Honourable Mention in the 13 to 17 age category – Wadadli Pen Challenge 2016
Author’s comments: “I was inspired to write this story because of curiousity; to see how well I can expand my thoughts about any situation.”
Judge’s comments (positives only*): “Really interesting story, plot, and subject matter …”
Note: *While only the positives are being shared with the public, in keeping with the development goals of Wadadli Pen, all long listed entries are returned to the author with the judge’s note – both positives and negatives – for revision. Congrats to Zahra for doing as well as she did in the Challenge – considering the length of the story, a fact that prevented it from placing though it impressed the section judge enough to earn an honourable mention. Keep working on your craft; keep valuing your voice and your art. – JCH
Here now is My So Called Father by Irene B. Williams student Zahra Emanuel, who was third placed for the 13 to 17 prize in 2014, and who describes herself as a “sixteen year old girl who enjoys writing short stories in her leisure time and loves doing Craft! Creativity is her style.”:
It has been years since I’ve worn good clothes. Mommy hasn’t been working a stable job lately, but when she does she tries her best to save a little money. Sometimes my sister and I would be home alone, until very late in the night. I would put my little sister to bed by 8:00p.m but I wouldn’t go to sleep until mommy came home. Sometimes the hands of the clock would be at 12:00 a.m. and I still see no sign of my mother,
‘This hotel work is a slave job.’ I would think to myself.
Most of the times when mommy reaches home, I would be asleep. She would wake me up and send me to bed. Sometimes, I would sit up and watch her, she always looked tired. My mother was a slim woman with short, coarse hair and her skin was like a Hershey’s Chocolate. I always wondered why her skin was so dark and her parents both had a clear complexion. I, on the other hand, was an exact replica of my father, tall with a light complexion and small black eyes just waiting to roll out of my head. The only difference between my father and I was the behavior; my father was ignorant and stubborn and I was a quiet little boy who was willing to help others. The first time I could remember meeting my so called father, was when I was three. I remember my mother walking up to the Pre-School with a man, he was young back then. On that day she said to me Te’Koy, this is your father. The so called father lifted me up as the three of us walked home. I don’t recall seeing that man until months later. He was hardly in my memory. Now I am getting older I begin to understand the only reason why he stopped by was because he would want to sleep with my mother. She always gave him what he wanted; I think he just deserves to die.
One day, as I was walking to school with my sister, I heard what sounded like two men arguing in the distance
“Pow Pow!” The shots reverberated against my eardrums. I covered my sister’s trembling body to protect her. When I looked up I saw a man running out of someone’s yard.
“That looks like the yard I would see my father coming out of”, I thought to myself.
“HELP ME, SOMEBODY HELP ME!” a wave of screams poured from the mouth of a woman nearby.
Since my sister was only five, I lifted her up and ran to help. When I got to the spot, I saw what appeared to be my father lying in a pool of blood. I quickly took off my uniform shirt and wrapped it around his right arm where the blood was seeping from. I looked up at the house and there was a lady by the window on the phone calling for an ambulance.
“He is losing a lot of blood.” she sobbed breathlessly into the mouthpiece trembling uncontrollably
When she came off the phone, she came running over towards us.
“Who are you?” the lady asked me.
“How can you ask a question like that in a time like this?” I shouted wondering who she was.
She just looked away wiping the blood with tissues and old clothes.
“The ambulance is on its way baby,” she said to my father wiping the sweat from his forehead.
He couldn’t answer, his breathing slow and shallow. He now looked unconscious.
“I’m his son.” I said to her feeling a bit guilty about my answer earlier.
“Son?” she asked, a shocked, startled look on her face like a dog caught in the middle of oncoming traffic.
“Yes, please help me save my father.” I begged her.
I could hear an ambulance in the distance. When it finally reached, the paramedics came out and told us to please move back so they could deal with him. I held my sister close as the ambulance sped off, sirens blaring with my father as the passenger. I still wanted to know who that lady was but she had already left in the ambulance.
