Joog and I were getting the roasting pit ready for the mammoth, throwing kindling down at the bottom. I was dreading having to talk to the hunters. Maybe Joog could do it?
“I’m not talking to the hunters. They’re all ridiculous.”
I was shocked! How did he know I was….
“You always try to make me talk to them. Never gonna happen.” Joog jumped into the pit. “I’ll arrange these.”
Joog hadn’t had time to find a signaler and now we had to find another server! He seemed calm but I knew he was freaking out inside.
“Fair enough. I’m gonna check on the guys.” On my way to the front cave, I made a mental list of all the villagers. There had to be at least one Homo I could trust! What would Zta do?
When I got to the front I saw Zta! “Heard about Roon.” She studied my face mud. She did that thing Zte hated, licked her finger and rubbbed my forehead. I noticed Keen snickering as he was grinding berries.
“What’s the plan?” She asked. I didn’t have one. “Well, Joog is trying to find a signaler, Yaan’s dead, and I guess I need to find another server… where are the kids?”
“With my mom.” I always forgot about her mom. Most parents never lived to see their children grow to adulthood, 12.
I heard Zte giggling. I suddenly felt a presence. It was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Terrifying even! I turned slowly to my left and there she was! The old woman!
“Groog! She has your kids!” Keene spoke out of the side of his mouth as his body was frozen in fear.
Zta threw her hands up. “Seriously!? How do you always manage to forget about my mom! She comes over literally every day!”
“The mammoth is here!” Bleech called from outside.
“Go, I’ll watch things here.” Zta held her arms out for Zte. She gathered the little girl up and headed to the roasting cave.
I passed by the old woman holding the twins. I did my best not to make eye contact. She just watched me, following me with her eyes. Some kind of curse! I sped up.
When I got outside, I told Bleech to stand by. He did, literally, he just stood still eyes wide open. I reminded him to keep breathing and made my way over to our delivery.
The hunters were almost finished unpacking when I got to them. You could cut the tension with a sharpened rock! Que was there, of course, flattening way out of his zone. I might as well use that.
“What’s going on?” I needed to tread lightly with hunters. They were highly emotional.
“Pol and Lom won’t even look at each other. It’s affecting all of them.”
I approached them, acted like I knew nothing. “Hey guys! Big one!” They all stopped what they were doing and just stared at me. “Right. I’ll take the middle parts and maybe the hind parts?” We could roast the middle medium and the hind parts well done. I was getting hungry just thinking about it.
Pol spoke up. “You might want to keep an eye on your welcome drinks…”
Lom threw his head back and groaned.
Pol ignored him. “Some of us can’t handle our fermented berries.”
Everyone looked at Lom who grabbed Ja and whispered something in his ear.
Ja clearly didn’t want to relay whatever message he was given but he was after all an apprentice and a messenger. “We’ve all gotten drunk from berries but not all of us are..” He glanced at Lom who urged him on. “…small speared Cro Magnon Neanderthals who can’t take a joke and misunderstand everything.”
There was a collective gasp from everyone except Pol. He grabbed Ja. “I’m not the one who refuses to piss in front of anyone!”
Ja turned to Lom. “He’s not the one who…”. Lom cut him off. “Because I’m a civilized Homo!” He got a little too close to Pol. “And by the way…I was talking about your spear!” He held his up. “Your actual spear! It’s too small! All it does is poke! It’s supposed to spear! That’s why it’s called A SPEAR!!”
Pol was seething like a Sabre toothed tiger. I had to step in.
“Hey guys, you know what? I’ll just grab my team, we’ll take the roasting meat inside. If you guys could just take the rest and bury it the extras hole, Que? You’ll help them right?”
Que excitedly nodded his head.
“If I could borrow Ja, just to get the meat inside that would be great!”
Pol and Lom grunted aggressively while the other hunters grunted in agreement.
As they were dragging the extra meat away I had a thought.
“Hey Ja, how would you feel about signaling me when the kids light the main fire at the parade?”
Ja rolled his eyes, typical 10 year old. “Yeah, whatever.” A current moody teenager and moody hunter in the making.
I turned back to the banquet cave and saw Bleech and Keene watching us. I waved them over and we all dragged the meat back to the roasting pit.