The story begins by introducing a little girl. The little girl's characteristics are not detailed. But the very first line in the story introduces a third person 'he'. The readers are not sure about the third character. But the author makes it clear that he is someone that the little girl dreads of. He is someone who scares the little girl. It is evident that she considers him as someone to be avoided as well. The next line reveals that they live in the same house. He comes over to her room and gives her a casual kiss. By now, it is evident that he is a family member, her father. Usually young girls, try to avoid their brother or a cousin in a childish immature way. But when the author reveals that the young girl responded to the kiss with a "Goodbye Father", a certain amount of curiosity levels up in the reader's mind. It is not clear as to why she tries to avoid her father.
The little girl is scared
The little girl is actually relieved when her father leaves the house. Generally in most households, young girls love their father and would never want them to leave. But the little girl heaves a sigh of relief as she hears the sound of her father's carriage leaving from the house. As the carriage moves further, the sound also grows fainter. Her mind also grows peaceful as her father moves distant. When he comes back home in the evening, he orders everyone about. The little girl stands near the staircase away from her father. He bosses around the house and asks for things to be done. He has a loud voice as he seems to be angry and irritated.
In the late \(19\)th and \(20\)th century, men were supposed to be the bread winner and the patriarch of the family. Generally they come home and the women rush about attending to them. In today's world, it is not how things work. Men and women have to share their work equally. He asks the little girl's mother to bring him tea to the drawing room. The drawing room is the centre of the house. He also asks for the newspaper to check for the day's news after a long day of work. He even asks his wife to bring slippers. The little girl who watches all these from a distance is scared of the bossy attitude that her father has.
When the little girl's father sits in the drawing room ordering everyone about, she stands by the staircase witnessing everything. She is scared to go near him because he looks terrifying. The little girl's name is finally revealed as Kezia as her mother calls her out. Her mother does not understand that Kezia is scared of the father. She makes a statement that all parents do. She asks her if she is a good girl. Children generally seek validation from parents and love to be called a good girl/boy. They generally tend to do anything to get this appreciation. Her mother asks Kezia to come down the stairs and help her father to take off his boots. In the earlier days, it was common for children to do these chores for their fathers. Kezia did not want to create an impression of being a bad child and therefore comes down the stairs slowly. She walks in slow paces and opens the door of the drawing room. The tension and fear is easily sensed by the readers as she comes over to help out her father.
Since her father's mere presence was intimidating to Kezia, she is even more terrified when he puts on her spectacles and looks at her closely. It looks as if he is staring at her through the lens. He is already impatient and therefore asks Kezia to hurry up and take his boots outside. He again repeats the phrase of being a good girl to her. He asks her if she had been a good girl that day. Kezia, who is already scared, starts stuttering. It is very common for people to start stuttering when they get nervous. She says that she doesn't know if she was a good girl. Most often, young children are not taught what exactly it means to be good. Sometimes parents ask them for the sake of asking. Kezia is not very sure if her activities would be considered as good by her father, as she had never had a real conversation with him. Her father immediately retorts to poking fun at her and imitates her stutter. He also threatens that if she continues to stutter, he would have her mother take her to a doctor. Rather than trying to understand that he scares Kezia, her father only tries to terrify her more.
The little girl has stuttering problem with her father
Kezia recollects that she had never exactly had a problem with speaking. She usually never stuttered with other people. But she stuttered quite often when she had to converse with her father. She had earlier had a problem with speaking, which she had given up. She had practised on it and mustered the courage to rectify the trouble. Usually, when people are self conscious about what they are speaking or to whom they are speaking, they tend to stutter. Kezia had the desperate need to always be right in front of her father. She was scared of him because she did not know him properly. Trying very hard to make everything right in front of her father was Kezia's way of getting to know him well. Also, when she was very conscious of what she was saying, it made her nervous, thereby creating more problems for her. Looking for perfection can only cause imperfections.
The little girl is nervous
When her father sees that she looks nervous, he does not call her over and ask her what is wrong. Instead, he raises his voice, asking her what was wrong. He asks her what makes her look wretched. He also blames his wife for not bringing up Kezia well, as she usually spends a lot of time at home with her mother. He also compares Kezia's look with someone who has lost hope in life and is about to end his/her life. He urges her mother to teach her how to look at people. He also orders Kezia to carry his teacup back to the table carefully. When someone stresses on doing things carefully, it is easier to get more cautious. Kezia also feels that he looks like a giant as he appeared to be so big in comparison to her tiny figure. She even notices that he looks scary when he yawns. She paints a picture of her father as a giant figure who yawns.
The little girl was scared of her father's yawn
Kezia was brought up in a strict household. But like every other family, she had a very kind and caring grandmother who encouraged her to maintain a rapport with the family. Generally, on Sundays, people do not work and it is considered to be a day off. Family members utilise this day to spend time and know more about each other. The afternoons are usually the part of the day when everyone has lunch and takes rest. Conversations become easier when people are well rested. So Kezia's grandmother urges her to go down to the drawing room on Sunday afternoons to have a real conversation with her parents. It is mandatory for children to talk to their parents at least once a week. They can share their feelings, their activities etc to parents.
