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8# An elephant memory

DAY — Ogooué Maritime, Gabon — EXT.
  • Shit! He's coming.

  • What's that?

  • RUN!!!

Bakari's last assignment in Gabon was so difficult it changed the course of his career. He got promoted to sales engineer. No more heavy lifting, long hours, or extreme conditions. He spent his time budgeting on excel, and was fine with it.

Through the round window, Bakari saw the white H on a sea of green. He smiled, remembering his last mission with the three Filipino technicians. The helicopter landed like a dry leaf. A young Gabonese man was waiting for him.

  • Young man: Welcome Mr. Bakari! Did you have a nice flight?

  • Bakari: Yes, thank you. What’s your name?

  • Young man: My name is Seraphin. Thank you for asking.

  • Bakari: Nice to meet you, Seraphin. Does Jimmy still work here?

  • Seraphin: Only on Tuesdays and Fridays.

  • Bakari: Oh really? Why, what happened?

  • Seraphin: He got promoted.

  • Bakari: WHAAAAAT!? Bhahahahahhahaha. Peter's principle!

  • Seraphin: Pardon?

  • Bakari: Nevermind...So, I guess you’re the site manager?

  • Seraphin: Yes, sir.

  • Bakari: Could you show me my accomodation, please? I had a long trip.

  • Seraphin: Yes, sir. Everything is ready for you. Let me help you with your luggage.

The next morning, Bakari and Seraphin did a walkthrough of the oil platform. The young Seraphin was sharp and curious. He carried a little notepad where he wrote diligently everything he learned. Bakari wondered what his last mission would have been like if he had Seraphin by his side. Instead, he had Jimmy.

Jimmy’s laziness and bureaucracy had made his life miserable the year before. Bakari remembered the hate he felt for him back then. That hate had made him reconsider his career and forced important decisions. Because of that, he had forgiven him.

Jimmy's promotion got him a better salary and more responsibilities. He oversaw two oil sites now. What first looked like great news was, in fact, a poisoned chalice. He was accountable for other people's performance and had longer shifts. Nothing crushed Jimmy’s morale like good, honest work.

The second oil site, where Jimmy stayed, was one kilometer east of the main one. Jimmy had to walk to work, walk! If only he knew...With his new position, he also lost his meal privileges. The gourmet recipes delivered to his office were gone, and his daily nap with it. It was a hard blow for poor ole Jimmy.

On Friday morning, Bakari needed data from the second site. At noon, there was still no sign of Jimmy, so Bakari decided to visit him on site. Seraphin warned him to remain on the path. He told him about the animals that lived in the forest and what to do in case they approached. Seraphin was passionate and protective of the wildlife. Bakari esteemed him even more.

From the site main entrance, the path narrowed and disappeared behind a curtain of trees. Bakari contemplated the immensity of the forest. It was so dense it covered the sky, and so loud. Cicadas, monkeys, buffalos, crocodiles, snakes, insects, elephants; they all roamed in the wild. If the lion was king of the jungle, the gorilla was king of the forest. Bakari looked up at the trees, hoping to spot a silverback gorilla. He did not.

The path exited the forest on vast, green plains. It continued for a while in the open field and led to a red metal gate. Barbed wire surrounded the gate, marking the site borders. Bakari felt like in Jurassic Park. At the gate, he showed his badge and stated his intentions. The clerk walked him to Jimmy’s office. Bakari knocked and pushed the door.

  • Bakari: Jimmy, my friend!

  • Jimmy: Uh?

  • Bakari: Remember me?

  • Jimmy: Oh yes, Mr Bakari. You're back!

  • Bakari: Yes, I love working with you so much I returned haha. Congratulations on your promotion.

  • Jimmy: Oh...thank you.

  • Bakari: Let's go for a walk, it's too dark in here. I need you to tell me about the new equipment.

  • Jimmy: Yes, in a second.

