Grr The Poet
Grr holds his spear at the ready.
Grr the rock.
The skittish bison calf cries out for its family, smells something, bolts as best it can, limping directly into the path of Grr who leaps upward from a depression and plunges his sharpened stone directly into the animal’s heart. They cry out together.
Grr’s hands were bloody and yelling filled the sky. The tawny coloured cat lay still at his feet as he pulled the spear easily from its throat.
Again Grr yelled as blood trickled down his arm, but it was nothing, and he took a smear of this blood and transferred it to the middle three fingers of his left hand, and then onto the hide of the cat, drawing three parallel vertical lines, near the heart, and back again horizontally–his people’s mark, and his salute to the great power he had stilled.
Life and death.
Then hearing a grunt, Grr spun around.
Grr sniffed the air. Bah!
The bison, the cats, the bears, these were enough, but now there were the Others. Every moon, it seemed, the Others were more abundant, coming closer, more frequent, unwelcome.
Grr squats beside the fire and looks past the cave’s entrance and into the rain. It pelts all the valley as far as he can see. Thick slabs of cloud spread out like a cat’s paw and everywhere there is the sound of racing water.
Life and death.
And somewhere, very far behind him, comes the echo of a single drop which, after many years journey, has made its way through the vault of limestone and fallen into a dark sheltered pool.
Grr looks at the fire, then looks at the rain.
Behind him, a moan. His woman turns from her side and Grr can see the great mound of her belly push aside the animal skins. Grr moves closer, fascinated by the slow up-and-down movement of the belly. He pulls away the skins and looks at the breasts. Round, full, his woman. Nowhere below the great heavens is there such roundness. And Grr remembers.
And brazen creature, it did. It moved out from behind a rock, a female, scrawny, strange-looking, and marking the air with its strange chatter. Grr could kill it with his bare hands easily.
Like Grr, the creature wore skins, but different—they did not hide the shape of her body, and across her shoulder hung something he had not seen before. Grr gripped his spear tightly.
The creature continued to jabber. Endlessly. Then it approached, a couple of timid steps. Grr growled and stomped and the female, appropriately, retreated. Three times in quick succession Grr huffed and shook, amazed and annoyed by this reckless intrusion.
Two more huffs for good measure.
Which should have been enough, but again the female approached, moving even closer, jabbering yet more, and Grr rose and bared his teeth in full angry display.
But instead of flinching, the female, bent very low, and with her voice like the whimper of small dogs, crawled forward on her knees.
The Others were so different. So . . . No, he could not believe this one was dangerous. How could she be? A lone female, skinny, starving, and making noises like one who had been hit on the head.
Grr sneezes and the great, loud whoosh of air bends the fire’s flame and causes his woman to open her eyes. She smiles at Grr and, as is her way, jabber spills from her lips. “Rhha kmm, Grr. Rhha kmm.”
Grr moves closer.
“Lbb mm lee. Rhha dnn rhrhy ttp, Grr.”
And the woman takes Grr’s hand and puts it on her belly. And when the baby kicks, Grr leaps to his feet. Once more the woman jabbers.
Slowly Grr returns his hand to the woman’s belly, as if not about to touch flesh, but fire. This time only Grr’s eyes leap. The baby continues kicking and the campfire flickers in Grr’s sunken eyes as he presses his ear against the belly.
The woman begins to make noise, long stretched out notes. Of all the sounds she makes, these most warm Grr’s heart and, lifting his ear up, Grr gazes between the woman’s breasts and remembers or dreams; which is which?
The female began to shape her voice, making a kind of howling, but not the howling of wolves; and the sound went up and down and sideways as she moved rhythmically in a wide circle around Grr and the cat.
Grr snorted in contempt; the female was a gnat, no more. If howl and hop she must, then let her howl and hop. It was no concern of his, as into his left hand, he placed his well- worn stone axe and began to rip along the animal’s abdomen.
Until the howling stopped.
He leapt towards the Other, determined to do away with her once and for all, but the female was fast and made it behind the rocks before he could grab her.
A second’s silence… Only the skitter of rodents and the female hidden from view, but her smell still strong and unsettling.
Grr roared loudly, the roar of the hunter but, even as he did so, there was an emptiness. The voice of the Others, this one, anyway, was full, like the flesh of an apple, whereas his was flat like a reed.
Grr roared even louder. It made no difference.
The hidden female jabbered again. Then from behind the rock flew out a shiny black stone.
Grr stiffened and grabbed his spear.
But the female would not give up. First she was behind one rock, then another. Grr stamped his left foot. No more! He got up and marched over to the black stone and picked it up, ready to hurl it far into the forest but then … its shiny glass-like texture caught his eye. It was unlike anything he had ever seen, and its edge … its edge was … He brought the stone to his lips, his tongue, pulled it away quickly as it drew blood.
Grr mumbled softly to himself and his brow grew deeply furrowed.
The distant female crawled out from behind her rock, but said nothing.
Why was his voice not like the Others? “Grr!”
He returned to his kill, and putting down his much stronger and bulkier chert hand axe, took the black obsidian into his hand and began to slice. And the cat’s skin began to separate like … like in a dream, and when Grr reached his first tendon, it cut away with impossible ease, and the great hunter of beasts bellowed as best he could, “Grr!” as, in the distance the female, for the first time, stood fully erect, and smiled.