Family having a conversation
When Kezia goes down to the drawing room to talk to her parents, all that she could see is her father resting on the sofa. He seems to be tired as he covers his face with a handkerchief to avoid the lighting that might disturb his sleep. He also rests his feet on a soft cushion, which shows that he cared about resting. It was important for him to get proper sleep in the afternoon. Kezia's mother also sat there immersed in reading a book. Kezia feels that it would be odd to disturb her father who is in a deep sleep and is literally snoring loudly. So she does not have any conversation with her parents. A soon as he wakes up, he asks for the time to plan his next events. He finds Kezia staring at him and repeats that she must not stare so. He makes fun of her that she looks like a little brown owl as owls have huge eyes that constantly look like they are staring.
Father sleeps on the sofa
One day Kezia falls sick as she catches a cold and stays indoors. Her grandmother gives her an idea to make a gift for her father, since his birthday was approaching the next week. Gifts can bring people closer especially when it is handmade. It is the effort that matters. Her grandmother asks her to make a pin cushion out of a beautiful piece of yellow silk. A pin cushion is generally a stuffed cushion in which needles are stuck to arrange it easily.
Kezia was pleased to make a birthday present for her father as it was a way to impress him. She decided to make a pin-cushion just like her grandmother had instructed her. She worked really hard. A pin cushion is usually made so that one can easily spot their pins. It proves as a safe space for the pins. The cushion is usually stuffed with some solid stuff for the pins to stand erect. When women used them mostly to store their pins, men used them as a collection, similar to stamp collection or coin collection. The pin-cushion is often covered with wool, cotton or saw-dust.
Kezia made the outer layer of the cushion with the satin cloth her grandmother gave. But she was confused about what to fill it up with. In order to make the pin-cushion complete, she had to sew the fourth side. Once she sews it up, she cannot open it, and therefore it was necessary for her to fill it up before she does so. She goes in search for an appropriate thing to fill, to her mother's room. Kezia could not take help from her granny as she was in the garden. She finds many sheets of paper on the bedside. She considers as scraps as she is just a little girl who does not know the importance of such sheets. She happily tears them up and fills them in the cushion and sews it up.
Little girl tears all the paper
That night Kezia heard cries and sound from downstairs, as her father's speech papers for the Port Authority were missing. He would be in trouble if he did not find the papers. Every member in the house took to searching it in all the rooms available. Every servant was questioned. Finally, the mother comes into Kezia's room. She has no idea of her daughter's little surprise and asks her very hesitantly if she had seen the papers. She least expected Kezia to say that she tore it all up for the surprise that she wanted to make for her father. Kezia is in fact proud and happy about it, as little didn't know the consequences of her action. Her mother gets shocked beyond belief that she orders Kezia to come downstairs and admit her mistake immediately.
Little Kezia was dragged down by her mother as soon as she confessed to having torn the papers. Her father, who was already a hot headed person, was very angry with the papers missing. He was walking to and fro in a fast pace with a serious face. Usually, angry people walk up and down in a fit of rage. He also has his hands tied to his back, showing that he was very firm and that the situation required earnest attention. He asks mother as soon as he sees her if she had found something. Mother explains that Kezia had torn away the papers. Father who was already frustrated, turned red with anger, that he stopped walking and stared at the child. Like Kezia's mother, he is shocked and finds it hard to believe. He asks Kezia if it was true. The child who by now had realised that something was wrong starts stammering. The stutter returns to her as she gets scared seeing her father. She is not able to bring herself to admit the question and therefore blurts out a nervous 'no'.
Father is angry
Kezia's father is so upset to listen to her explanations. He asks the mother to bring down the pin-cushion. But he refers to it as 'the damned thing'. He also asks her to take Kezia away to her bedroom as he can no longer stand her presence. She lay in the bedroom crying and all by herself. It was evening and even the little light that peeped into the shadowed room seemed to reflect like a sad face on the floor. All of a sudden, her father enters the room angrily and threatens to beat her with a ruler as a punishment for her action. Kezia, who was already scared of her father, grows frightened and hides under the bed clothes. She pleads with him not to hit her. He pulls her aside and claims that she deserves to be punished. He wanted her to remember every time that she is not supposed to touch anything that does not belong to her. Although Kezia tries to explain that it was for making his surprise gift for the birthday, he brings down the ruler onto her pink little hands.
The father hits the little girl
Kezia's father had hit her with a ruler without even caring to listen to her. She lay there crying and pondering what was her mistake. She had been excited about making the gift. But it had ended up in a really difficult situation for her. As usual, her grandmother stays up consoling her. She wrapped Kezia up in a warm shawl and rocked her in the rocking-chair. Children love to rock in the chair as it easily puts their mind at ease and can help them sleep. Kezia, who is already scared and confused, holds on to her dear grandmother's soft body for support and warmth.
