It’s 10 O’clock in the night. The children went to bed at 8, tired, hungry, exhausted and unwashed. They just dropped, one after the other, to the crumpled sheets on the floor, like poisoned flies. They slept in their school clothes. There was nobody to care if they had clean clothes for school the next day. If there were no clean clothes, no decent clothes or no clothes at all, the ones they were sleeping in could have been washed and hung to dry on the balcony or in the room under the fan.
A car came creeping up the quiet, sleeping street towards the stately house a little past 11. As it turned onto the compact, clay driveway with the loose little stones on the surface, the man servant heard the wheeze of the old, little engine and the grating of the tyres, and rushed to check the rice on the fire. Perfect, just a little soft and mushy, the way the master liked it. The car came to a gentle stop at the carport. Charles, the man servant, walked briskly to the door, but its occupant was already out of the car. He held a black, cuboid briefcase which he swung slightly in the direction of Charles. Charles caught it with practiced ease and croaked, “Welcome, Sir”.
The master settled in his beer-and-TV chair, called for his beer and turned on the TV. In those days, there was just the national broadcaster, GBC-TV. The 10 O’clock news (which was never broadcast at 10 O’clock) had come and gone. On, was the programme, ‘Contemplations’. Why anybody would bother to feed philosophy to the hungriest inhabitants of the third world was a stroke of genius which the present writer’s obviously simple mind struggles to comprehend.
Not long after the beer came the food. It was 11.30. The master must have remembered, then, that he had children germinating somewhere in the big government house.
“Where are they?”
“They are all asleep, Sir. I’ll wake them up to come and eat.”
And, so it was everyday that the children would go to bed dirty, hungry and tired in their school clothes. Then they would be rudely woken up to straggle downstairs like zombies at about 11.30 to eat dinner, and go straight back to bed.