Unlike most boys my age, Saturday was not a day for adventure, games or television. As I set out from school on Friday afternoon, I did not look forward to a few days without reading. There was no time for kati, rounder or cha baba na cha mama. Saturdays were the days I spent unraveling the mystery that was my father.
I never knew much about my old man. In the dead of night, as I prepared to fight monsters and demons in my sleep, I would hear my mother on her knees praying. It was a dangerous world out there and all she wanted was the safe return of her love. It was in those whispered conversations with God that I found out my dad was a police officer. A CID officer to be precise. From that day I would close my eyes, before sleep took me away, and imagine what it was like to be him.
My father was a tall man. He towered over most men I knew and was even forced to bend a little as he entered our two bed-roomed house. As I walked behind him, on Saturdays, I could feel the aura of respect that hang around. Men in uniform, and even those without, would salute him as he passed by. And I, like any boy with a great father, knew it was my responsibility to carry his name with the utmost respect.
In my day dreams, he was the main character as i reconstructed the scenes in the action movies I had watched. I would picture him, gun in hand, chasing the bad men to save the world. As the sound of bullets flying around filled the air, he showed no fear, leading his men to the shadows of the valley of death. No starring died in these movies and even when the dreaming was over I knew I could look forward to seeing him come home, newspaper in one hand and a bag of chips in the other.
This Saturday mornings, I woke to the sound of him brushing his teeth in the bathroom. The smell of mandazis frying in the kitchen and the thought of how they would taste in my mouth as I chased them down with a cup of cocoa caused a smile to break on my face. I jumped out of bed excited. Unsure of what the day would hold.
The previous weekend, I had accompanied my father to the officers mess. This was our little secret for my mother would never have allowed him to take me with him. In the presence of his peers I was Madilu Junior. I sat next to him, soda in hand, drinking slowly from the bottle. The table filled with AFCO beers and the air clouded by smoke from their Embassy cigarettes.
As if oblivious to my presence, they engaged in tales about their exploits in the city. The way they had ended the menace of a crime gang that was terrorizing businessmen in the CBD. One of them told of how the malayas on Koinange did not want to pay “tax” and would sometimes offer the men in uniform a free “ride” for them to overlook their hustle. My father turned to me to see if I understood what was being said. The blank expression on my face a signal for them to go on.
I looked forward to another eventful day today. After my bath and breakfast I dressed in my little half suit and bow tie ready to step out. I approached my father as he sat in the sitting room reading from the day’s newspaper. He smiled and asked me to sit next to him. Called out to my mother to take a picture of us. After she was done, he turned to me and told me, in his calmest voice, that we would not be going out today. He had just received a call that there were some bad men that needed to be dealt with.
As I watched him walk out the door, a sense of uncertainty crossed my mind for the first time. I crossed my fingers and hoped he would be back home in the evening.