Later that day, I went to the hospital to see how my so called father was doing. They led me to a room where the same lady was standing by the door with blood on her shirt.
“Hey boy.” she said smiling when she saw me.
“Where is he?” I asked her.
“He’s resting in this room.” she said holding my hand leading me into the room.
“Your son is here to see you.” she told him.
“Hey son!” my so called father mumbled when he saw me.
He was hooked up to oxygen and drips. His hand sported a huge bandage and he looked tired.
“How are you feeling?” I asked him pretending not to care.
He coughed then said “I’m good. I see you’ve met my wife.”
“Since when man like you want fu married?” I said my voice beginning to get sharp. I got upset.
His wife looked at me funny, then she asked “And how old are you supposed to be son?”
“And how that become you business?”, I asked her.
“You seem to be a stubborn child,” she said.
“A you so call husband me tek after, a wa you problem?” I asked her.
“Please don’t make this situation any worse.” she begged.
I thought about what she said for a moment and then I apologized for my behaviour.
“Now, how old are you sweetheart?”, she asked me in a calm tone of voice.
“I’m twelve years old.” I responded.
“Twelve!” She said as she covered her mouth in disbelief.
“And what seems to be the problem?” I asked her.
“Your father and I have been married for fifteen years.”
“You see, I tell you he is a stubborn man, but you nar listen. So tell me miss, so this mean he cheat on you?” I responded wanting to laugh.
“I guess.”, she said looking at my so call father as he slept.
“My name is Mary Sebastian and I guess I’m your step mother”, she said.
“Me nah have no step mother, only one mother me have and she home. Not because you married me father, besides if he min love you I wouldn’t exist.” I told her.
“I think it is time for you to leave.”, her voice became flat and very angry. “We’ll sort this out when your father gets better.”
I left not wanting to cause any trouble; I could already see that this lady and I were going to be enemies. I couldn’t wait to get home and ask my mother about this Mary Sebastian. She must be telling the truth I thought because we both have the same surname.
When I got home, I asked my mother about this lady I had met. She told me that Mary was living in England for five years and that is why my father began to see her, my mother.
“Is barren she barren Te’Koy.” my mother told me. “That is another reason why you father have you, he want children and she can’t have any.”
“So am I the only child outside of his marriage?” I asked.
“Nah man, you father is a sharp man, he have bout two or three more children. I think all of you should be around the same age.” mom had this angry, hurt way of laughing when she talked about my father. Sometimes I wondered if she noticed.
“It nah seem as if this so called wife of his know bout he children.” I said to my mom.
“She nah know bout not one of you. She hear things and nah want believe, especially how she always to and from England.”, my mother told me.
Mom had a sad look on her face then she apologized for not telling me about this sooner. My sister came out of her room awakened by the conversation, her round face shone in the night.
Two months passed and my father came out of the hospital. I went to visit him where he lived. As I approached the house, his wife was there hanging out clothes on the line while my dad sat on the gallery.
“Good morning.” I said as I walked onto the gallery.
“Hey son!” my father said opening his left arm so I could hug him.
I hugged him only because he was sick.
“You alright?” his wife asked me as she came up behind us.
“I think so.”, I answered.
She went inside and then came out with some drinks. She gave me some lemon juice but I didn’t drink it, I was afraid she would poison me.
“Where are my other brothers and sisters?” I asked my father.
“Now is not the time for that.’ he said.
“Which other children? You have more?” Mary asked father on the verge of tears.
My father told her about the other children and Mary began to cry. My father hung his head; I could tell he felt ashamed for not telling his wife about the children. I was not sorry for him; he should feel extremely bad for cheating on his wife.
“Poor woman.” I said as I patted her on her back, I wanted to laugh. I found it very amusing because she had been married to this man for fifteen years and didn’t have the slightest clue that he has children.
“And I treat you so good.” Mary said her face in her hands.
“I’m sorry for not telling you earlier sweetheart,” my father mumbled. You could tell he was embarrassed that I was witness to this very private, very personal conversation.
“Please leave son.” Mary asked me.
