I actually didn’t know what Old Prof wanted from me. He helped me, fine. I know, but I hadn’t asked him to bundle me into his sentiments. On several attempts, he couldn’t allow me say a single word while we had conversation in front of a glowing fire, that stroke of the night. Like a cantankerous woman, he dominated the conversation as though I knew nothing— as he told his own version of the Biafra War: how the Nigerian soldiers mangled and subjugated the East to perpetual annihilation.
While in the midst of our conversation, I’d thought he was talkative, because of the load of experiences he had garnered over the years. I knew, knowledge makes one loud or mad— or, there is this explosiveness in the head of knowledgeable people, just like an energy trying to escape from an enclosed container, that’s how they’d always want to say all they have in the head. However, if too much knowledge wasn’t the reason Old Prof had been loud and talkative, then, old age should probably be one of the reasons because he was very old. But what I did not understand was what turned Old Prof to a hunter with his acclaimed professorship. I wouldn’t ask him that question lest he turns me to one of his numerous dead squirrels. He wasn’t my father or relation. He only saved me from the hands of kidnappers in the forest that night. The credence had gone to him; and I’d have to include him in my entire story, in life.
However, Old Prof was very benevolent. After he had rescued me from the hand of the Lagos kidnappers that night, he had two rabbits. He roasted one on the fire. While he roasted and we talked about ourselves, I was gobsmacked— how he came to the forest with a small container of salt and pepper. He unslung his portable raffia bag, picked the containers and added salt and powdered pepper on the meat as he used three logs of wood as tripod. While he roasted the meat, I sat on the opposite end, staring around in fear, lest the kidnappers come for counterattack. I didn’t even know how Old Prof defeated them but I knew I heard a gunshot in the air before the kidnappers ran away from the scene of hostage. I was blindfolded rather; I couldn’t have told anything better than Prof who saw everything happened. I knew I boarded a taxi in Oshodi that night but the rest of the story, I’d never tell.
“Baba, do you come to hunting with salt and pepper?”
For some seconds, he kept mute, turned the meat as the red embers burned. “Well, point of correction”, he said. “For the last time, you don’t call me Baba, call me Old Prof, am I understood?” He asked, with his bogus eyes bulging down my face that night. The flames of the fire made me see him clearly.
I was terribly shaken by the coldness of the forest though sitting closer to the fire. It was harmattan, the land and sea breeze wouldn’t smile on our fleeting flesh. But I’d wondered how Prof wasn’t perturbed at all. He’d acclimatized to whatever weather in that forest.
“Prof, aren’t you cold?” I asked, clattering my teeth.
“Your flesh has been meshed by cancerous food.” He said, without rue.
I wondered if his flesh had been solidified by the excessive rodents he ate all his life in that forest.
“I have spent half of my life in this forest…”“How, I don’t understand. Don’t you go to the town?” I said. “How then do you survive?”“I go to the town but not always— only when I need some bottles of beer.” He said, with a faint smile on his face. “Nothing gives me joy than when I sit on a round table with a cold-sweating bottle of beer staring on me. Life comes alive after that.” He concluded.
He encircled about four broad leaves on the earth and hauled down the meat on the leaves, tore part of it and chewed cautiously.
“Now, you eat. I know you’ve not eaten and the night is far spent.”“Thank you, Prof.”I joined him as we ate. He soon drew his bag close, shoved his hand in the bag; carefully smoothed out a bottle of beer and uncorked the bottle with his scattered teeth.
“Ah, how did you get that Prof?” I threw a chunk in my mouth.
“I told you,” he smiled heavily after he had gulped copiously. “Before hunting, I visit the town.”I laughed shortly now. “What brand is that?”“33.” He said, pointing at the bottle as he clutched it tightly by the neck. “You can also call it Export Lager Beer, if you so wish.”“Ah Prof,” I exclaimed, smiling. “Can I have a gulp, too? You should go for Monkey Tail.”“Dead men drink Monkey Tail,” he bluntly said. “Well, this, not for under 18, eat your meat, son.” He said and drank more.
“But I’m 21, Prof.”“When I export you home from this forest, tell your rich dad to get you a bottle.”“But I thought we are friends now, Prof?” I said. “What are friends for?” I pestered.
“Our friendship stops ticking now until I’m done with my 33 Export Lager Beer.” He wittingly said.
I fell asleep that night after eating, bereft of all that happened. When the morning broke at last, the Old Prof took me back to Oshodi where I boarded a taxi back home. I’d begged him to join me back home, my father would get him rewarded but he refused.
I missed his sudden friendship but I know I would meet him somewhere someday. However, when I get home, I would like to taste his brand of beer, the way he savored it made it seem blended into finesse from heaven. Well, I never met such a friend again.