Kezia, who was only scared of her father's presence until a while ago, slowly starts hating him. She questions as to why God had to make a character called 'father'. She did not understand the purpose they serve. As long as she could remember, she had never received the warmth or understanding that she craved for in her father. Her grandmother consoles her by saying that she might forget about the incident after a tight night's sleep. It might not matter in the morning. She also gives her a handkerchief to wipe away her tears and blow her nose, as Kezia had been crying for a long time. Her grandmother also sadly recalls that she had tried to explain that Kezia was making a surprise for him, and it was not on purpose that she tore the papers. But when anger blinds one's eyes, it is very difficult to look for emotions and logic.
The little girl keeps crying
Although her grandmother had consoled her, saying that the incident might fade away, Kezia remembered every bit of it. It had affected her mind so much. The trauma affects the little child so much that every time she faced her father, her hands automatically tied behind her back. Her face becomes red whenever she remembers the episode of getting beaten up by her father.
Kezia had lived all her life under the impression that all fathers are scary and rude. Her experiences with her own father had paved the way for her to strongly believe in that idea. But an incident from her neighbourhood changed this perception. Her neighbours were a family called the MacDonalds. The couple had five children in total. Kezia looks at their house from a small gap in the fence. She sees them living happily in each other's company. They do not have a strict atmosphere like in her home. In fact they play tag in the evening, thereby spending time with each other and having fun at the same time. Tag is a game where people form a group and each other tries to catch or tag the other person by touching them. The father-children relationship was totally different from what she had seen or experienced.
Father playing with kids
Mr. MacDonald had his youngest baby Mao on his shoulder and was playing tag with his other children. His two little girls were holding on to his coat pocket and hanging from his arms. This was in contrast with Kezia, who was scared to even go near her father, let alone touch him. On top of this, the children seem to have a lot of freedom to do whatever they wanted to do with their father. For example, The two little boys turn the hose on him with water gushing around them. They run around the flower beds trying to catch each other, shaking with laughter. Their father was also laughing all the time with them, contrary to Kezia's father, who never smiled at her. Kezia realised that day that all fathers were not the same. There were fathers who were friendly with their children.
Suddenly, Kezia's mother fell ill one day and her grandmother had to take her to the hospital. So Kezia was left all alone in the house with her cook Alice. She was usually happy in her own company as long as her father was not around. But as the day came to an end, she gets scared to be alone. As Alice puts her to bed, Kezia is frightened to be all alone as she is not used to it.
Kezia is all alone in the house at night time, with her cook Alice and her father. Being a little girl, she is scared of being alone in the night. She usually gets nightmares. Most young children get nightmares because adults most often scare them with ghost stories to make them eat or to obey them. Little children believe whatever elders tell them. Sometimes it can affect them to a great extent. Kezia worries if she would get nightmares. A nightmare is a nasty dream which is frightening. She says that she would often have nightmares and it was grandma who would take care of her. She would take Kezia to bed and stay with her until she sleeps. Kezia tells Alice that she finds it difficult to stay inside a dark room. Darkness can be scary to even adults as one cannot see what is happening around them. Mostly supernatural elements are associated with darkness.
The little girl is scared of nightmares
Kezia also says that the darkness makes it appear as though someone is whispering. When it is quiet in the night, every minute sound appears as a whisper. Alice tries to console her, saying that she should not overthink. Being the cook of the house, all she cares about is if the child has been put to bed and has been attended to. She removes the socks on Kezia's foot to get ready for putting her to sleep. But she also warns that if Kezia makes any sound in her sleep due to a nightmare, it might wake her father up.
Although Kezia tried sleeping, the same old nightmare came back to her. In it, she saw a butcher with a knife and rope approaching her, bearing an evil smile. She was so scared that she could only stand up and cry out. She calls out for her grandma as she is the only one who could comfort her. But instead, she sees her father standing by her bedside holding a candle. He had woken up hearing the noise and come to see what it was all about. He questions her as to what had happened.
She gets a nightmare
Kezia had cried and brought her father to the room. When he questions her about what was wrong, she tells him that she saw a butcher with a rope and knife. She keeps stuttering even now. She could only utter words and not form a sentence out of fear. Her father understands the situation and blows out the candle to carry her down the passage to his room. It was a big room with a newspaper on the bed. He throws the newspaper away to put her in the bed. He carefully tucks her up in the bed. He lies down beside her, thereby protecting her. Kezia lay there feeling his warmth and trying to get over the butcher's smile out of her mind. She rested her head on his arms and held on to his shirt tightly. When she lay there, the darkness did not matter as she had the support of her father. He also asks her to put her feet close up to him so that they get really warm. His fatherly love is expressed when he does so.
Father tucks her in bed
Father, who was already tired, falls asleep before Kezia. As she lay there and looked at him, a funny feeling creeps in. She realises that her father is not a bad person after all. He was just big in physical stature but had a warm heart. He in fact had no one to look after him. He was the breadwinner and had to work really hard for the betterment of the family. His body was hard compared to grandma's as it had stiffened up due to hard work. But it was not a rough hardness, rather a nice and warm one. She realises that, unlike her neighbour MacDonald, her father was too tired to play with her after work. She had torn away all the papers related to his work, which might have affected his professional front. She stirs in the bed, which woke her father. He asks her what the matter was, to which she answers that she could hear his heartbeat. Since she had put her head close to his heart, she says that he has got a big heart, which indirectly states that he is indeed a kind hearted person.