Plenty Grass

(The Saga of Caveman Hom, Episode 16)

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Me sulk long time. Me find small stone and twig for throw in water. Me talk quiet to Hom in head, who also me. Me have little cry. Then me see many grey mouse at riverbank, all scurry. Mouse ignore Hom, live own life. But always he nervous. He fear small cat. Maybe cat hiding? Mouse not know. But fear not stop him — mouse continue. Me smile. Mouse wise. 

Then me hear footstep. Me turn. It Fem. She smile, but she sad. Me smile back, also sad. Then Fem sit by river with Hom. She say nothing, only pick up twig for throw. Maybe she sulk too. 

After while she put arm round shoulder, she squeeze. ‘You good man,’ she say.

‘Me not know,’ me say. ‘Maybe Nizzi have point.’

‘What mean?’

‘Me always talking. Maybe it too much.’

‘That nonsense,’ say Fem. ‘Everybody talk. It not Hom only.’

‘Maybe me need shut mouth.’

‘Me not want Hom shut mouth. Me think you good king.’

‘What?’ me cry. ‘Me not king!’

Fem laugh. ‘Maybe you not know. But you king.’

‘Me not king. Tribe not have king, only Chief. That you! But now you say me king. So maybe now me king? But me not want. Me confuse.’

‘Me Chief,’ say Fem. ‘But you King of Men.’

‘Now me confuse more.’

‘King not same like Chief. Chief lead tribe. Tribe democracy. So Chief come from election. King different — it man who have respect all other men. That not need election. It work of Nature Spirit.’

‘What mean?’

‘Men like follow order. It same like dog. Men think if no order, it chaos. That bad. So long ago, men have idea — why not one man give order, other follow? But all man want give order, not follow. So how decide who give order? That difficult. Long ago, it always fight. That bad. So tribe invent democracy. That better. Now election decide Chief. But who win election? Most time it king — it man with most respect. So most time, Chief also king. Respect make him king, then election make him Chief. Everybody happy. When Chief lose respect, he no longer king. Other man now king, and Chief weak. This bad. When Chief weak, it time for election.’

‘This true,’ me say. ‘This same like Boz.’

‘That right,’ say Fem. ‘But it more. What happen when woman win election? Many men not want take order woman. So when woman win, it problem. She need respect of men, but she not king. So how she get respect? It only one way — she need king. If king follow Chief, men also follow. If king not follow, there big fight. She not stay Chief long.’ Fem smile. ‘But me lucky. Me have Hom.’

‘Me have wife,’ me say. ‘Name Gel. Me loyal!’

Fem laugh. ‘Me know. Me not mean that! It no need worry. Me respect married life. And Gel is good friend.’

‘That relief,’ me say. ‘But Nizzi say—’

Fem frown. ’Nizzi have big mouth.’

’Me no comment,’ me say. But me think she right.

Again Fem laugh. ‘You good king,’ she say. ‘You wise.’

Me think quiet for while. Then me say, ‘Maybe me king. But me not want.’

’That good. But it no choice for Hom, only Nature Spirit.’

Me sigh. ‘Nature Spirit crazy.’

Fem smile. ‘It no need worry. Me have idea.’

‘What that?’

‘You king, but we not make official. Instead it secret.’

Me think about this. Then me laugh. ‘You crazy too,’ me say. ‘But me like.’

Soon we return big cave. When arrive, everybody smile. Me not know how, but argument finish. Now it half tribe in cave, all busy make string. Me see big pile grass in middle. Me watch Garda, she take grass, she twist in finger. She add grass to new string, she twist more, then roll in palm. String grow. Then me see Cheri. She take two new string, and one more. That three string. She weave three string together for make thicker string. Now me understand: they make rope. Soon rest of tribe return. They bring deer and plenty grass. Then hunter leave again for fetch more. Me stay cave. First, me finish spear. It not take long. Then me help make rope.

We make rope long time — it last all day, til sun go down and time for eat. Hunter lucky. They catch other deer and two squirrel! They bring huge load grass — now many big piles in cave, but away from fire. Grass soft, it make good place for sleeping. It many insect in grass, but no problem. Soon grass dry, and insect run away. Or maybe he fly. That depend. It many kind insect. Everybody different, but most insect harmless. Sometimes he annoy. But few insect dangerous, and usually he run away too! So we not worry insect, only snake. But hunter not stupid. They already make sure it no snake in grass.

After eat, Mat and Tix count rope.

‘This good,’ say Mat. ‘But it need more.’

‘We make rope tomorrow,’ say Fem. ‘And next day again. We make rope til enough. Then still we make more. But life not stop for rope. So same time, we make bow. We make many arrow. We make spear.’ Fem smile. ‘Most important, we make plan.’

Many days pass, and rope grow long. Mat count, and always he want more. So rope grow longer. At same time, we find good tree. When we find, Bivi examine. She look branches. She scratch head. Sometime she say no. Sometimes she shrug — this also mean no. 

But sometimes she say yes. Then we climb tree. Bivi choose big branch for scrape off bark, and smear with grease of pig. We hang short piece rope over branch. We pull both end for make sure rope slip easy, then tie in place. Then Garda hug tree. When hug finish, we find next tree. 

When rope long enough, we use for tie short piece together. Now rope stretch from tree to tree! We check rope still slip. Sometimes Bivi need climb tree for find problem. Sometimes it need cut twig and leaf, or scrape bark more. Sometimes it need add grease. Few times it no way fix — she pick wrong tree first time, so need find other. All this take many days. But in end, work finish! Now all rope joined. It slip easy through forest. It high in branches. It hidden.

We tie stone on end near cave. We tie other end far, in tree above mountain pass. Arca climb tree. She pull rope tight; stone twitch at other end! She pull more, and stone lift — it work! Then Arca cut rope. Stone fall on other stone. It make noise, but not loud. This big disappointment.

Me scratch head. It good alarm, but not enough. It something missing, for make better one. Then Nizzi speak up.

‘It no need cut rope,’ she say. ‘It need only pull for lift stone. If let go rope, stone fall. Again pull rope for lift stone. Let go, again stone fall.’

‘Maybe that true,’ me say. ‘But what point?’

‘Me have idea,’ say Nizzi. ‘We make stone beat drum.’

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