sofa, puzzled about how I can make it to Africa. “Perkins, lets go home; I have something from Africa for you.” Stewart asked. We left home. Mum remained making eggrolls.
I returned home at 5:30pm. I badly wanted to talk to mum. “Mama?” I called.
“Yes son?” She responded from the kitchen.
“Come and see this thing,”
“Which thing?” She showed up with a knife in her hand. “Where is the thing?” She asked.
“Here is the thing.”
“It’s beautiful. I love it. How is it called?”
“I don’t know. I forgot to ask Stewart its name. But we can give it a name,”
“Let us call it a thing.”
She laughed lightly. Mum’s mind was taken up by this thing. It was a circular card board with one of its faces littered with painted crushed eggshells. In its middle was an egg smaller than that of a hen. On its extreme sides were small eggs arranged artistically.
“Ma’ Stewart told me that those small eggs are from snakes and...”
“What? Have…” She handed me my thing. She feared snakes so much. I was glad to permanently keep her hands off my thing. She left for Church. I remained at home watching a Christian show, expecting Samantha to come. Whenever I was absent at school or sent back for some reason she wouldn’t miss coming to our home. Jacklyn Rowland, my sister was in her room. She was fond of living lonely. If a stranger came to live with us would probably describe Jacklyn as a haunted lady. She would hardly smile. She observed personal independence and selfishness. At school, she had one female friend. She never had conversations with boys. Am sure no one dared date her. The much she would talk with a person was ‘Hi’ however she was gifted. She performed in the school dance club and she was the best in the whole school and district. Her serene pivoted voice swayed many amateur judges.
Mariza, my other sister was also a small girl of few words and few jokes. Atleast her! If you handled her well you could chat for few minutes before she suddenly runs into her bedroom. Some times she would refuse to eat not until her desires are granted. I loved her and always did my best to be in good terms with her. She disliked Zach but he never bothered.
Unlike other families, where children love to be near each other, at home I never got along much with my sisters and brother. Hardly could we at any moment chat, joke or have fun like familymates.
Mariza came and sat besides me on the sofa babysitting her baby. Nothing in life she liked like her doll. Perhaps it was her best nonliving friend. Occasionally she sunk into lonely giggles with her doll. Later she turned me a pillow; she lay on the sofa, placing her head steadily on my lap. My left hand lazily played with her hair. We were all speechless. At that time if I wanted to ruin her moods it was as simple as telling her, ‘get off me’ she would then take days without talking to me. I soothed her back and played with her hair. After nearly an hour I heard a knock on the door. I stood up suddenly thinking it was Samantha. I rushed to open the door and to find it was Jessy, a girl from the next door. After banging the door back, I recalled how I had pushed Mariza away in unfriendly manner. Coming back she was not on the sofa – only her doll. I walked to her bedroom to say sorry but she had locked her self-in. “Oh this house!” I breathed out. Finally Samantha showed up but she wasn’t happy at all. I read it from her face.
“You ashamed me, Perk. I don’t want our friendship any more.” She lamented. Those weren’t the words I expected from her. I served her tea but she rejected. She had never done so ever since we became friends. While explaining to her I heard a heavy knock on the door and according to the sound and number of knocks, this was dad. He came in as usual, a vodka bottle in his hand. That was my father! Kennedy Rowland, a man who never wanted to be called sir.
All my life I had never seen him wear any thing designed. He wore plain shirts, trousers and single colour shoes. At the age of fourty eight he looked old and tired, not like men of his age. I looked at him, a tall fairly heavy man, with a fat face, a little sunken cheeks. His nose was small and pointed. I hated the fact that I resembled my father. Infact people called me his twin but I never wanted to resemble a drunkard, bitter and irresponsible man. The first thing he did was to tell Samantha to leave immediately. Samantha had one day confronted him, the day he fought mum when she was at home.
“I will never come back here.” She announced in a sharp tone before hitting the door behind her. The words ‘I will never come back here’ hurt me so much.
I looked at this man. “Dad, am not happy with you.” I told him angrily. He looked at me without any concern then lit a cigarette. He didn’t even mind smoking near me. I coughed so that he goes in his bedroom but he didn’t. I wanted to run after Samantha and apologise. In his presence he would not let me. He walked into the kitchen and reappeared with a plateful of food. He put in his favourite tape full of porno. I didn’t want to see those naked people.
I chose to go and sort out my difference with Mariza. Luckily she had opened the door and was lying on the carpet. “Dear, am sorry,” I began. She rose up and hurried away. “Come back!” She didn’t listen. I knew she was going in the living room and there dad was, watching dirty motion pictures. I felt pain in my heart. I wanted to leave this house. Yes to leave it forever.
“Mariza, get out! Are you crazy Rowland? You watch that with my daughter?”
I could tell mum was back. Puff-puff - insults, quarrels and screams followed. A usual thing. A fight in a warm evening.
Time came when I really hated home. I would spend much time with Stewart at their home. The only time that we always got together as a family was in the evening. We would say a joint family prayer every evening. Mum was a devoted Christian, I admit. She did her best to instil in us Christian values regardless of the pressure from dad. Although mum earned a little money, she managed to give us the necessities and luxuries she could afford. Dad was not poor at all but never could he mind paying any bill at home. It was all for mum to do.
There are many things that we missed at home, and dad’s love was among them. Sometimes, even when am smiling and I happen to see a father and son in love or think of a happy family, immediately my heart would sink into sorrow. While other children play around in the yard with their parents for us we witness fighting and insults in our home. When other parents move out with their children, for us it’s a wish. While children talk about their parents we are silent not wanting to expose the things done at home.
One thing, I studied very hard and had faith that one day I will be a great man. I became the best in academics. Every one at home was happy. Mum bought for me a gift. Mariza hugged me. We were of the same mother and dad but this was the second time to hug her. It meant a lot to me that tears flowed from my eyes. For, she had promised never to hug me and she didn’t give a reason. This used to hurt me - why my sister can’t hug me. Why? – Why? I would search for a reason willing to apologise but could find none. I showed dad my report card. He barked at me rather than congratulating me.
‘‘Shut up bitch!’’ Dad shouted at mum authoritatively. “You’ve got nothing to tell me lady…” he added firmly.
“Dad, behave…” Jacklyn barked at him.
“Shut up! I can slap you.” Dad responded and pushed her away. Jacky staggered and fell. Mariza picked up her doll and ran into her bedroom. I was between words. I saw Jacklyn running into the kitchen crying. Dad continued insulting and abusing mum and her dead parents. In a few minutes we heard knocks on the door and to open it was the police. Who has called them? I asked myself at first time. I later guessed it should have been Jacklyn. She should have used the phone in the kitchen. He was turned against the wall, searched and then the cops took him away. After they had left, there we were - mum sitting on the sofa thoughtfully and sad. Jacklyn stood holding an icebar against her left jaw. Mariza didn’t know what happened to dad. What was mum thinking? Was she in support of Jacklyn? How would Zach and Mariza feel about the whole thing? It was time to tell.