The two men grabbed a drink and started their tour. Bakari congratulated him again, but Jimmy was unimpressed. Bakari was curious. The more he stared, the worse Jimmy looked. He had dark ring under his eyes, had lost weight, and seemed wary.

  • Bakari: Seraphin told me you came to the main site on Fridays. I expected to see you there this morning.

  • Jimmy: Yeah...I had too much work here.

  • Bakari: Really?

  • Jimmy: Yes, it's tough. I thought it would be good for me but the truth is, I'm struggling to keep up. It's been really hard.

  • Bakari: You do look tired.

  • Jimmy: ...

  • Bakari: Come on, enough for today. Let’s go back to the main site. If anything comes up, it's on me.

  • Jimmy: Okay

They picked up Jimmy’s bag and exited the site from the main gate. A hundred meters on the path, Bakari heard the sound of an engine. The sound was getting louder. Then, the engine sound turned to heavy stomps. Bakari felt the ground shaking under his feet. Jimmy looked paler than a ghost. A 3-meter tall elephant emerged from the forest, head down, his defenses pointing at them. Awestruck, Bakari froze.

The elephant trumpeted and charged. Jimmy yelled and dashed toward the gate. Bakari followed. They sprinted at full blast, running for their lives. The massive elephant gained speed as it approached. Jimmy yelled to the clerk and the two men entered in extremis. The elephant stopped at the gate, stomped his feet, and trumpeted angrily. It paced back and forth along the barbed wire.

  • Bakari: What the fuck?

  • Jimmy: It’s dangerous out there.

  • Bakari: It’s like he was waiting for us.

Bakari recovered his breath and called Seraphin to pick them up. An hour later, Seraphin honked in fron of the gate. He showed up in a Toyota 4x4 with a rifle in the passenger seat. Bakari and Jimmy jumped in the back. Seraphin turned and smiled.

  • Seraphin: Hello gentlemen!

  • Bakari: Thank you! We could not have left without you.

  • Seraphin: It’s that elephant again?

  • Jimmy: God damn him!

  • Bakari: Wait, what?

  • Jimmy: ...

  • Bakari: You guys knew about this?

  • Jimmy: Kind of.

  • Bakari: And you sent me out just like that!!?

  • Seraphin: No, it has nothing to do with you.

  • Bakari: What do you mean?

  • Seraphin: He's after Jimmy.

  • Jimmy: It’s a long story.

Seraphin had exited the plains and followed the path into the forest. It was pitch black and louder by night. He put the full beams on and drove carefully.

  • Bakari: So?

  • Jimmy: That elephant hates me.

  • Bakari: Why? What did you do?

  • Jimmy: I gave him a sandwich.

  • Bakari: Eeeeeh, okay?

  • Jimmy: The week after, he saw me and came back for more.

  • Bakari: And?

  • Jimmy: I gave him another sandwich...

  • Bakari: I don’t follow.

  • Jimmy: That one had chili peppers.

Seraphin shook his head, disapproving.

  • Bakari: What the hell went through your mind?

  • Jimmy: ...

  • Bakari: And when did that happen?

  • Jimmy: Maybe two months ago, I think.

  • Bakari: TWO MONTHS!?? And you've been stuck inside for two months?

  • Jimmy: Sometimes I car.

  • Seraphin: Elephants do not forget.

Back at the site, Bakari wasted no time to report the event. He listed the disruptions caused by Jimmy's absence, the financial waste, and the company's liabilities. He also recommended Seraphin to take over. A week later, Jimmy had his old job back, and Seraphin got transferred to the new site.

For the next 10 weeks, Bakari worked with Seraphin, who relayed his love for the wildlife. They walked that path together countless times, and were never bothered. They never spotted a gorilla but saw lots of elephants. Jimmy never risked venturing in the forest. Seraphin and Bakari pitied him for that. Despite himself, Jimmy taught Bakari another valuable lesson.

Elephants do not forget. Perhaps, in time, they forgive.

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