Vasant (Spring) 2021 Stories - Melissa Jerry-Stoute


When The Cock Crows
By Melissa Jerry-Stoute


The bed sheets were soaked as Chandani tossed and turned in her sleep. Her sweat drenched the cheap cotton peacock sheets making them stick to the exposed parts of her frail body. Mukesh snored loudly beside her, exhausted from the events of last night. It was another one of those nights. She got up and crept out of the metal bed, careful not to wake him, let him sleep. If only it could always be so calm. Quickly she looked in on the boys, they were sound asleep. She flicked on the light switch in the kitchen and began to prepare breakfast for her family.


Somewhere outside a cock crew and in the distance another answered him. She would have to hurry to start breakfast. Her arms were numb and the bruises on her shoulders where she hit the dresser ached but she continued to knead the flour ignoring the pain. Whack! Whack! Whack! She slapped the dough on the floured board. The sound reminded her of the blows last night. The licks, the sickening, dull, thudding of his fists against her body. The sada roti was completed and she was just about to chunkay the tomato choka when she saw the shadow on the wall above the stove.


Startled, she almost burned her hand as the shadowy presence moved to the opposite side of the wall. It was observing her. She shook her head, not today, no not today. Today would be a normal day. What was normal again? She was packing their lunches when he came into the kitchen. No words, he slid into a chair as she set an enamel cup of black coffee in front of him.


She prayed in an inaudible whisper, “No words please…ah don’t want to talk to him..,”


She leaned against the wall behind him unsure of what to do, should she leave the room or stay? She turned to leave, “Whey yuh goin?”


His question slapped her out of her reverie and she did not respond. His dark unapologetic eyes glared mercilessly into her large swollen ones. She froze against the wall as her shoulders rose defensively, expectantly.


“Yuh goin to work today?” he continued. He had to be mad, did he see her face? “Yes,” she found herself answering, her eyes welled up again and she refused to allow him to see her so defeated. Finished with his coffee, he rose and left the kitchen. His morning routine would take about forty-five minutes; this would give her enough time to get the boys ready.


He emerged, smelling of cologne and shaving cream. His long sleeved shirt was neatly tucked into his pants, shoes shone brilliantly. He looked deceptively decent wearing that tie. Her lips curled in derision as he called out to the boys to get going. So this was it, her daily hell.


“You call me when you leavin’ home an’ when you reach on work.” The warden had to ensure his prisoner was accounted for. The phone calls came every half hour. The school where she worked was her refuge and the only part of her life that was her own. Her students loved her and she loved them. She pulled her hair down to cover her left eye where the bruises were. No one should be able to see them.


Chandani sat in the parking lot wondering if to stay there for the day. Her phone rang, “Hello…” as if she didn’t know it was him. “Yuh reach?” he snarled, “Yes Mukesh ah reach to work.” She forced a smile as a colleague waved to her and readied herself to start the daily task of fooling everyone else. She looked at herself in the rear view mirror, “Hello, are you there? It’s a new day girl!”


As she sat in the staff room, she remembered the first time. It was just one month after their wedding. She saw a strange message from another woman, “Can’t wait to see you again, missing your sweet kisses. Luv S.” He was enraged and hit her. “You going through my phone? Some clients talk like dat! You are insecure! Fool!” She left and drove all the way to her parents’ home, they lived an hour away.


They told her she was wrong, “Gyul! you eh know how lucky you is to get a husband with such a good job! You have to make yuh husband happy!” This was her mother’s advice. It was the last day she told them anything. She dragged herself to the police station the day he knocked her unconscious and they told her to go and kiss and make up. One of them was even telling her how to keep him in her bed. It was revolting. A woman in this world was still viewed by some as property. There to serve the purpose of pleasing. Women in her world were crushed and forbidden to dream.


Why was ambition such a bad thing? Success and loneliness seemed to go hand in hand for a woman who stepped out of the shackles placed on her at birth. Her culture said she dare not disobey or try to be different. A friend told her to leave him but where would she go after twenty years? The shame would be too much.

Her principal asked her about her bruises but she would not say how she got them. The school bell signaled the end of the day. She felt a sudden wave of nausea engulf her, what would this evening bring?


She drove to the boys’ school to pick them up. Sanjay’s class teacher was waiting for her, what now? “Mrs. Ragoo, may I have a word with you?” She parked the car and went inside with Miss Singh. “Today Sanjay punched a classmate Ray on the playground. Ray was on the swing and he wanted a turn but instead of asking for a turn, he demanded that Ray get off. When Ray ignored him, Sanjay punched him.


He continued punching until a teacher pulled him off. Mrs. Ragoo, is there anything going on at home we should know about?” Chandani shook her head slowly, “I am sorry for what Sanjay did; I think he will have to learn how to solve conflict and also how to deal with issues without being violent…” Her voice broke and she began to cry.


