SHORT STORY: Get thee behind me pastor

Thursday October 10 2019

Being called Mtoi-wa-pasi was unfair. Something

Being called Mtoi-wa-pasi was unfair. Something that irked the inexistent bone in my heart was the fact that being a pastor’s kid meant that even the words expected out of my mouth were supposed to be biblical and rooted in the texts in the New Testament. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA | NMG 

HELLEN SHIKANDA
By HELLEN SHIKANDA
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I am not the first person to bear the iconic name Maria Rosa, but that is the one everyone knows me by. It may not entirely be mine, but what the heck, I readily respond to it anyway. They call me by my dad’s former profession, or is it vocation- maybe? He was a prophet. A man of God, for that matter.

A prophet does not visit doom in anyone’s life but is often a bearer of everyone's interpretation of dreams they could wake up to. Other times, he preached in our church—sorry—his church; The Church of Good Hope. That then gives people the audacity to call me—Mtoi-wa-pasi—which loosely translates to: the pastor’s kid.

Growing up, I loved the idea of being referred to as Mtoi-wa-pasi. It was the only privilege I had under the sun of the God that my father preaches about.

In school, I was made headgirl at Grade five because my father had prophesied that our school would beat the giants of the region; Rooker Academy.

Those were the best days of my life. I was nine. Being first born meant that I would be the only punctuation that matters in my parents’ sentences—full stop.

Everything they decided meant I had to be consulted and whatever I said, was more often than not, what will rule the day.

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The prima donna

With my tiny body then, I commanded the children whose fathers boasted lesser titles. Those that closely followed me in pedigree were progeny of the teachers who taught in our school.

The headmaster’s daughter was of course the prima donna for she was like a princess and the school was her father’s throne. She was the perfect definition of "untouchable."

One time when addressing my fellow pupils at the parade and demanded that the tallest Grade eight student to come forward and tie my shoe laces as punishment because she was disrespectful and was speaking while I was giving my keynote speech. Yes, keynote.

I was reminding them that my father could gaze into their earthly souls and tell if the dreams that they had written on the book of life would come true.

Many of them wanted to be doctors, a few had engineering ambitions and even one, a champion swimmer. As for me, I bragged that if they wanted good lives, they ought to visit our home and shake my father’s hand. Then came the distraction: I do not know what this tall girl was saying. But, I saw people giggle at whatever she had said.

“Hey, you long girl!” I pointed her out. I used to call her long-girl, everyone did.

“Come and tie my shoe laces, for you seem to have a great career in the laughing industry, but for survival, a cobbler suits you better,” I added.

She humbly trotted over and crouched to sort out my shoe laces. Not a single teacher said a word. I knew I had done the right thing by taking the only action that a respectable school head girl should: Punish with the aim of embarrassing the resident little devil out of the offender.

How wrong I was about the stony silence as the offending gossiper finished her punishment and penitence. The head teacher that night received a lot of notes at the suggestion box. Most of which suggested that I be demoted.

Serving penitence

One read; Mtoi-wa-pasi is not welcome. We only know she is a daughter of the Man of God. But, her character is akin to angel Lucifer's, who God hurled into hell: We do not want her as our head girl. She must leave school this instant.

We can’t worshipping someone whose age is still in the milk teeth category. We refuse.

It was from an anonymous writer, unsigned but the handwriting looked suspiciously like that of my deskmate. I used to torture that poor kid. She sat on my left. The unwritten rule was that her right elbow should never find its way onto my desk.

I was summoned by the head teacher to read all the notes that had been sent to the suggestion box that evening. They were all, without exception, nasty.

But, one that made the food in my intestines boil was this one in familiar handwriting. I felt like strangling that kid. Something that held me back was a bedtime story my mother once told me of demon dreams following anyone who strangles fellow student.

I shook my head and sheepishly agreed to leave the school. I moved to a different one with boarding facilities and in a different town. Since I was still a newbie, no one knew about my dad. I existed just like any other pupil, excepting for my unique name—Maria Rosa.

It was the one curiosity that made most people notice me! In fact, someone once asked me how it felt to share a name with the mother of the one man that accepted to be nailed to a cross for our sins.

One time on Academic day, my dad prayed for our class. After that prayer, like all business men of the cloth do, he mentioned that he had a church. Since then, my classmates started calling me Mtoi-wa-pasi.

My adolescence was in free fall. In ruin. Anyone that called me by that name became the enemy. Soon enough, I had more foes that pals in the entire school. It was unbearable. I had to adjust and accept a name that is not a name but descriptive. A label. Meaningless and accusatory all at once.

The name-calling was unfair. Something that irked the inexistent bone in my heart was the fact that being a pastor’s kid meant that even the words expected out of my mouth were supposed to be biblical and rooted in the texts in the New Testament. They expected me to have words like “holy spirit” and “Jesus said” in every sentence that I uttered.

One grade eight pupil once took off with my water. Of course I should use the word "steal."

But not from the pastor’s kid. I was expected to overlook that or tell her that Jesus loved all thieves and transgressors.

Talk of school

But I was bristling and burning with revenge. I stalked into that pupil’s classroom and unleashed a tirade worthy of a master prophet. I unloaded everything that was in my mind. I had some choice epithets about her ancestors in their graves. I was on fire and barely noticed the looks of incredulity all around me.

None of them had ever met the real me. This frothing-from the-mouth Mtoi-wa-pasi. Before marching off, I cursed her and her progeny who will wake up to be water thieves through successive generations if she did not ensure restitution and plant a fresh water bottle next to my bed for a week.

For a fortnight, I was the talk of the school. People said that I could bag an award for being the most spoilt pastor’s kid of our time. That incident left everyone tiptoeing around my regal self.

Years later, I was still hung on that pastor's daughter pedestal and so much was expected of me. I could not even hug some random boy. A handshake with anyone of the opposite sex was subjected to microscopic scrutiny and debate.

I am doomed to remain a spinster since no young man can summon enough guts to approach me.

My father is happily retired from his calling and is now a counsellor. He no longer prophesies but only mends broken hearts and I am contemplating marching into his office and ask him to exorcise the accursed Mtoto-wa-Pasi and just let me become Maria Rosa.