So we lived the Kenyan Dream. Broadways bread for breakfast, ugali for lunch and marikiti on Thursdays. Communal was the best way to describe our family. With people coming in and going out of the house every other day. Broadways was a lifetime lesson taught to us on the importance of Equality and Fairness. Before then, we used to have a different flavoured approach to life.
I remember the events leading up to that sturdy block of bread being introduced to our home. We used to have assorted bread every morning. And as a culture, the person who buttered the bread got the privilege of having the fat slice. There was always a fat slice. Most times it would be the crust but if you were lucky enough, you might just have gotten the fat slice in the softest mid-section guts of the loaf. Never have I gambled, but to me, that was the equivalent of winning the jackpot. So on this fateful day, the server had decided to hoard his prized share just to taunt us. Then someone ate it. We never knew who.
A tribunal was set to investigate the issue. Dad was both judge and jury. And so, once again, the little black guy was screwed, with a court system that was already skewed against him. What you need to know is that he didn’t like bread. Dad loathed the loaf. A cassava man he was, saying that bread was the root of all evil; making children fat and lazy. We were fat and sat around the house the whole day anyway.
All the suspects were placed in the dock – an oversized laundry basin. We were guilty till proven innocent.
Mother was the prosecutor. Slipper in hand.
In her opening statement:
Mum: ‘Hamtaki kuongea eeh!?‘ Loosely translated, ‘Your honour, as you can see with the case before you, a grievous allegation has been presented to the court.’
She swung the slipper over our heads hoping it would land on something. A cheek would be fair game. We ducked to dodge it but hadn’t even realized just how squeezed we were in the dock; and that our heads were on a collision course. They knocked together like two coconuts. The kickback was so great, our bodies swung back like a Newton’s cradle. Felt my brain slosh like barrel water even as I tried to quickly recover from the whiplash.
Dad: Eeh we mama. Translated, ‘would the prosecution please stop badgering the suspects.’
Could see bro, the plaintiff smile for a moment amid loud sobs. But nobody cracked. The hazing continued for a couple of minutes. Someone would have to give in. Anyone. Nobody. Until finally, ‘It was Billy.’
Oh the horror. Nobody ever thought of Billy. Billy never even thought of Billy. He was even more shocked than us. Billy was our Fluffy Jersey cat with a cuteness to die for. At his mentioning, he had been sitting, purring on my dad’s armchair. Like a lowly murmuring and judgemental gallery audience.
‘I saw him eat the slice. I even poured some milk on it just to make it more palatable. I didn’t say anything because I thought it would be funny.’ The accomplice went on.
Prosecution: (a sudden slap). Loosely translated, ‘The prosecution is satisfied that it has presented without any shadow of a doubt that the defendant indeed is guilty of the aforementioned crime. We hereby charge the court to mete out swift but moderated judgment in accordance to the speciality of the said matter.’ Did I say that Billy was our cat. No, Billy was mum’s cat. Her prized jewel. In fact her motto was, To God and Cat.. and Country. So she wasn’t just going to have Billy be a scapegoat. Pun intended
Judge: Hmm. Ah. Translated, ‘The Bench, having carefully studied the subject of matter in accordance with the law, sub section…(blah blah, we were in the dock, remember)… the punishment to be meted will be a lash and a day in county jail.
County jail was basically sleeping outside. Not good for Billy.
The punishment was effected at noon that day, when the force in Billy (his cuteness) was weakest. Noon meant lazy and grumpy. Plus his eyes looking like a pair of slits. Swing of a slipper by the executioner onto his lazy bum and off he skedaddled into the nearby thicket, not to be seen till the following day.
And as for us, no more assorted bread. Only plain, evenly sliced Broadways. So that whenever we’d see that oiled paper wrapper, it would serve as a memorial of the values ascribed in the constitution of the house, ‘Equity and Fairness, until The World Changes’.