After the initial rush at the buffet, things quieted down. Homo’s sat, drank, laughed, cried (mostly the hunters).
I was about to go relieve Zta at the buffet when I saw a small group gathered by the entrance. They were all hunched over gesturing to each other. Every so often, one would look around. I knew exactly who they were. Small foreheads, pronounced jawlines, very hairy. Erectuses from the upper caves.
One of them saw me looking at them and they all turned their backs pretending to look at the cave drawings. They nodded and pointed like they understood what the drawings meant but we all knew they didn’t.
I pretended I didn’t see them, most of the other villagers would get really upset if they knew they were there. I knew they were looking for Roon, who’s mother’s father was Erectus. He’d always ask for a break around this time to go outside for “fresh air”. He would sneak them a bundle of raw meat and berries. They weren’t great at making fires. Good thing they all had so much hair.
I was about to go back to the roasting pit when Bleech waved at me. I saw he had a bundle in his hand, Zta quickly put her hand over it.
I got to the buffet to talk to him. “Ummmm….. can I go breath air?” He asked. He was nervous and almost used the hand he was holding the contraband to wipe sweat off his forehead. Zta stopped him.
“Sure! But make sure you go around the side of the cave.” That was Roon’s hand off spot.
“You know what? I’ll go with him!” Zta gave him a slow wink and a smile when she said this. She knew about this arrangement, I had complained about it the first few times it happened. The first time, she got angry with me saying they were Homo’s too even if they weren’t excepted in our sophisticated society. She was right. We all had Erectus inside us. My father’s father’s mother was one.
“Good idea! I’ll watch the buffet!”
I watched nervously as they made their way to them. I looked around to see where Que was. If anyone would notice this was happening it would be him. Thankfully, he was at the broth station downing small cups of fermented berries with a couple of the other flatteners. I knew I’d get a “What happened last night?” from him the next day.
I winced when I saw Bleech cup his free hand around his mouth and say “From Roon.” His free hand was facing the wrong way. Anyone could see what he was saying. Thankfully, Zta jerked her head toward the outside and she pushed Bleech in the right direction. They waddled after her.
“Maybe they’d like a welcome drink! Or how about a nice fur brushing!” Joog sneered as he dropped off more meat. He shot a disapproving, “This guy! Right!?”, kind of look at Keen, who was nearby stirring his broth. Keen shook his head. The one thing they agreed on. Keen referred to them as “waste thrusters”. Sadly he had a point. They were pleasant enough but they really didn’t know what to do with their own waste. They gathered it in their hands, held it straight out then just dropped it. They had at least learned to rub snow on their hands to wash it off. Still wouldn’t shake hands with one of them.
You’d think I would’ve lost my appetite thinking about all this waste, but the meat looked mouth watering. I could tell Zta had done some extra basting.
Lom and his wife La came back to the buffet for seconds. “Medium rare.” I was grateful I’d missed the initial, “Why can’t I have a rare piece!”, rant Lom was famous for.
I moved the meat around trying to find the most undercooked piece when I did something I shouldn’t have. “Sorry to hear about….” Wen cut me off with an overly aggressive “Shhhh!” You didn’t want to mess with a hunter wife. I looked at Lom who was clearly caught off guard. His eyes and mouth wide open. I could see he was about to tear up. Wen took his plate and held it out for me to drop the meat on. As soon as I did, she lead him away but not before giving me a serious death stare.
Waste was going to hit the cave wall all right!