***WARNING: this story contains a disturbing theme. Reader discretion is advised***
Our uncle’s death would go down in the memories of the religious as an untimely one; for the traditionalists, a strike by an unkind deity. The popular opinion in our village was that someone else from our kindred should succeed him as the next English teacher. Of the few nicknames that preceded him, ‘disciplinarian’ stuck out. I would never forget how he made me write it out whenever I erred; afterwards, the way he peppered my back and bottom with his canes, making it so hard for me to sit or sleep in the coming days. Life in his custody was worse than that of a slave, yet he made my sister and I pretend that all was well.
Today was his burial. Instead of attending, I feigned illness. While my sister—now dressed in black—moved around the house in frantic search for her black head scarf, I kept my mind busy with more abominable thoughts. On a different scale, what seemed to bother me the most was her non-judgmental position regarding the way he lived. Perhaps her strong Christian faith made it possible for her to forgive him after all he did to us.
At last she came into my room with her scarf on and a tray in her hands. She set it down and urged me to get up and eat. Once the door had closed behind her, I threw the food out. Not that it was far from appetizing. But because I had ensured that my uncle’s last meal was very similar.
Only three of my friends from the neighboring village were willing to assist me. Together we set out with shovels at dusk for the cemetery where my uncle was buried. After a few rounds of alcohol, we dug up his remains. When asked of how I intended to disrespect his body, I chose undress it for the birds of the air to feed on. I had barely unbuttoned his shirt when my sister emerged.
She ran up to me and attempted to take away my shovel. I moved it away and barked at her. Shocked, she placed both hands over her mouth and backed away, but not as much I’d wanted her to. When I resumed unbuttoning the dead man’s shirt, she shook her head in grief and began to stamp her feet on ground like a little child whose favorite toy had just been seized. This hardened my heart even more.
“So you did it…you killed him?” She said in between throaty sobs.
I ignored her. Unzipped his trousers.
“No…please.” My sister came down on her knees and placed a hand over mine.
As I brought my eyes to meet hers, it trembled even more. Shaking it off, I stripped the body of what was remaining. Just a few drags away from its original place and she spoke again: “What will I tell his unborn child?”
Unwilling to admit the worst, I let go of the dead man’s hand and knelt before her. I wished she could look me in the eyes and say those words again. But instead she agonizingly moved her hands around her belly. With her head down, she said, “He—he…he forced…”
I grabbed her shoulders and shook her vigorously. “No-no…say it! Say it!”
I could feel my fingers digging into her flesh, trying to squeeze out what was left unsaid—the very obvious that I’d feared all along.
“You’re hurting me.” Tears rolled down the sides of her cheeks.
Realizing that this anger may soon be channeled wrongly, I picked up my shovel and returned to where my late uncle was lying. Now I wished I hadn’t ended his life silently. I wished that he had watched me recall all his wrongs before I put him away.
******Thanks to Prospero for bringing my attention to a couple of mistakes.