29 Oct

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
There could easily be anger when two peoples meet….

The pissing stump was just visible between the trees ahead of Umbaga and Juju, who was still carrying Idju (who had closed her eyes and managed to go to sleep despite the jarring and swaying of being carried through fairly dense woodland), and Umbaga paused.
“We never get mushrooms again,” he muttered, “they make Umbaga see what isn’t there and feel sick!”
“Oh, but I will take some,” grinned Juju, “a tiny bit is good for you! But start chomping mushrooms down whole and hey, you wish you hadn’t!”
“What you need them for?” demanded Umbaga.
“When we eat meat, sun-dried and tasty, I sprinkle mushroom powder on them. It really the tasty bit!” smiled his woman. “Juju know best,” she added, and they both knew that last bit was said truthfully.
Umbaga reluctantly bent down and picked a small bunch of fresh mushrooms and looked at then distastefully. “Me remember bad dreams,” he muttered, “But if Juju say she want them then Juju have them! Come lover, we get home!”
The small family continued on its way, Umbaga dutifully pulling his teaser from the loin-leather he wore and pissing on the stump when they reached it. And that stump was truly aromatic anyway ” and not in a pleasant way.
When they arrived back at the cave with no further interuption Juju lay Idju down carefully on the child’s small bed, and then flopped down herself.
“Me tired,” she murmured, “me have early start!” This was a pointed reminder to her man that she had been so worried about his whereabouts that she had sacrificed quite a lot of her sleep-time in order to find him. “Me worried Old Man Tiger might have mauled Umbaga and left him injured,” she added. “Me worried that Umbaga might need Juju.”
Her words said a lot to Umbaga, and he lowered his head, apologetically.
“He chase me past pissing stump,” he confessed. “He chased me to mushrooms!”
Juju grinned craftily at him. “Me look at shiny present,” she murmured, and held out her wrist so that they could both see her watch.
It had a plain face, unmarked, except for an amber light that shone, small yet bright enough to be easily visible, where the 12 would be etched on watches in the far, far future. But they didn’t know that. They couldn’t possibly guess what the near future held let alone what the changes wrought during great chasm between their now and future technologies might be.
As they stared at it and wondered what the wonderful little light could be a white lit up next to it, equally tiny, equally beautiful, and in one of those moments that are the product of true inspiration Juju guessed what it was.
“It wonderful,” she sighed.
“Wonderful? How so?” asked Umbaga.
“It…” she wanted to say ‘represents’, but had no word for it, “It like the great big sky,” she said, “in tiny,” she added.
Umbaga thought she must be talking gobbledegook but also knew that in her gobbledegook there was occasionally a truth he couldn’t quite see, so he just looked at her, waiting for an explanation he knew would come.
“White light,” she said, “white light travel round thing and is the sun.”
And that had to be the total explanation because they were becoming suddenly aware of noises outside the cave.
They didn’t live in total isolation. They had neighbours, though some of them dwelt quite a distance off, wherever nature had carved a cave into the cliff face. So they rarely heard anything from those neighbours because distance saw to that, and any quarrels or outbursts of joy or laughter had usually faded to silence before they reached the Umbaga cave.
So the sudden burst of shouting was unusual, to say the least.
“What the…?” asked Umbaga, and he went to the mouth of his own cave to see what the trouble was.
And there was trouble.
Half a dozen of the men he knew full well as neighbours and friends were shouting at a figure that they had surrounded and were threatening with noise and the odd burst of swearing. Oh, foul language was as common then as it would always be, though possibly more limited in range, and it was in full use by Umbaga’s neighbours.
But it wasn’t the familiar faces that caused Umbaga to open his mouth in shocked silence, but the figure they were cursing. It was a figure that Umbaga knew full well after his adventure earlier that day. It was the strangely-dressed Melvin, and he had a face as black as thunder.
“You pathetic little primitives, get out of my way before I sort you good and proper!” he yelled, and, of course, nobody knew what he was saying or why he was shouting, so they shouted back at him, louder and considerably coarser, both in vocabulary and intonation. In a battle of decibels the natives would certainly win.
The situation looked ugly and might have become even uglier, but Juju had joined Umbaga at the mouth of their cave and she took in instantly what was going on, and her observations of the stranger had already informed her that he seemed very much like men everywhere, swift to make judgement and equally swift to condemn even when his judgement was faulty.
She wondered what had happened to rouse her neighbours to such a pitch of anger, for anger was largely unknown amongst the tribe. They didn’t really have time for it. Rather than burst into flurries that could easily lead to violence they sorted their differences out amicably and often relied on the womenfolk to pass judgements on the rare occasion when that sort of thing proved necessary.
So Juju took it onto herself to intervene.
“What all this noise?” she asked, her voice suitably loud and shrill.
The stranger couldn’t have had any idea what she was saying or what her syllables meant, but he answered the question anyway.
“Blasted savages are trying to chase me off, and I’m not going until I’ve got that watch back!” he shouted, his voice refined when compared to the coarse row made by the caves-people themselves.
And, miracle of miracles, Juju understood him. Maybe it was the unfamiliar feeling of the watch on her wrist or the way its tiny lights caught her attention, or maybe it was her memory of the attitude of this strange man when his woman had presented her with the watch in return for a few strands of hair, but she was pretty sure he wanted it back.
And she was equally sure he wasn’t going to have it. After all, she’d worked out what it did and thought that such a device, marking the passing of time when the sun was invisible behind clouds or at night when there was little light anywhere, would be very useful indeed.
“You not have it,” she said, firmly. “Shiny woman give it, and it mine”
As she spoke her neighbours moved slowly in on Melvin until they were almost touching him, and the expressions of their faces were far from comforting. This was, after all, a primitive time and these men were primitive, which wasn’t a synonym for savage, but might have got that way had the stranger become more threatening.
A fresh voice joined the throng, Aurora who had followed her man from their stranded space vessel. He looked to where her voice had come from and Umbaga might have burst out laughing had such a thing been appropriate, for Melvin looked as crestfallen and guilty as he knew he sometimes looked when he had done something stupid that he didn’t feel comfortable confessing to.
“Melvin, I hope you’re not showing any of your usual bad manners to our hosts,” she said, and the musical intonation of her voice seemed to captivate the small group surrounding a beleaguered Melvin.
“I’ve come to retrieve the watch before the stupid woman blows the planet up!” he explained. “You’ve no right to give such a precious thing to such foul and filthy people!”
Aurora looked around her at the group threatening Melvin, and laughed.
“Foul and filthy?” she asked, “You mean foul and filthy like this?”
Then she went up to one of the group that was still surrounding Melvin, a young man with hair that might have been fair had it been cleaner, and without flinching, without giving any impression that what she was doing was at all questionable or unusual, she kissed him full on the lips.
The rest of the group of natives stared in disbelief and the young man blushed bright red and might have become putty in her hands had she prolonged the kiss any longer than she did.
“There, my love,” she cooed at him with a harsh look at Melvin, “that’s what we call a kiss and if you care to take a bath you can have another!”
© Peter Rogerson 24.10.16


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