“How much time me have to tell you me a nar you pickney? You barren self” I said feeling offended that she wanted me to leave my own father’s house.
I could tell that she was one of those soft women who cried at the drop of a hat. She must have been spoiled when she was little. I sat there observing her long nails and her well-groomed hair on her little head. She was short and about my complexion, she had a broad nose and her eyes were brown. She wasn’t that pretty, I thought, surely not prettier than my mother. I wondered why my father would marry a woman like Mary. There were so many questions I wanted to ask him but I decided to let those questions remain unanswered. This was neither the time nor place. I left the house eventually; I could see that something was going to take place that didn’t concern me. As I walked to the gate, several rich looking people were coming out of a brand new car and heading into my father’s yard. We met at the gate; they all gave me funny looks as they passed, as if I was some animal to them. One lady accidentally brushed against me and then quickly wiped the place where I touched her.
“A wa happen to this woman yah?” I cut my eyes at her. “All arwe piss the same a how you come higher than me inna society?”
The lady stared and seemed to be horrified by my outburst. She hurried to catch up to the others. Her cloying perfume choked me as I passed.
“Their minds are bigger than their pockets.” I thought shoving my hands deep into my pocket wishing I had money to buy my mom that perfume. My mom worked hard. She deserved it more than that foolish looking woman.
When I got home I told my mother all that had happened. She explained that my father had only married her for her money.
“He used to bang she see,” my mother said. “He min even fu go a jail but she so chupit, she bail he out.”
“How long ago was that?” I asked.
“Just the other day.” she said. “Is his father-in-law shot him.”
“True?” I asked.
“You mean say them nah tell you wa mek you father min up a hospital?”
“Well she go try keep it a secret because she nah want she father fu go jail.” mom said rolling her eyes.
As the weeks passed I would go and visit my father often. His wife eventually left him, heading back home to England. I came to the conclusion that his double life was too much for her to deal with. Her father went to jail for 2 months for aggravated assault. I guess that will happen when you’re rich : little or no jail time. The thought was like vomit in my throat, hard to swallow.
Over the next couple of months my father and I began to develop a relationship; we would go fishing, swimming and hiking together sometimes. I got to meet one of my siblings. His name was Kareem, and we became very close. He lived on the other side of the island, Antigua, so it was difficult for us to spend time together but when we did, we had a blast. As for my other siblings, my father said that they lived overseas and he hadn’t heard from them or seen them in years.
I could see that my father was now changing into a mature man. I’m sure it was because his wife had left him. As I got to know my father I came to realize that he was just that: a man, my father. He had a great sense of humor. He had this way of raising one eyebrow just so when something amused or puzzled him. On one of our fishing trips to Pearns Point, he began to talk about his childhood as the pelicans wheeled and screamed overhead under the searing sun. How his father had left his mother with ten children. Ten children!!! When he recounted the painful memories from his past his broad shoulders tightened and his hands clenched into huge fists. A wave of pity came over me and my eyes filled with tears and, at that moment I realized that my dad was only a victim of his circumstance: he was only following in the footsteps of his father before him and probably his father before that. I immediately vowed that I would not fall into such a trap. My children, well………… if I had any anyway, would always have a father in their life.
I walked over to him and hugged him tightly. He seemed surprised but pleased by the move. He hugged me back.
“Look I’m willing to give this relationship a try if you are,” I mumbled under my breath staring out at the placid blue waves.
“Ok son,” He cleared his throat as though he was embarrassed.
“Let’s get you home to your mom before she send CID to find us, you know how she is already,” he laughed seeming to remember something funny.
I had to agree. My mom isn’t easy to deal with sometimes.
We walked over to his car our steps in time with each other. I glimpsed at this man out of the corner of my eye a warm feeling stealing over me. I could now accept this man as my father and not my so called father anymore. He now meant a lot to me.
For earning honourable mention in her age category, Zahra received:
A certificate sponsored by the Best of Books
EC$50 (courtesy Dr. Hazra Medica)
Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis (courtesy CODE)
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