Dog Collar Around My Neck
“The day you come in here with a big stomach, you will be thrown out of this house,” blurted Aunt Agnes as she pierced her eyes at me while she straightened the plastic table cloth. I held my breath and tip-toed up the stairs.
“Did you hear me, you wretch ! I am warning you Jessica, you are my brother’s child, but I’ll throw you out of this house so you had better remember the three terrible s’s:
sugar, smoking and sex.
I opened the window to wave ‘good night’ to Cramer.
“You will not be thrown out,” Cramer whispered, as he rode off on his bicycle.
I waited until I knew my loved one had reached home then I tucked myself in between my sheets. Cramer and I had been courting for more than a year and that was much to the dislikes of aunt Agnes who thought Cramer was no good, his father having done time in prison.
“That son of a jail bird!” she often said.
Aunt Agnes’ personality was puzzling. Throughout the day and night too she continually repeated Bible verses but this would change rapidly by strong words which made me shiver.
I was living with my only aunt ever since my mother had died in child’s birth and I learnt from aunt Agnes that :
“Your worthless father had stowed away on a banana boat to England and for eighteen years no one had heard from him.”
The eighteen years clearly represented a few months before my birth.
As far back as I could remember, aunt Agnes had a tight dog collar around my neck: A collar which she had made of leather, very durable but uncomfortable.
“Jessica are you going to be in bed all day?” Aunt Agnes thundered.
“Hurry up, Bangles needs to be fed now. He needs to be in good health so that he can have healthy puppies.”
That morning my stomach had an unusual feeling so after feeding Bangles, I went to my bedroom for a few minutes.
“What’s the matter with you young lady? Your eyes do look a bit strange to me.”
“I am o.k. aunt Agnes, I am going to the hen house.”
But the worse feelings were yet to come as the following morning I vomited. Aunt Agnes had gone to the Post Office so I went to have a nap.
On her return she came straight to my bedroom.
“What the hell is going on here Jessica?” she stormed.
But aunt Agnes was not to be fooled. The signs were evident. I was pregnant.
“Get out of here now, you good-for-nothing dog!”
Terrified, I ran down the stairs, aunt Agnes at my heels.
“You get back here now! she raged, hauling and pulling me until I landed on the sofa.
“From now on, you will eat and sleep on the veranda. This is a house of prayer. You are a dog and you will be treated like one. You shall work hard and live by your sweat.”
It was surprising that she gave me a few safety tips:
“Do not walk over any rope or cord. That will wrap around the baby’s neck.”
“Do not feel sorry for any of the animals: The baby will be born looking similar to the animal.”
The night was cold and dark as I laid my head beside Bangles on the veranda. He howled aloud and I howled within. It was then I knew that my collar had been snapped even tighter. Soon the whole community had seen me on display - Agnes’ hand crafted dog with a tight collar around its neck.
Cramer and I met every day. He told me that soon that we could get married. At meal times, aunt Agnes made her announcement:
“Let the children be fed first: It is not fair to give their food to the dogs.”
So Bangles and Mystery the cat were well fed.
I tried to nourish myself by what dropped from the table - mostly crumbs.
The time had come for me to be transformed into a mother.
“I am feeling pains aunt Agnes, hold my hand, please.”
“Get up and walk!”
“I can’t walk.”
“Then crawl, crawl on all fours, like a dog.”
“Yeeeee, yeeeee!” The tiny voice was heard as the night drew nigh.
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