The demise of Cassandra.


I have a sense of Déjà vu having told this story before but all in all, it is worth retelling.

Growing up, back in Rural Mathira, We had a dog. A pedigree dog christened Chiba – a variation of Simba – a befitting name given the dog’s fierceness on one hand and on the other, the royalty it exuded. The dog was definitely not a German shepherd but something very close. Probably an Austrian or a Czechoslovakian shepherd. You know, some land close Germany.

We loved the dog and he loved us back with immeasurable endearment. Chiba accompanied us to all our boyish escapades and we had them in plenty. The only place he wouldn’t tag along was church and school. Probably because our time in school was mostly a torrid dog’s life and Chiba was wise enough to avoid double tragedy.

One afternoon my younger brothers and I plus a couple of other neighbourhood boys, were playing football along the path that leads to our home (our cherished Santiago Bernabeu), when Chiba drew our attention as he howled and made a dash into one of our neighbour’s shamba. The game was stopped and we followed the dog going through the closely knit barbed wire fence.

There, at the base of the big Muiri tree, was the neighbour’s cat a feline we will refer to as
Cassandra because it was remarkably pretty and impeccable and had grown up in opulence and Cassandra sounds like somebody pretty who grew up in money. Lots of it. She was an orange tabby with little white freckles that made her all the more stunning.

Nobody had ever set eyes on Cassandra outside the confines of our neighbour’s palatial homestead. We only got a glimpse of her every time we went to pick the daily half litre of milk that we took on credit to be paid on month end. We could see her curled on the sofa or perched on top of the kitchen table staring at us sympathetically and wondering how we survived on a half litre of milk a day. She was rightfully troubled because she probably drank more milk in a day than what we had as a household for three days.

For a cat never used to forays into the open, Cassandra had walked quite a distance from the neighbour’s homestead to come up to this point. This was thirty meters tops from our house. There was no mistaking where she had been headed to before she was stopped in her tracks by Chiba. She had intended to be our visitor. This touched the boys’ collective heart. It was so soul-stirring for such an adorable tabby who lived in poshness to find time to come and visit us. It was a very kind gesture on Cassandra’s part and that’s why we found ourselves restraining Chiba from attacking the cat instead of phsyking him up to pounce on and lacerate the poor animal. Ordinarily, if this was just another cat or just another animal, we would have chased it across villages and even brought in other dogs for the hunt.

All our efforts though didn’t bear fruits as the dog couldn’t hear shit. The normally obedient canine became an instant savage who couldn’t be restrained. But one thing was clear; the malevolence was not spontaneous. This was pent up anger being released before our own eyes and we could do nothing about it. The two must have had a beef before. Either this or Chiba was a Marxist who couldn’t stand the bourgeois.

The dog was circling the cat sniffing and howling and barking ferociously. On the other hand, the cat sat on her hind quarters keen not to be attacked from a blind spot. Only when she realized that she was on her own and there was imminent danger, did she stand on all fours, arched her back and puffed up making herself bigger and scarier. She started hissing and growling loudly and in a bellicose manner you would have attributed the sounds to a low flying stratofortress bomber.

Daggers were now drawn. At some point, we even got afraid that Cassandra would hurt our dog. She had made herself so big and spooky that she almost matched Chiba for height and length but obviously not strength. Despite her creepy stunt,Cassandra was going into this fight as an underdog.

This only exasperated Chiba whose howling and furious woof sounds increased tenfold. Echoes from his barks were recocheting from mount Kenya’s peak to the Aberdares and back. I am sure my friends, the likes of Ben Soh heard this barking from Meru in the opposite side of the mountain.

The circling and sizing up went on for some time and then suddenly, like a king cobra, Chiba struck. He had Cassandra by her backside held tightly in his mouth. He then started shaking her vigorously from side to side making sure that her head hit the Rocky ground in each movement. The shaking was so violent that the cat’s neck could have easily snapped. This went on for a while until the dog was sure that Cassandra was immobilized or unconscious or both.

He then set her down and embarked on chewing every part of the cat’s body inch by inch like big G. It was done methodically like some people do to a bubble wrap with their fingers only that this time it was huge canines from a dog that had gone into a paroxysm of rage against the flesh of a helpless feline.

We watched helplessly with gaped mouths as the dog crunched the cat like britannia biscuit with extremely powerful bites. Bones could be heard cracking and breaking under the dog’s powerful molars.

Apprehension on our part grew to confusion then to dread which made us paralysed and unable to move or act. We chewed on our knuckles up to the second joint.
What will happen when the neighbour’s learn that Cassandra is dead?
What will be the penalty?
What if the madam owner demands an exact replica of Cassandra? Ngwenda O Kangì!
And she was very capable of saying that.
What if they demand someone must go to jail to pay for it? And ourselves being minors, would they spare our dad?
How much would they probably ask as compensation for the cat?
What if they said an eye for an eye and demanded to have Chiba killed?
Those were the questions going on in my mind. I don’t know about my mates.
The two families had quarreled over more trivial issues like our goat pulling and feeding on wandering jew that had germinated from their side of the fence or a sucker from our banana tree sprouting on their side.
Compared to these issues, Cassandra’s death would come with dire ramifications.

Being the eldest of the lot, I instructed everyone to leave the place so that there would be no evidence of our presence or connivance during the savage and brutal murder of Cassandra.

We crept through the fence back to our house while making sure not to leave any footprints or stretched out barbed wire which would be a dead giveaway. The only dead thing we wanted to leave behind was Cassandra. We took a vantage point near our house where we continued watching the dog “hehejaring” the cat for another two hours while we just wrung our hands impotently.

The dog would leave the now mangled body of the cat and walk a few metres only to go back and continue pulverizing the mash further. This went on and on until dusk.

We checked the scene the following morning. Cassandra’s body was not to be seen.
Days passed by, there was no mention of a missing cat from the neighbour’s.
One day, about two weeks later, I am walking to the shops. Inside the neighbour’s shamba, under the labyrinth of the hass avocado trees, I sport Cassandra. She is staring at me. This can’t be! She had been very dead two weeks ago. Chewed like orbit mint. And here she was though with a stained and ruffled coat. I had to go back home to summon my brothers to come and witness what I had just seen.

This was unbelievable. They too couldn’t not assimilate what they were seeing. Cassandra alive and walking though with a limp?
Later, when we broke the news to the neighbourhood boys, they dismissed us telling us to go take a shit.