And then they were free
There was blood everywhere.
The ringing in the ears. The throbbing pain in his gut from being punched. The mini blackouts that wouldn’t stop. The screams he would hear intermittently. The mad blinding rage he felt turning cold.
Shahab was doubled over at the table. The otherwise blue-coloured glass that sat on it was shaking.
No. The glass wasn’t shaking. Shahab looked up.
Rasheedullah was shaking it.
Rasheedullah was in a mad rage.
Rasheedullah’s eyes were bloodshot. His mouth was wet. His teeth were bared. He was a human bloodhound with a long serrated knife in one hand and a battered brown slipper in the other.
“Will you ever talk back to me, boy?”
Shahab’s mouth hurt as he opened it to say,
“Will you ever come in my way again, boy?”
Shahab attempted to stand straight,
“Will you ever stop me from putting this witch in her place, boy?”
Shahab turned his head ever so slightly. He positioned his gaze, the little of what he could see through his throbbing eyelids, on a woman huddled near the door. The strong winter that swept inside the house multiplied her pain and Shahab could see it on her face.
“ANSWER ME, BOY.”
He didn’t stop staring at the woman. The woman whose whimpers he could not hear but was sure of. He didn’t stop staring because if he shifted the gaze to Rasheedullah he would attempt to fight him again.
“Now go get that mess cleaned up. And take her away from here. Where is my money?”
Rasheedullah growled and his eyes darted every which way.
“It’s in that box…”
Shahab pointed at a distant corner and continued to avoid eye contact.
“What money, I ask.” Rasheedullah barked.
“Two hundred rupees every four days. That’s what you give me. That’s what this good for nothing mother gives me. If she hadn’t given birth to you I would have put her in a brothel. That would have earned me good money. That would have given me more than two hundred rupees every three or four days. What good is she to me now! Her wrinkled body and her stupid son who goes to school. School! No more school.”
Rasheedullah counted the money and motioned towards Shahab. At the word ‘school’, Rasheedullah poised the edge of the knife at Shahab’s already bleeding lip.
“Do you hear me, boy?”
“My board exam …”
“NO MORE SCHOOL!”
Rasheedullah thundered and Shahab suddenly heard a single whimper from the door.
“Yes,” Shahab replied quietly. “Yes.”
Rasheedullah dragged a chair and threw Shahab on it.
“I remember telling you before. I remember telling you many times. School is for rich people. You are not rich, do you understand?”
“Give me a glass of water.”
Shahab handed him some water with obvious difficulty. Rasheedullah did not notice Shahab’s limp.
He glugged down the water and smacked his lips.
“I was thirsty, wasn’t I, hah!”
He began counting the tens and the fives that would total a little over two hundred and twenty rupees. The two hundred that was due every three or four days to fill him up with drugs and alcohol.
Rasheedullah’s hands were busy again. The glass in one hand and money in the other.
Shahab heard another whimper.
Rasheedullah got up, irate.
“Stop that noise, now! All you do is whine, you stupid, useless woman!”
He was near the door and would have probably smashed that last blue glass in the house on her head.
He would have called her names and would have kicked her in the belly and stomped on her hand and spit on her neck and would have thrown her against all four corners of the room until she was far too weak to be flung. Then Rasheedullah would have needed to drag her body to throw her around.
And it would have happened. It would have all happened like it happened every day Rasheedullah came home to get his money. It would have happened if Shahab hadn’t noticed through his almost blinded vision – the object Rasheedullah had left behind once he motioned menacingly toward the door.
Perhaps it is reflex. Perhaps it is instinct. Self-defence is probably as intrinsic as food and hunger and shelter. To this day, Shahab is unable to recall the five steps between the table and the door. All he knew was that there was blood everywhere again.
And this time it did not come out of his burst lip.
The serrated knife was lodged somewhere between his father’s lung and guts. Shahab couldn’t make out where exactly. He would, if he ever got around to becoming a doctor like his mother had wanted. But right now all he could feel was a powerful resistance from his father’s flesh. It did not stop Shahab from twisting the knife.
The whimpers had stopped. The wind was silent.
And after one last cough, one last dilation of the pupils, one small movement of his hands against the knife in his belly, his father fell on the floor.
And then they were finally free.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.