Counting Fact

(The Saga of Caveman Hom, Episode 8)

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Time pass, weather turn warm. We hunt many time. It not success always, but often. We catch more rabbit, we catch goat. We catch pig. We find mountain stream, catch fish in net. We roast fish on fire with herb — it yum! We study deer, then try hunt deer same like pig. It work! Not always, but often. Then dog join in — he chase deer, he catch rabbit. Tribe have much meat. If not eat, we dry over fire. We take skin of animal for shoe and coat. We take bone of animal for tip of arrow, bone of fish for needle. We use sinew for make twine. We take antler, and use for club. 

In evening Cheri make bow. She show children how make arrow, they make. In day Arca teach tribe how shoot. We shoot bird — sometime it hit! We climb tree, steal egg of bird. Egg tasty! Tribe pick many mushroom, much herb. In summer some tree make sweet fruit. Some tree make nut. We pick more than need and dry for winter, like meat. 

In tribe is woman, name Garda. She have big idea for make more root. In spring she dig few root, she cut each in piece. Then she choose place and clear all plant from ground. She use antler for dig earth, make many hole. In each hole she put piece root, then bury. Then Garda put water on ground. She do this every day. After few week green shoot come where bury root piece. Garda happy — she show green shoot to tribe. 

‘Look this,’ she say. ‘Here come many plant. They grow strong, make plenty root for eat.’ 

Tribe laugh — Garda crazy!

‘What point?’ say Mat. ‘It same. You start with big root, you cut small. Now is many small plant, small root. It no difference! It big work for nothing. It better leave work to Nature Spirit. She know how make root for eat. No need interfere.’

‘You wrong, counting man,’ say Garda. ‘Root grow big — in end, it more. You see.’

‘You have dream,’ say Mat. ‘But me know counting. Counting fact.’

Then Fem say, ‘Counting fact, but idea also good. Me want see what happen. Who know? Maybe Garda clever — like Mat, but different. If she right, it big help for tribe. So we wait. We see. For now, idea continue.’

Garda smile. Then she stick out tongue at Mat. She blow fart with mouth! Tribe laugh. Mat laugh too. Maybe it true Garda crazy. But she make good fart noise. Fart always funny. 

Soon Garda have other idea. One night after eat, she stand up. She say it bad hunt baby animal. Tribe grumble. Garda not hunter, so maybe she not know — but it easy catch baby. Baby also good for eat — meat tender, with plenty fat. But Garda not care baby tasty. She remind tribe fact of life. She say baby is future. This true for tribe — it also true for animal. If tribe kill baby, it not grow big. It not find mate for sex, make own baby. Then in future, maybe tribe not have animal for eat. We starve. This why it bad idea hunt baby. It better hunt old one. 

Hunter still grumble — they want eat baby, it taste good! This true. Young one always better. Old animal not so good — it strong flavour, but meat tough. Me also want eat baby. But me think Garda make good point. So me stand up for agree. Me say Garda wise, she think ahead to future. Future important. Tribe discuss more, then Fem call vote — tribe still democracy. Garda win vote. So now we not kill baby or young one. We hunt clever. And tribe have much meat.

After summer come autumn. Now sweet fruit on many tree. It plenty, but winter come soon. Every day, tribe gather more than need. Soon Garda dig up root — she right, they grow big! Mat wrong — he admit. But first he count root. He say it many. When include size, it more, and quality good! Mat impressed. He say he have more to learn of counting. Then he go, he sit. He take stick and make mark on ground. When Mat like this, it mean he counting very hard. We not interfere. Everybody know counting important.

Mat stay like this more than day. He stop only for eat, sleep. Then he go count more. He sit on ground, make mark with stick. He rock body like tree in wind. Next day after eat come talk. Mat stand up. He have big announcement! He invent new number, name ‘three’.

‘What three?’ ask Fab.

‘It when one go with two. When one and two go together, it always three.’ Then Mat approach fire. He take stick. He make mark. ‘See? This one.’ 

Tribe agree. Everybody understand one. Mat make other mark. He point to both mark. He say, ‘This two.’ 

Tribe yawn. We not stupid. Everybody know what is two. Then Mat make other mark next to two mark. He point to all mark, say, ‘This three.’ 

Fab frown. ’It two and one,’ he say.  

‘That right. Two and one make three!’ Mat grin. ‘Understanding perfect!’ Now he draw other mark. ‘Me also invent four.’ He point. ‘Here four mark.’

Now everybody laugh. 

‘What mean? This nonsense!’ say Cul. ‘This two mark, and again two mark.’

‘That right!’ say Mat. ‘Two and two make four. Also three and one make four.’ Now Mat draw one more mark. ‘This five mark,’ he say. ‘It four mark and one mark. It also three mark and two mark. And it same like two mark and two mark and one mark more.’

‘You crazy,’ say Fab. ‘This few mark — but you say it same like one mark, two mark. It not!’ Fab grab stick from Mat, make few more mark on ground. ‘Me make more mark — so what this? Me think it many.’

Mat stare at ground. ‘Yes, it many. But look!’ He point. ‘Here two. Here is other one. That make three! Now here is other two, and two again. That four. But forget four, it just mean two and two. Four simple. Now look more — here again is one and two. It three! And here other one. So all together it three, and two and two, and three, and one! Together it many, but many always made of one, two, three.’

Tribe stare Mat. We look ground, see many mark. We see it made of few and few and few together. We also see here one mark, there two mark. But so what?

‘Everybody know few and few and few is many,’ say Cul. ‘But three mean nothing. Mat waste time. Time limited. So Mat bad.’ Then he rub out mark with foot. ‘Now you count nothing.’

Mat look sad. He go quiet. Discussion move on. But Mat not speak. He stay by fire with stick, make mark again. He never stop counting. He obsessed! But he still clever. Me think maybe it good learn counting. Maybe it fun. Me stupid, but me have daughter, name Tix. She not like shoot, she not good make arrow. But she clever, she like think. So maybe Tix learn counting from Mat. Me think this good idea, but me not sure. Next day me discuss with Gel, she agree.

But that come later. For now me take two piece fruit, go sit by fire with Mat. He make more mark on ground. Me not talk, only watch. Me not want disturb counting. Me say nothing, but me tap Mat shoulder, give one piece fruit. He take. He turn to Hom, he smile. He bite into fruit. Then Mat go back to counting.

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