A CAVEMAN’S PLAINT • by Justin Mai

Run with Ugga in search of meat. Many suns and many moons turn, and still run. Only stop is for to eat nuts and berries, sleep, or make shit.

Not run so far ever in life. Say turn back but Ugga say no. Ugga say run more — you see, run more. You see.

See mammoth family in back of gorge. Creepy crawl up close to mammoths, spear-poles ready. All heartbeat and hand sweat. Ugga almost give sign for to strike when Squeaker jump out of shirt-pouch. Squeaker is just small mouse, but have since pup. Love Squeaker. Except maybe not so much when Squeaker go squeak through mammoths. Barely catch Squeaker.

Mammoths all see. All scream and stomp away. Nothing else for to do. Mammoths gone — meat gone — all days’ run for nothing.

Ugga so angry. He rip Squeaker out of shirt, out of special rabbit-fur pouch what where Squeaker live, and bite Squeaker’s head off. Eat him whole, just like that. Afraid, but can say nothing. Shame.

Return to family next day with nothing but nuts and berries. Family cannot believe. Ugga never return from hunt with no meat. Ugga is great hunter, suppose to teach. Ugga tell family about hunt and all laugh, unsurprise, and bite into deer meat that Jisgwa bring back earlier.

Even though useless for to hunt, still get deer meat strip. But cannot eat. When put into mouth, only think of Squeaker and his last squeak. Give meat to little Maki, then munch on nuts and berries.

Momom say why — why no eat meat? But can think of no words to tell. Only say it no good. It like Squeaker.

Momom raise eyebrow but say no more. Her know about strangeness. When it time for New Moon dance, not stamp and stomp but twirl and jump. When it time for fire stories, always last to sleep, always say more, more. Wear different shirts, even know how to skin and tan and sew, like woman. Never have wife. Never want wife. Get crooked nose and three lost teeth. If Momom not Chief’s second wife, be much worse than that.

All family go to sleep but cannot sleep. Stay up, stomach growly, and look at stars. Shame. Try to eat deer meat again but again it taste like Squeaker. Spit it out and get more nuts and berries.

Now that everyone know no good for to hunt, feel like half-family. Mostly spend time alone. Sleep a lot, for to wake is to know different. Wrong.

Sleep at day and wake at night. Do nothing but watch stars for whole turn of moon, maybe put nut or berry in mouth. Maybe. Lose weight, shrink down.

Only eyes now, eyes for to watch stars.

Ever since Justin Mai had a story published in Stone Soup at age 12, he’s had a sick fascination with becoming a writer. Now he moderates that destructive habit by studying at the University of Oklahoma and working in the library. He’s not doing a good job of it…

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Every Day Fiction