‘A long time ago, in the land of King Ukwa, strange things began to happen. Things began to mysteriously disappear.’
‘Such as what?’ asked Nawiti.
‘One day the king made a promise that people would wake up the next morning with more money in their pockets. But the next morning they didn’t find the money. It had just disappeared’
‘Silly Grandpa,’ laughed Nawiti, ‘the money was never there in the first place, so you can’t say it disappeared. A thing has to appear before it can disappear.’
‘You’re right about that,’ I agreed. ‘It wasn’t the money that disappeared, it was the promise.’
‘Promises usually disappear,’ laughed Nawiti. ‘Mummy promised to buy me a bicycle if I was a good girl, but I never got it.’
‘Maybe you weren’t a good girl.’
‘I was a very good girl but she was a very bad girl for not buying me the bicycle.’
‘King Ukwa,’ I said, ‘even went so far as to promise the people a new constitution. But they never got it.’
‘I’m not surprised at all,’ said Nawiti. ‘This is my experience with grown-ups; I don’t believe a word they say.’
‘Not only did they not get a new constitution,’ I countered, ‘but even the old constitution began to disappear.’
‘Oh dear,’ said Nawiti, ‘now that was more serious.’
‘Exactly,’ I replied. ‘One day the Chief Justice just disappeared.’
‘Woops,’ said Nawiti. ‘Isn’t the Chief Justice the very one who is supposed to protect the people from the king?’
‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘And then other people began to disappear. One day the managers of a factory just disappeared, and the next day a different set of managers appeared from nowhere.’
‘What is a factory, Grandpa?’
‘It’s a huge machine for sucking blood out of the workers and money out of the country.’
‘So what was happening to all that money?’
‘It was just disappearing,’ I said. ‘So now the people were getting very angry, and a delegation went to the king to voice their complaints.’
‘And did the king listen to them?’
‘That’s when the problem of disappearance got even worse,’ I said grimly. ‘The king’s hearing had developed a tendency to disappear, especially when anybody voiced a complaint.’
‘But really,’ said Nawiti, ‘couldn’t the king see problems for himself?’
‘The problem made the problem worse. His sight would disappear whenever he looked at a problem.’
‘But didn’t he realize that his sight had disappeared?’
‘No, he merely thought that the problem had disappeared.’
‘So the main problem was the disappearance of the problem,’ said Nawiti.
‘And that’s a very big problem,’ I said, ‘because it’s very difficult to see something that has disappeared. But then things got even worse. One day, when the king was appointing a new minister, something very strange happened. The new minister had just signed his oath swearing to obey all instructions from the king irrespective of how unconstitutional, and was handing the piece of paper back to the king, when the king entirely disappeared. The whole room full of royal bootlickers stood there aghast as the piece of paper fluttered to the floor, because the receiving hand of the king had gone missing. Before anybody could say a word, the king miraculously reappeared, roaring loudly Is this is how you return your oath of office to your king? By throwing it on the floor? This is lack of respect for your king! You are fired, with immediate effect!’
‘The king couldn’t see that he hadn’t been there?’ chuckled Nawiti.
‘It’s not possible to see your own disappearance,’ I explained. ‘Only others can see it. And they were very disturbed, saying one to another We need a man of substance, not someone who disappears, while others asked Is this man really made of royal material?’
‘Was this the only time the king disappeared? Nawiti wondered.
‘The next time was worse,’ I admitted. ‘He disappeared for an entire week, and everybody in the land was talking about it. But the Minister for Lies and Propaganda insisted that he king was in his palace, wrestling with the problem of sudden disappearances. Surprisingly, a week later the same minister announced that the king had returned from India after consulting a sangoma on the strange problem of sudden disappearances. But people whispered one to another How can he return if he never left?’
‘And did he find the answer in India?’ asked Nawiti.
‘Apparently not,’ I said, ‘because a few days later there was a terrible coach accident on the main road between the City of Work and the City of Sin, and fifty people disappeared. The whole nation was in mourning. Churches services were held all over the country asking God why he had forsaken them, and asking for His divine intervention.’
‘And was God listening?’ wondered Nawiti. ‘Or had he also disappeared?’
‘Nobody knows,’ I said. ‘But soon afterwards the king disappeared again, and this time nobody could find him. They searched the palace and even the tunnels under the palace. They searched the bedrooms of all his wives. They visited all the sangomas in India but none had seen him. They visited all the freezers in all the military hospitals in France, but none had him. They even searched the sewers. They held Church services and prayed for the king, and pleaded with God to send him back.’
‘They’re still waiting for Jesus to come back,’ observed Nawiti sadly.
‘But in the end they gave up the hopeless quest, and instead learnt to govern themselves with a new system which they called democracy. After that, they didn’t need a king anymore.’
‘I always like happy ending,’ laughed Nawiti, clapping her hands. ‘The problem just disappeared!’
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