One afternoon, very long ago, our old man came home for lunch which he did once in a while. He left his bicycle leaning on the eaves and proceeded into the house to have his lunch. Once sure that he was settled inside, my brother and I decided to have some ride before he was done eating. We therefore lifted the bicycle juu juu and tiptoed with it for some 50M to avoid being found out and caught early in the tracks of our treacherous act.
Father had a knack for nipping our crafty machinations in the bud. But every time he learned to burst our bubble without missing, we learnt to produce enough bubbles to be burst and have remainders without fail.
I was the rider and my brother the passenger. I pumped the pedals to ‘full throttle’ in an upright position, for maximum effect, as opposed to sitting on the saddle.
The path from our home intersects with the main road in a fairly slanting slope with a blind curve. You had to slow down to check if the way was clear before proceeding.
I tried applying the brakes so that we could approach the main road cautiously but was taken aback the moment it felt as if the brake levers were some soft feathers. They came all the way up to and past the handle bars. The bicycle gained more momentum. I shouted to alert my brother that brakes had failed and he seemed to have realized this before my warning.
He jumped and tried to pull the bicycle back but he was no match for a Neelam Bicycle moving at full pelt. He fell to the ground and was dragged a good few meters before he let go.
If I proceeded straight ahead I was damned. There was a high cut-slope across the other side of the road not to mention a vehicle could be at the intersection at that particular instant. If I turned left, I was twice damned; in that direction, the road descended a very steep hill. The only way I would be safe was to turn right. And that is if there was no vehicle or a cow, or a person, or a drunk, or a dog, or a goat at the blind intersection.
All my effort to try and steer the bike to the right came to nothing. The damn thing decided to turn left -down the declivitous road -with a very acute angle that could impress the guys at motor GP or the Tour de France. I nearly touched the ground with my left thigh as I made the turn. The bike hurtled down the hill hitting a rill here and a stone there as I perilously struggled to maintain balance. The pedestrians were scampering to safety way before I got anywhere near them. A woman who had an enormous Kiondo on her back and who was heading the same direction as the bike screamed as she scurried first to her right side and then to the left asking inaku? (where is it?). As I overtook her, she exclaimed or more specifically cursed Mwathani Waiguru(Good Gracious).
At about 200M downhill the bike was cruising at a low altitude only touching the ground sparingly. This and I had another 200M of a steep descent to contend with not to mention the fact that the erosion rills and stones were getting bigger with the descent.
I was good at riding a bicycle but I had no experience in flying one. Something needed to be done pronto! This meant finding a way to have the bicycle come to a halt. If I had a good shoe with a massive sole, I could try to apply improvised brakes by pressing the sole of the shoe against the rear tyre. But as fate would have it, I was barefooted.
I got an idea which if executed perfectly would have the bicycle come to a halt and save me from the impending calamity. This required using the high cut-slope to my left to stifle the bike’s momentum. If I got the angle of attack right-not head on- I would be out of danger.
I maneuvered the bike ready to perform the profoundly intricate move by steering towards the edge of the road ready to attack the cut-slope.
The bike hit something and I was tossed flailing into the air.
I came around to my brother’s shaking me awake. I was lying inside Muchiimi’s coffee bushes,clothes tattered, knees and elbows bleeding, every part of my body aching like hell. But this was nothing compared to the damage to the bicycle. The front wheel was buckled and was anywhere between a trapezium and an Irregular Octagon. Nearly all the spokes were hanging loose. One of the front forks was broken and the ball bearings on the front axles had found their way out of their cone.
What to do now? We were cooked. How would we explain the damage on the bike? We did not ask for permission to have the bike in the first place.
We would just return the bike stealthily and disappear. Father would essentially have to believe that ghosts can do a lot of weird things. We carried the bicycle home tiptoeing as we approached the house. We would just place it exactly like father had placed it and melt away.
We furtively placed the bicycle against the wall and prepared to melt away, a booming voice came from the cow shed area, “Ndimwonire tene Mikora ino! (I saw you long ago you thugs)”. Kumbe all this time as we deviously lifted the bicycle approaching home, father was at the cowshed with a very good view of the direction we were coming from? He did not leave his position and continued staring at the cow though abstractedly. May be in his mind he wished somebody could do barter with him and offer an extra cow in exchange of the two of us.
We disappeared knowing too well that we would be dealt with later.