Archive for September, 2009

Glub’s New Rock

Glub’s New Rock

The third day with no food. The young wild things were cold and hun­gry. Sta­lac­tites of vis­cous green snot streamed from their noses. Most of the time they slept, and when they awoke they howled. When hit hard, they reduced the racket to an irri­tat­ing whim­per. Glub sat on his favourite rock, and beat his head gen­tly and rhyth­mi­cally on the slimy wall of the cave. From time to time he stopped and stared mourn­fully at the shin­ing stone in his hand, turn­ing it over and over and hit­ting it against the wall by way of a change.

He had spent days grimly hon­ing it along the grain, grind­ing it against a darker rock to expose a sharp edge of quartz. This had been a painful pro­ce­dure, as burn­ing flicks of light kept sting­ing his hands. But when it was fin­ished and he finally threw it, instead of arc­ing neatly to catch the flee­ing deer on the neck as his pre­vi­ous rocks had done, it whirled uncon­trol­lably catch­ing the light as it fell and scat­tered his hoped-for victims.

His woman, Burb, glared at him when she had to pick her way past his hud­dled body. She badly wanted to attack him with his own pre­cious tool, but was afraid of his anger. One of their chil­dren had been crip­pled as a baby when Glub, enraged by its cry­ing, had thrown it against the wall. Burb had tried to mend the lit­tle bro­ken body, wrap­ping its crooked limbs with leaves and tying them with her hair, but it died even­tu­ally when the rains came. Her eyes watered still when she thought of it get­ting qui­eter and qui­eter, its mouth open, its eyes dull. She had been care­ful to avoid annoy­ing her man after that, and kept the three remain­ing off­spring well to the back of the cave when Glub was there.

In one of the lulls between howl­ing, she ven­tured out, wrap­ping the stink­ing hide closely round her shoul­ders to keep off the rain and icy wind. She fol­lowed the ani­mal track down to the river, and lay motion­less on its bank for some time. Goosepim­ples rip­pled her back and thighs, but still she did not move. She was rewarded as the day ebbed by a flash of sil­ver, which she snatched as it shim­mied past, and landed flap­ping on the mud beside her.

Car­ry­ing her booty, still writhing, under her arm, she stopped to pick some of the leaves she had seen the deer eat, thought they were dry and dead by now. She also col­lected a hand­ful of the hard brown things that tree ani­mals seemed to thrive on. All the bright sweet fruit was long since gone. Pick­ing her way care­fully in the dark past the piles of crap that Glub pro­duced just by the entrance, she paused out­side the cave and lis­tened. Glub was snor­ing, and one of the lit­tle things was moan­ing, but noth­ing too seri­ous seemed to have hap­pened in her absence.

She put the leaves down, and using them as a sound-deadening cush­ion, she hit the hard brown things with Glub’s pre­cious rock, over and over again. In her heart she wanted to destroy the rock, to break it into tiny pieces, so that Glub would never spend pre­cious days doing any­thing so stu­pid again. She was so angry with it and him. Burn­ing spots of light hurt her hands, but she per­se­vered, and suc­ceeded in crack­ing three of the nuts.

But then some­thing else hap­pened – as she toiled away, the rock quite hot in her hands, the flashes of light became more fre­quent, and finally one of the leaves flared up, scar­let and as bright as the sun. Burb was trans­fixed. She watched as one after another the leaves caught light. She put out her hand to the bright­ness, and snatched it back with an angry yowl.

The oth­ers awoke, com­plain­ing, at this inter­rup­tion of their sleep, and she had to keep the small­est one from putting his hand in the flames just as she had done. The old­est grabbed greed­ily at the nuts she had man­aged to shell, and a fight ensued, cul­mi­nat­ing in Glub hit­ting both the con­tes­tants and giv­ing one a nose bleed. Glub then tried to take a bite out of the fish, failed because of his lack of teeth (lost in the duel for Burb’s hole) and threw the fish into the burn­ing bright­ness with an enraged growl.

He grabbed Burb’s deer hide, and retired to the pile of dried bracken at the back of the cave where he lay with his face to the wall, thump­ing the floor from time to time with his fist. Burb hated him. Because he had no teeth to eat the fish, he had made sure that no-one else could eat it either by throw­ing it on the lit­tle sun thing. She stolidly returned to her nut crack­ing duties, and it was a while before she noticed two things – one that the lit­tle sun thing gave out heat and light which improved that cave no end, and the other was that the fish, rather than ruined, was begin­ning to smell dif­fer­ent, a smell that made her dribble.

Burb and her chil­dren ate well, and exploited their new dis­cov­ery cannily.

Glub sulked him­self to death, and no-one missed him at all.

© Glub’s New Rock. Author Miranda Innes 2009, all rights reserved

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