A face only a mother can love

Men have failed in Jiji Ndogo, and their partners are paying the price

In Summary

• Sophia wouldn’t sell villagers a product she couldn’t swear by, but it cost them all


Things aren’t getting any easier in my household. As if being the house-husband isn’t enough, now I must tend to a wife who won’t leave the house due to the failed experiment she subjected her face to.

“A new mud cream,” the snake oil salesman had assured her. “Contains the magic of Mother Earth to turn your skin as smooth as a baby’s bottom. You can tell by my own face. I use the cream only twice a day.”

And sure enough, the man’s face was as smooth as butter, as were his words.

Not one to sell naked promises, my Sophia decided to try the cream on her face. That was yesterday. Today, her face looks like a crocodile and darkness had a baby. As if that isn’t bad enough as it is, her father, who also happens to be my boss, lays the blame squarely at my feet.

“Makini,” Inspector Tembo roars, “what kind of fake husband doesn’t protect his wife?”

“Protect her from what, sir?”

He hauls me out of the house and slams me against the wall. “You’re the man in your family. You’re responsible for what happens to you and yours, you hear me?”

“Yes, sir!”

“A man stands firm on his own two feet while making decisions. You can’t allow these people to do anything they want willynilly. If harm comes to my daughter, I shall hold you personally liable. Oh, and before I forget, now that she can’t go to work, you’re on double duty.”

“Yes, sir.”

As I get dressed up to go to work, more trouble comes calling. I get the door in answer to incessant pounding, only to be accosted by a battalion of women and one man, all bearing the same black, pockmarked face as my wife. It seems Sophia had made a few sales of the cream yesterday.

“Where is that witch?” one of them says. I don’t recognise her, not with the muck on her face. “Where is she?”

“My wife is indisposed,” I announce. “And I will not tolerate you calling her names. She’s not a witch. She’s a police sergeant.”

“She ruined our faces. Look at us. We look hideous.”

“If it will make you feel better, she herself is not faring any better. She wouldn’t sell you a product she can’t swear by.”

The mob is not appeased. But as it gets ready to skin me alive, Sophia emerges from the house and removes the veil on her face. The crowd backs off as if they’ve seen a ghost.

“Ew!” one of them cries. “You look ugly.”

“How do you think you look yourself?” Sophia quips. “And I only say that because of your stupid comment. For all of us, I shall find a solution to this and make that mad man pay.”

I already feel sad for the salesman. Having known Sophia for the last three yeas, I’ve learned how determined she can be when she sets her mind on a matter. All I can pray is that she doesn’t cross the bounds of law, but given the damage to her face, I doubt that will be at the forefront of her considerations.

As I get ready to leave, I see two people approaching. One is a woman wearing a veil around her head, the other is Inspector Tembo. They to the door and she exposes her face. It’s Sophia’s mother, Inspector Tembo’s lover. She too used the cream.

Laughing, I turn to my boss. “Pardon me, sir, but what happened to, ‘You’re the man in your family. You’re responsible for what happens to you and yours?’

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