The man of the house
By Frederick Mordi
The boy whimpered behind the television set where he sought refuge. His bright innocent eyes are filled with terror at the sight of the cane. But he is more scared of his father’s harsh tone than the cane. He has never seen his father in this mood before. He did not know what to do.
“If I meet you there, Chike, you will see pepper,” his father warned, as he rolled up his white long sleeves shirt slowly, exposing his hairy arms.
He moved menacingly towards the boy, who had already pissed in his pants.
“Dad, I am sorry, I won’t do it again,” the five year-old boy pleaded.
Tears tumbled down from his checks like a torrential July rain. But his father was not moved.
“You said that the last time!” he reminded him tartly.
With that he sprang forward and caught hold of the boy as he tried to dash towards the door in one last desperate bid for freedom. When he counted six strokes of the cane, he stopped. There was a look of cruel satisfaction on his bearded face as he strolled back to the dining table, where he dropped the cane gently.
The shrill cries of the boy, which pierced the still morning air, assaulted the eardrums of sleeping neighbours. They did not take kindly to it. One of them summoned the Police at once.
But his mother arrived first. As soon as she took one look at the boy, she flew into a rage.
“Emeka!” she screamed at her husband, “What have you done to Junior?”
“I just flogged him,” he announced proudly.
“Well done!” She replied sarcastically. “Do you think this is Nigeria where you can abuse a poor innocent child?”
“I don’t care whether we are in London or not! I will raise up my child the way I jolly well please! Nobody is going to teach me how to train my own child! I have always told you that you are spoiling Chike. It is better to bend a fish when it is fresh; it becomes difficult to bend when it is dry.”
“You call child abuse, training?” she fired back peevishly.
“The trouble with you, Ego,” he tried to reason with his wife, an auxiliary nurse in a hospital in Peckham, “is that you have chosen to forget your roots. We are Africans for goodness sake! We bring up our children by the hand. It is the strict discipline we enforce on our children that still holds the moral fabric of our society tightly together, unlike the West where family values have since collapsed.”
“There you go again! Always sermonising!”
“Well, I don’t care what names I am called; what I know is that if you spare the rod, you spoil the child. Simple.”
They were having a heated debate on the long-term effectiveness of spanking a child when the doorbell rang.
It was the Police.
His wife moved quickly. She dashed to the door, hesitated for a while before she opened it slowly. There were two of them.
“Police,” said the taller of the two. “We heard there’s been some trouble here…”
“Not really,” she replied hastily. “We were having a little argument over some personal matter…”
“Hmmm!” the stocky cop interjected, “I see. We are under the impression that someone has been crying blue murder. Would it happen to be that lad?”
He glanced at the direction of the boy, who had stopped sobbing.
“Oh! That’s our boy, he hurt himself…”
“Ah! No trouble then?”
“Absolutely not, officer.”
“Perhaps, some mistake, forgive our intrusion, ma’am, have a nice day.”
“And do take care of the kid,” the short cop added.
“Thank you, officer.”
“Emeka, see how you almost put us in trouble!” she exclaimed when the cops were out of earshot. “I have told you that their culture is quite different from ours. But you won’t listen! You just won’t listen! You have been threatening to flog Junior at the slightest opportunity, haven’t you? See what it has almost cost you! You should thank your stars! You would have been fined for child abuse or worst still, sentenced to jail! Last month, a Jamaican was jailed for beating up his children with a belt. Emeka, learn to do in Rome as the Romans do!”
The man was lost in thought. He felt he was losing his authority as the man of the house.
Tags: african short stories, author of the senator's car, beating, child abuse, child rights, culture, disciplinarian, discipline, do in rome as he romans do, do in rome as the romans do, effectiveness of child spanking, effectiveness of spanking a child, family values, flogging, Fred Mordi, Frederick Mordi, inspirational, London police, moral standards, Nigerian author, Nigerian fiction, Nigerian short story, raising children, short stories, spanking a child, spare the rod spoil the child, the man of the house, west african fiction
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