Oh, yes. Ratel. Pit. Brigadier-Captain. Now I remember.
I hate it when things don’t act the way they’re supposed to. For instance, an animal which has found itself at the bottom of an eight-foot pit is supposed to pace about, dig, fidget, maybe jump at the walls a bit. They’re not supposed to sit at the bottom of the pit and look up at you, batting their eyelashes and looking all cute and cuddley.
Chris and I knew cute-and-cuddley. Hell, we had Ph.D’s in the art of looking cute-and-cuddley — usually prior-to, during, or just after all Damnation breaking loose — so we weren’t exactly fooled by the facade. The only thing we weren’t sure of, was how much bluff was hiding behind the Great Big Puppy Eyes Look.
A situation requiring much delicacy, and maybe some planning, all of which went out the window when Azikiwe walked up.
He casually glanced into our pit, did a double-take, then motioned to his body-guards, who sullenly stepped up, before doing double-takes of their own.
I knew the little bastard was up to no good when he turned to us with that huge grin, and said, “Oh, na picken, dis beef very, very bad. Too much bad for you” and took out his dress pistol.
He jacked the slide on what I dimly recall as maybe something Italian in the 6.35 or 7.65 millimetre range, sighted on the ratel in the pit, and stepped to one side for a better angle …
… trodding firmly upon the chicken we had fetched as part of our Ratel Extraction Kit …
… who took this as a grave insult, and promptly jumped into Azikiwe’s face, wings flapping, talons up, and cussing a blue streak in Poultry …
… a full-on beserker attack from a rooster is enough to startle anyone, much less Brigadier-Captain Azikiwe, who cannot be blamed for taking a startled leap backwards …
… however, it was NOT OUR FAULT that a bodyguard was standing in Azikiwe’s plotted touchdown point, said impact causing Azikiwe to ricochet somewhat less than gracefully off the bodyguard …
… before vanishing in the shadowed depths of our ratel trap.
You know, there is a peaceful, almost serene, moment that occurs just after the last chance to prevent the fit from hitting the shan, a moment that is almost like a deep sigh as if the Universe is thinking about what a nice day it had been up to that point, and in all that quiet, you can quite clearly hear that little voice in the back of your head saying: “Oh, bugger.“
And then the shrieking and bellowing started.
Down in the pit, Azikiwe was doing a full-on sprint, in reverse. In one hand he held one of our bamboo stakes, which he was using to frantically swat at the ratel, who was likewise at a full sprint. Only, not in reverse.
To this day, I have no idea what happened to the pistol. I suspect that somebody down in the hole ate it, although I’m not quite sure whom.
It was fairly obvious that either Azikiwe or the ratel needed out of the hole. Seeing as how Azikiwe had opposable thumbs, he was the logical choice, so I grabbed up the nearest rope-like item that we had brought to the trap, laid down next to the hole and put the free end over the side for the Brigadier-Captain to grab and hopefully pull himself out.
In case the question ever arises, an innertube from a bicycle tire is not the best choice for this kind of thing, trust me on this one.
Azikiwe got a firm grip, one might even go so far as to say a death-grip, on the innertube, and pulled down as he jumped.
The innertube, being rubber, promptly sttttrrrreeeccchhhhed and maybe didn’t give the Brigadier-Captain as much boost as he might have expected. Or wanted.
He managed to hook his chin over the lip of the pit, and began furiously pedalling his feet against the walls. Which produced absolutely no lift. He then began frantically scrabbling at the grass and dirt scattered around the pit with his free arm, while still furiously pedalling his feet, and pulling firmly on the rubber tube — all of these actions combined not doing much more than producing a slow slide back into the pit.
Chris, in the meantime, was rolling the banana tree trunk to the pit. Since the trunk was a good bit longer than the pit was wide, when he got it positioned across the pit there was about a two foot overlap on either end.
He then ran around to one end of the trunk and began to push it into the trap, hopefully producing a ramp out of the hole for whomever decided to use it first.
I began calculating the distance to the nearest palm tree.
And Azikiwe hit bottom.
There was a happy, almost joyous, scream from the honey-badger, followed by a most unhappy shriek from Azikiwe and then Azikiwe came out of the trap like he had a furry JATO bottle attached to his butt and clamped both arms onto the middle of the banana tree trunk, followed by both legs.
This was a Bad Thing. Since Chris didn’t have the trunk pushed into the trap yet, the Brigadier-Captain wound up dangling from the trunk. With twelve pounds of pissed-off ratel dangling from Azikiwe.
With the added weight, the combined push power of both myself and Chris wasn’t up to getting the trunk into the hole. And since the ratel not only had a firm grip on one cheek, he also had the claws of one paw firmly hooked into Azikiwe’s Sam Browne belt, he wasn’t coming loose until he was damned good and ready. His extra weight meant that the Brigadier-Captain couldn’t swing himself around to the top side of the trunk and get out that way.
Worse yet, a banana tree trunk isn’t really a trunk. It’s actually tightly bundled leaves packed in a sticky sap. Looks a lot like a solid tube of packed corrugated cardboard, come to think.
Anyhoo, it wasn’t up to the lateral stresses of supporting the weight of both Azikiwe and the ratel and was developing a slight, though alarming, bend.
Chris told Azikiwe that he needed to turn loose of the trunk, so that we could get it into the hole and he could scramble out.
Azikiwe didn’t seem to see the logic. And, you know, I’m no-where near being a prude, but I wouldn’t have couched my reply in the language Azikiwe used, not around kids, anyway.
Thinking that maybe if the honey-badger turned loose, Azikiwe would be able to scramble around the trunk to safety, I snatched up the chicken (who had hung around to see What Happened Next) by the legs and (leaning precariously out over the pit I might add) waved it next to the ratel’s head, hoping to tempt into letting go.
Apparently, ratels are firm believers in the old maxim “A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush” — or in this case “A Ham In The Jaws Is Worth Any Number Of Free Range Chickens” — ’cause he showed not one sign of turning loose.
The rooster, on the other paw, held Certain Views vis a vis Being Volunteered for Dinner Detail, and promptly came unwound.
Not being entirely gormless, however, the chicken was more than happy to deliver the pecks and wing-strikes to Azikiwe, rather than the twelve-pound berserk carnivore trying to get his other paw latched onto todays meal.
Azikiwe’s response to my bit of aid would have had Old School, salty, tar-and-teak sailors saying, “Steady on, that’s going a bit far, that is.”
And then trunk bent a little more.
You know, a man — or boy — has got to know his limits.
Oh, yes. Ratel. Pit. Brigadier-Captain. Now I remember.