Like most other things here, this is a working project; a first draft. Here is part one.
When I was young, very young, it was my mother who took care of me. She taught me to walk, or so she tells me, and she was the one that informed my early actions. But, as I grew older, my father’s frustration changed how it was our family functioned. Understandably, what he wanted was a pupil. He would talk about this, and about hunting over many afternoons. It was because of him that I learned of my unusual nature.
When I was old enough, my mother began to teach me our domestic duties. I would clean the hearth, I would weave with her, and also, I would help her raise my younger sister. There were also duties for us to do outside the family. My mother and I would help around the tribe when people were sick, or needed their children taken care of, or needed to build something. The children, just like both of you, used to enjoy my stories. Well, I also liked to tell them.
I would talk about the forest, about the wargs, about the awful basket I once made that lost its bottom and dropped all of my fruits. But my favourite job was shearing animal skins, then cutting and eviscerating the meat. I volunteered for often.
When my father’s agitation began to spill into the family’s afternoontime discussion, something within me was eager to hear about it. He would speak with frustration and wishfulness about his wanting to raise an apprentice; a hunter. He talked of this for many nights, in fact he went on all through the entire wet season. Maybe it was because of his problems that I became interested in hunting. I would ask him questions every afternoon. As I became more interested in his discussions, it seemed my mother did the opposite.
One day I was curious about the between the old hunting methods and the current ones, and so I asked. He explained to me how it was becoming far less common for a hunter to ambush—to grab his prey in his claws, and that now they had better tools for the task. Then he sighed and began to talk about all of the things he could teach a son to do. It was at that time that he told us he would have liked to try to bear a son, but that he should not, that it was unwise. We did not have the resources for another child, he said. At that time, I did not understand what he meant. My mother did though, and seeing what this line of thought might lead to in the future, she told him to speak no more on that which he could not change. He said that her words were wise and so, to my dismay, he stopped.
I think because of this that I became a little troubled, the loss of the topic of hunting had struck me. Orin, you know her; well, after I had secluded myself for some days cleaning rabbits and subjecting their corpses to my emotions, she came to me and asked what was wrong. I told her, and she said that it would be wise to talk to an elder about my problems. She said that Sap would be a good person to ask. I waved my hand.
“My animal spirit is in a bad way. Speak not to me.” I feel bad now for not thanking her.
It took me two or three days, I cannot remember, to build up the nerve to go speak to Sap. It was the first time that I had had to approach a man who was not my father. But, one day I finished early hanging the meat, so I took the short walk to his tent to see if we might speak. I heard shouts from inside. It was Sap and his wife. I thought about giving it up and leaving. (Could you imagine?) He soon hobbled out of the tent and began to scream back through the door, but it was interrupted by a gag and then a convulsion. I thought that he was going to lose the food from inside him. He saw me and did what he deemed necessary to compose himself.
He said, “Why, then, child, are you here?”
I told him that I had become very unhappy because my father was unhappy. I said that he was longing for a son, someone to teach and apprentice, and also that I very much enjoyed and missed listening to his knowledges. I said that we would not have another child, and that my mother told him to stop speaking about things that he could not change. He laughed at me!
“What, Talc, who cuts our meat would like to kill it too? You must have an affinity for the dead.” He considered me, suddenly looking serious.
I had never thought in this manner. It is good and right to be interested in what parents say; to take it into consideration, and so it had not thought about why I was so interested in my father’s words. I agreed with Sap. He raised an eyebrow.
“You might be like Shell, girl,” he said, waving his finger theatrically.
I squinted at the ancient man and then shrugged. We parted and I went to my mother to see if she had anything else I could help with. As I threaded an accent into a neighbour’s new shirt, I thought of Sap’s statement. I do not think that you know Shell, but I believe that her comparison to me was correct. In some ways. For a short time in her life she was a hunter. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me, the more my interest flared.
I asked my father about hunting again and he sighed, saying that Sandgrain’s (awful name, he added,) son had been hunting since the beginning of the wet season and that he might go mad with jealousy. Mother spat at the ground, and my father shrugged at her.
I ignored them both, and said, “Would you like to teach someone to hunt then?”
He nodded slightly, and then glanced at my mother. She sighed and threw up a hand, resigning herself for the night. My father made an exaggerated frown and looked back to me.
“Maybe I will be happier once I am grey like Sap and am too old to hunt. Then I can finally teach someone.”
I swallowed my nerve and asked, “Why not teach me?”
There was a silence. My heart became the loudest thing at the circle, and I watched my father look around to my mother for an opinion. I was, after all, the child of both of them. My mother’s expression shifted a few times; she was considering my words with severity.
“It does not matter to me! She is very slow at any task that is not cutting animals.” At the insult, I looked at her, and she added, “You are also good with children as well.”
And then, my poor sister dropped her soup, and my mother moved to help her. My father’s expression was one of deep thought. He said finally, “Like old Shell then, blessed woman.”
“What about Shell?”
“She and her second child died during her process. She had been a hunter in her youth, but she grew out of it with the coming of her first child.”
He bared his teeth, “Tomorrow, you will have to wake up earlier than usual.”