When he came to, Billy was propped up in the shade, his back against the trunk of a large tree, a cool leaf compress on his brow. The wrinkled old man squatted in the dust before him and peered down at the compass on the ground. He was muttering at it and waving a small frond over it. From time to time he would, with a dramatic flourish, sprinkle onto the compass a pinch of red powder pulled from a small leather pouch.
There was no sign of McGruder. Billy sat up and at the movement the little wrinkled man looked up from the compass. He grinned, turned back to the compass and made a few final passes over it. Then he snatched it up and handed it to Billy. He nodded at the compass and jabbered a rapid burst of incomprehensible syllables, as if explaining to Billy what he had done. Never mind the language, Billy knew that he’d been thanked and repaid for saving hiss life. The old man rose to his feet, gave Billy a parting grin, and loped off into the bush.
A short time later McGruder reappeared waving the stiffened lion’s tail around like a long-handled paint brush.
“Och, ah was gonna cut the beastie’s heed off and skin him like, but then ah thought as how I might cut a couple of the bigger fangs from his gob like. But in the end ah settled for sawin’ off the tail. A lot less messy all things considered. Here,” he grinned, “you shot it, you eat it.”
Billy climbed to his feet and they them made their way back to the other side of the burned out village.
“I wonder what happened here.” Billy asked.
“What happened,” McGruder said, “was that our very own Bill Beckett was a fookin’ hero, that’s what happened laddie. Billy the Lion Killer, or what?”
“Sometimes it’s funny what you do without even stoppin’ to think about it, ain’t it?”
“Just as well if you ask me.”
They reached the trail.
“Are you sure we’re gannin’ the right way Bill? I’ve had more than enough of this particular African adventure, if it’s all the same to you.”
Billy flipped the lid of the compass open and as he stared at the needle his head swam. He reeled and McGruder grabbed his elbow.
“Steady there Bill. Are you sure you’re up to this just at the moment?”
“I ...” Billy managed, but he was staring at the compass dial. For as his vision cleared, between the “S” and the “W” was a tiny red dot and the word “fort”.
“Follow me Scottie,” Billy grinned, “We’re gannin’ hame.”
Causes Luke James Supports
Doctors Without Borders