“Mrs. Ragoo, the principal has to issue a suspension for three days. Please don’t break down, Sanjay needs to be counseled. These behavioural issues all stem from something else; we will get to the root of it.” No, no she didn’t understand no one could know, it was too much, no one could know. “Thanks Miss,” she responded curtly and headed to the principal’s office to collect her sons.


A stifling heat rolled through the Vistabella valley. Chandani sat at the kitchen table waiting for Mukesh. Sanjay was only acting out what he heard and saw. The boys were being shaped into the monster that fathered them. The shadow was back on the ceiling of the kitchen, its fiery red eyes penetrating her, seeing her thoughts.


“You are worthless, good for nothing, purposeless,” It was telling her these things and in her head the voice was strong and overpowering. Every hair on her body rose as she looked at it. She was certain that she was losing her mind. “Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me ALONE!” It disappeared, leaving her shaking like a coconut tree in a storm.

His keys jingled in the door and he entered. He kicked off his shoes, came into the kitchen and reached for a beer in the fridge. It was after nine; he was late but expected her to be up waiting with his dinner. He slumped into a chair at the kitchen table. She placed the plate in front of him, the shadow was now sitting on Mukesh’s shoulder, it was laughing at her.


“What you watchin’?” he stopped shoveling the rice into his mouth and looked curiously at her. She shook her head. Words should not be wasted on him. Words were sacred to her; words were the soothing balm of her soul. Words were her only solace. She bent to take the plate from its place in front of him and caught a whiff of a strange perfume. She resolved long ago to say no more about his indiscretions. It was too dangerous. He grabbed her hand and pulled her to him. She was being smothered with his wet sloppy, whiskey-laden idea of a kiss.


She could not break free. “I…can’t…breathe.”


The soft patter of the raindrops on the roof sent her into a frustrated frenzy. She lay there naked, stripped of all that was left. Hate.Yes that was the only word to describe how she felt for him – hate. No.


She said it over and over and over… “No! Don’t Mukesh! No!” Insatiable lust mingled with deep rooted anger overtook him as he violated her body. She got up and went out into the living room. She would run; she would take the boys and run. There was a ringing sound in her ears, a dull ringing sound, it was maddening.


She sat on the old Morris chair and wept. A sharp pain in her stomach woke her as she realized she spent the rest of the night in that uncomfortable chair. She had no feelings left to feel and no tears left to cry. Mentally she started a checklist of all that she endured locked away in her own home.


Physical violence – check, mental abuse – check, daily threats against her life – check, bullying – check, theft of her earnings – check and now to top the list, rape – check. Imagine home was supposed to be the safest place to be, imagine that. The infernal cock was crowing again. She moved towards the kitchen to start breakfast.


Clean shaven, smelling of some expensive cologne, he sat at the table. He ate unapologetically, not that she expected an apology but he seemed to not remember that only a few hours ago he was committing an atrocious indecent criminal act. That criminal lawyer harbored a vicious criminal inside his own body. She searched his face for any sign of emotion…none…he seemed happy. Yes there was a sadistic smirk at the corners of his obscene mouth. He looked like a man who just ran a marathon or who won a lottery ticket. He was enjoying the death of the last shred of her dignity; he was reveling in her agony.


He…Chandani grabbed the largest kitchen knife on the nearby counter and lunged at him. The knife barely grazed his left shoulder as he grabbed her hand and flung her to the floor. He quickly got up and dragged her out to the garage, shutting the kitchen door behind him.


The boys were in their rooms, they could not hear nor could they see the rage filled blows inflicted on their mother. They did not hear her begging for mercy. They did not see him douse her with paint thinners. They certainly did not see him strike the matches.


As the world was now waking up to a new day, the flashing blue lights, the camera crews, the wailing parents, all stood in the driveway as undertakers took Chandani’s charred body away. A sullen silence fell over the village, they knew didn’t they? They knew, they all knew.


Don’t we all know when things aren’t right across the fence? Turn a blind eye, mind your own business, don’t reach out. It could never happen to you – right? As the unwilling sun cast light upon the Ragoo house, a strange shadowy shape moved down the front wall, shuffled across the street and easily passed under the doorway of the neighbor’s house. Angry voices began filling the silence as a cock crew in the distance.



Melissa Jerry-Stoute from Trinidad & Tobago graduated with a BA in English Language and Literature with Education from the University of The West Indies. Her passion for writing began as a teen. One of her stories,'The Jumbie Bud' was published in Active Muse in 2020. She is working on her first book of poetry and short stories.


Our Contributors !!

Some of our writers!

  • We occassionally invite writers to send their musings. Do send in your work, and we will host it here.
  • Do visit the Submit page to submit your work.