The woman gets up, grabbing on to Grr’s arm for support, and Grr purrs like a cat as he watches his woman add wood to the fire. He watches as she stands and warms herself, and Grr stares at the curves of her silhouette, daily growing more round; he growls in pleasure.
Grr skinned the cat’s hide more quickly than even his grandfather could do, and so intent on the work was he, and so pleased with his new cutter, that much time passed before he noticed the female standing behind his left shoulder. She was gathering kindling, and pulling from the thing which hung over her shoulder some dry grass, sticks and cord.
Grr rushed over and snarled. Scavenging crows hopped two steps back; the female likewise. Then Grr reached behind for his flints, not the originals given to him by his grandfather, but good copies, which he had fashioned himself. Grr huffed, bared his teeth, then began to strike the magic stones. His eyes, full of embers, he glared at the female. Soon she would know what’s what.
After squatting and watching him for many heartbeats, the woman again used her voice, mumbling more nonsense, then pulled from the thing which hung from her shoulder another handful of dry grass.
The Other began to tie her three sticks together in a puzzling way and began to make them spin over the grass. Within moments, much more quickly than Grr had ever seen, smoke appeared. Much smoke, then a flame, then the grass on fire and soon both were adding kindling.
Grr looks at the woman by the fire, then back out at the rain which has turned to snow. Everywhere the clouds overpower the earth and it is as if there have never been mountains. For a short time, the tracks of prey will be stand out like hand prints on a wall.
Grr grabs his spear and heads for the open air.
“Rhha kmm, Grr. Rhha kmm.” The woman, furs wrapped around her, walks towards Grr. She dips the fingers of her right hand into her left palm, and presses red powder onto the cheeks of her hunter.
Grr closes his mouth, moans, his eyes squeezed shut.
The woman continues her work, smiling frequently. It no longer seems strange to Grr. She swishes the ochre in a circle around both cheeks and ends by drawing a horizontal arc above his muscular brow.
“Nissib roaf. Nissib.”
The woman looks him directly in the eye and makes him repeat, “Nissib.”
Only the Others would stare like this. “Bib.”
She squeezes his hand, insistent, “Nissib.”
The hunter turns away, kicks a stone, answers angrily, “Bib!”
The woman smiles, presses into Grr’s right hand a polished stone, white and sparkling, and Grr’s eyes widen at the sight and touch. The stone looks like an animal’s head. You can even see the horns. Grr knows all will be well because of the woman’s magic so he cries out–no attempt at words–and, in an instant, he stands beneath the lowering sky.
The world has whitened quickly and his pale caribou skin will work well. On his left, only a spear’s throw from the cave’s entrance lie two small mounds, encircled by white stones, and Grr thinks he likes the mounds best when they are covered in snow and look like breasts, but mostly he does not think about them.
There are bison nearby. He has heard their cough echo in the ravine. He begins to run. He runs like the snow. He and the snow are brothers and they run together. He spots his prey. One juvenile, alone, wounded in the leg. It trembles nervously near a partly frozen pond and Grr sees all this as he moves steadily, closer, quiet as valley clouds. Behind this boulder, now this one, crawling low beneath this overhang, and finally, in just the right place, oblivious to his badly scraped knees, .
Grr holds his spear at the ready.
Grr, the rock.
The skittish bison cries out for its family, smells something, bolts as best it can, limping directly into the path of Grr who leaps upward from a depression and plunges his sharpened stone directly into the animal’s heart. They cry out together.
Life and death.
And the day deepens, dark greys pressing against the horizon, as Grr drags home his kill. He pauses for water which he pours from a gourd his woman has shown him how to make. The water is good. His woman is good. The bison and all the white world are good.
As he puts away the gourd, Grr notices movement on the distant ridge—his brothers and their families. He has not seen them in a dozen moons.
“Grr!” he calls out, standing on a boulder, waving an arm.
“Grr!” he repeats as loudly as he can, but not like his woman could.
His family stop, look back in his direction, and for the count of ten heartbeats remember they once had a brother who lived in such a place. Then they move on.
Almost at the cave, Grr quickens his pace. He hears the voice of his woman but it is not the usual jabber. And the woman is no longer round. In her blood-stained arms she holds a young one, not hairy like his people, nor naked like hers, something in-between.
The woman yowls and takes small steps through the snow towards her hunter. “Noso,” she whispers.
Grr drops his kill at his feet, does not know what to do.
The woman presses up against the hunter, water flowing down her cheeks and ruining the snow. “Noso, Grr! Noso!” And in slow motion the woman hands the young one to Grr, needing to let go and not wanting to, then staggers, exhausted, back to the cave and its fire.
It is almost dark. The snow is thick and unrelenting. Grr stares at the valley then back at the mounds. Thoughts race inside his head. Too fast! Too many! Too painful! Until, from brain to throat to the very tip of Grr’s thick- set tongue, twin syllables gush, “Noso!”
“Noso!” he cries and the word echoes through the valley. “Noso! Noso!” as, gently laying the young one by his side, Grr kneels upon the stinging snow and, with his massive curled fingers, starts to dig.