Short Story: My Husband

Written by Faith Oneya

Note: This story also appears in ‘Fresh Paint’ an Anthology of poetry and short stories by Kenyan women writers.

My husband is not at home today. He has gone for a very important function. He has worn his best suit and shiny leather shoes-the ones reserved for special occasions-like funerals and weddings. It is very hot and my husband is sweating profusely, but suits have to be worn with ties and coats-that is the meaning of a suit.

He is a very important man, my husband. He drives a muzungu. An American. He is our muzungu, Mr. Forrester.
He gave my husband the suit he is wearing today to the important function-the shirt is very small (My husband, he eats well. It is a result of my good cooking)-but my husband says if he keeps his stomach tucked in, it is almost unnoticeable. The coat is abit torn on the side, but carefully patched by my expert hands. His stomach keeps pushing the strings off the patch and it makes his sides look rather ridiculous but that is alright-since it came from our good friend the muzungu.

Sometimes Mr. Forrester gives my husband food-like just the other day, he gave my husband the bottle of juice which expired only last month! He’s a generous one, this man. The juice we drank it all, but the bottle we have displayed it. All our visitors say our muzungu is very generous. Even our jealous neighbors.

Mr. Forrester is not like other muzungus-he sits next to my husband when he-my husband is driving, and tells him about his two divorces-how my husband loves to hear the stories of divorce! That a woman would take his property and his children! My husband tells me Mr. Forrester never beat his wives, which is why they became hot-headed. We cannot understand why our muzungu marries only one woman at a time. Why not marry two so that when one goes you remain with one?

My husband beats me every once in a while whenever he feels like it. It is important to me, and I know he loves me. I would never think of leaving him because he is good to me. Besides, what would people say if they found out I left my husband? Scandalous, I tell you. Even my poor mother would turn in her grave.

This day that he beat me properly, I had stayed out until darkness fell -it was my fault, he had warned me never to stay out late-wasn’t I satisfied with my husband? Why would I stay out late? To look for men to please me? Did he pay (unfinished payment in fact) dowry for a prostitute?

Source: http://www.biyokulule.com

I tried to tell him that I was waiting for Mama Sofia-she is the only one that gives us food on credit without announcing to everyone that we have her money, and that day she had gone to the market and left her daughter in charge-the daughter would not dare sell anything on credit. This is because Mama Sofia was famous for both her generosity and quick hand.

My husband said I defied him. I had answered him back so I would be punished. Usually he slaps me once or twice then pushes me against the wall-but that day he had passed by Mama Pima’s -and he had the strength and courage that men get from partaking of the brew. His eyes were bloodshot and he had pissed his trousers.

The first blow landed on the side of my face-I was not sure whether to stand up when I fell-my husband then shook me and slapped my face, and I welcomed the familiar pain. I can taste blood in my mouth. I want to tell my husband about the baby, I just found out today-but I feel dizzy, and I want to throw up, he throws me against the wall-I am unconscious, and my head hits the floor hard.

I do not wake up. My husband has gone for a very important function-our muzungu bought me a fine coffin when I died. My husband told him I died of childbirth-if the muzungu suspects anything (Like if I had plans to give birth to a hardly formed fetus), then he does not say. Better divorce than death. This coffin is very comfortable-more than our bed, in fact.

My husband looks very handsome in his suit-and the local pastor has also come to our funeral-he leads everyone in prayer, and they beg God to accept me in heaven-I wonder if they have nice comfortable beds in heaven?

 

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Author: Faith Oneya

Lover of the written and spoken word.

3 thoughts on “Short Story: My Husband”

  1. once had the honor of working with rural women in Western Kenya. Two issues intrigued me then: the belief that a husband who beats his wife is expressing love…and so women would deliberately miff their husbands so that they could get a beating and then brag to fellow women the next day how, ‘my husband loves me’. In fact, women who were not beaten did sulk and consider their hubbies uncaring! The second was the total dependability by the woman of the man. Once we asked a battered lady why she did not leave. Her answer was pragmatic in the circumstances: ‘I leave and go where?’

    I think that you have an acute talent in chronicling human experience, in this case, women’s life experiences. Your story brings out well the ‘voice’ of the woman. In fact, in your writing, you go ahead to depict a certain ‘superiority’ of the woman over the man. In this case, the mocking, sarcastic voice seems to look down upon the husband’s follies. Even in death, there is a triumphal mockery of the besuited gent, who is all through dependent on ‘our Muzungu’ and the wife…for food, suit repair etc. This ‘perseverance’ power, even with the ultimate price paid, may be empowering to the extent that a reading ‘male’, ‘man’ might realize the futility of ‘proving manhood’.

    I however have to interrogate the style of writing. Whereas what I call the ‘dynamic tense’ seems successfully applied in the Fresh Paint, there seems to be an unfortunate failure in this story. (Here, I must admit that I am not sure whether it is an editing error or the writer’s fault).

    In a sense, the writing in this tense seems to have dis-empowered by a certain kind of hurry. There is some incoherence e.g. in para. 10 that tells of the battery and death. The use of tenses here is certainly worthy of revision. The line on ‘better divorce than death’ followed by the comfort of the coffin is a bit confusing. Some jumbleness is apparent here somewhat.

    Additionally, it seems to me that the story is robbed of richness by a lack of attempt at capturing dialogue. All experiences take the reported/experiential form for the characters and yet they are not given the life they would profit from were the reader to ‘hear’ them.

    There is also some element of incredibility in the story. In my understanding of alcohol, pissing on trousers is generally a pre-comatose diagnosis, in the sense that the individual has lost all control of their bodies and are unable to do stuff. Such an individual would be, biologically, unable to mete out the fatal beating that ‘my husband’ did. I unsure in this context where the poetic license can be stretched.

    I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the creative gems you have depicted herein…the paradox of cementing of the importance of the function by wearing a handed-down suit and the somberness of the death of a wife; the capturing of everyday style of speech even as you write in English (Para. 7, kwa mfano) and the chronicling of the silly generosity of mankind, where we conveniently discard what we do not need and what is harmful in the name of aid.

    In the end, while appreciating My Husband to the extent that it brings out the true experience of women and also takes an effective dig at men that are ‘beasts’, I nevertheless feel that the story would have been the richer were it written more patiently and stretched a little in length.

    My views though, and I may be wrong. What do you think?

  2. This is a testimony that i will tell to every one to hear. i have been married four 4years and on the fifth year of my marriage, another woman had to take my lover away from me and my husband left me and the kids and we have suffered for 2years until i met a post where this man Dr. Atingo have helped someone and i decided to give him a try to help me bring my lover back home and believe me i just send my picture to him and that of my husband and after 48hours as he have told me, i saw a car drove into the house and behold it was my husband and he have come to me and the kids and that is why i am happy to make every one of you in similar to met with this man and have your lover back to your self. His email: atingospiritualtemple@live.com

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