I hear someone calling my name. The voice is familiar to me, because it belongs to my mother. It is already well after sunset and I still have not made up my mind to go home even though I know that it will mean trouble for me when I get there. Without fail, my mother will shout out my name because even though I am not home, where I am playing with my friends is well within view of home and she can make out my silhouette in the dusky light. Sometimes, she will send my goody-too-shoes sister to call me home. She is such a butt-kisser, always doing what she is told and being a good little girl. I get so much flak because of her.
“I’m coming!” I shout back, annoyed to no end to have to leave the fun I am having. I know I’m going to get a hiding and the thought just makes me want to postpone getting home even more. As I make my way, I look around frantically for the mound of sand that represents good luck so that I can scoop a handful, toss one or two small pellets into my mouth and swallow them, while at the same time throwing the rest over my shoulder. I must take care not to look over my shoulder once I have done it, otherwise it won’t work. This is how it has been done for generations by kids like me, kids who get into trouble because they push the boundaries and make their parents mad. There is no such mound on that short path leading home. I can just imagine it, she will ask me to go and break off the wet branch that will be used to deliver my punishment. I will do it too, because if I don’t, then someone else will be given the task of getting it and if it is any of my siblings, like my sister, they will use this opportunity to even some score over a wrong I might have committed against them sometime in the past. I refuse to cry. She will not know that it hurts when she lashes me. I know this will earn me severe words from her mouth as she beats me, but I am just stubborn like that. I have this belief that she enjoys hitting me and I want to contribute as little as possible to that joy.
As I enter the kitchen where everyone is, waiting for dinner to be ready so they can eat and then go about their business, I can just tell by the way my sister looks at me that I am going to get it.
“How many times must I tell you not to play away from home after sunset?” she starts, hollering her anger out at me. She is holding a cooking spoon that she is using to stir the dinner that everyone is waiting for with red eyes. The fact that she has to deal with the business of disciplining me means that dinner will be delayed and my siblings hate me just about now. I keep quiet, looking down at my feet. She goes on and on about what a disobedient child I am, how I try her patience and how much she wishes I could be more like my sister. My sister grins like a Cheshire cat at this part and has a smug look on her face. I wish I was a twin. Somehow I have myself convinced that if I had a twin, she would be just like me in every way and we would both be in trouble together, consoling each other after all the lashings. I am told to go get the stick that will mete out my punishment this night.
Dutifully, I turn on my heels and walk out of the kitchen and head for the vegetable garden, where there are peach trees and a few apple trees. There is also an apricot tree. I am not sure which tree to pick my cane from. They all look especially green and have fat branches that could do some damage. I head for the apricot tree, as it usually has thin branches of all the tree types there. I pick a long one, even though I know that that one will bring even more pain because it will curve with my legs as it makes contact with them. I am trying to impress my mother with how I pick the stick; hopefully she will not give me too many strokes. I haven’t realized that, my picking a good lashing stick is a sign of my insolence in her eyes. I haven’t realized too, that my not crying when she hits me is another sign of my being bad to the core in her eyes. She probably wonders what she did to deserve a child such as me. The way she gets so mad at me, I can see her shaking from the force of her anger. Even taking my time to come back does not seem to give her enough time to dilute her anger but it is always my hope.
I re-enter the kitchen and she is ready for me. She is done cooking and my other siblings, which includes my cousins, are cowering away in a corner. They don’t want to get hit by mistake when those blows get delivered. My sister on the other hand, wants front row seats to my humiliation. She wants to bear witness to the many times our mother has had to discipline me because I am such a disobedient child. We have a dining room set with 4 chairs and a table. During dinner, some of us sit at the table while others will sit on the bench, which is the only other piece of furniture besides the cupboards. Those who sit on the bench use their laps as tables to put the hot plates of food and we do what we can to shift these plates so that they don’t burn the same area for too long. My sister always sits at the table, ‘because she is older and she behaves’ while my younger brother is happy to sit on the bench because he eats with difficulty if he is seated at the table as he is still small and reaching his plate can be a challenge when he is sitting on the chair so he ends up eating while standing. One of the older cousins also sits at the table, so only the other cousin, the same age as me, sits with me and my little brother on the bench. My little brother is the only boy so he often gets special treatment.
She delivers these blows while I dance around the room because as much as I won’t let myself cry, each blow hurts and causes me to involuntarily lift the leg that receives the hardest blow and so the other leg gets it and I lift that one and because I cannot float, the previously lifted leg then goes down and gets hit. All of them find my dance-like actions amusing, but they won’t dare openly giggle, except my sister ‘the good one’. Sometimes this is how sibling rivalry is born. Other times perhaps it is caused by something else. Eventually, I cry and run outside to get away from the hitting. She might decide to follow me and hit me some more or she lets me go.We live right above a ravine and so we are close to the place where our neighbors disappear when they answer nature’s less liquid call. I then head down the ravine and stay there for as long as my nerves can take it to see if she will be sorry and come for me. At this time, I am desperate for a show of affection because I feel hated. Of course I will get a fright at any and every noise around me because I am a fearful. I end up having to crawl back home with my tail between my legs because my plan has not worked and I don’t have the guts to hold out. I am convinced that my mother hates me. As much as I want to turn my nose up at her dinner, I can’t because all that running and jumping around I have been doing all afternoon has made me hungry and the smell of food makes the pangs even worse. I take my plate and sit outside to eat, not wanting any consolation from my more sympathetic siblings. I don’t even want it from my sister. At this point, I don’t want to be consoled even by my mother. I hate all of them. I wish myself away from there. I wish I was a powerful witch that could make bad things happen. After I’m done eating, I wash my dish and put it away. For a few days after this episode, I will do my best to be obedient and come home on time, but soon the pain will be forgotten and I will be back in the same situation again.