Sunday, 20 November 2011

75) Bush Barter

    We sat in silence for some time after sunset roasting fish over our small fire. Eventually I spoke up if not to start an actual conversation then at least to hear myself talk. “So, Barry, what did you think of that guy that came earlier?”
    “Hmm.” He said and pulled his fish off the fire with the branch it was laying on.
    “I mean, that stuff he showed us was interesting, right? Did you like his stories?”
    “I dunno.”
    “You didn’t like them?” My own fish had begun to burn and I took it off the fire as well.
    “I didn’t like his thing, his book. It was too complicated. Too much like a pile of bugs on leaves.”
    I laughed and poked at my hot fish, still too hot. I nursed my burnt finger and Barry snickered. I said, “It wasn’t worth what he was asking for it.”
    “What do you think will happen to him?” I remembered the guy, tall and thin. He probably wouldn’t last too long out here without proper tools. And piles of leaves aren’t any good for hunting.
    “He’ll probably meet someone who wants it and will kill him for it.”
    Something in me was satisfied with that small amount of conversation. Meager like the meal before us, but it was all we needed. And maybe tomorrow would bring more too.
    Barry dug into his fish and I followed his lead. As I ate the tender crumbly deliciousness my thoughts swirled around the stranger that had visited us earlier. I thought about his strange clothing, many colored strips of fabric sewn around his body, even in the sweltering heat, instead of a tasteful loin cloth. I thought about what he had brought, his books and their words. He had wanted several days worth of food for a single book. It was a ridiculous offer, but he seemed so sincere. The writing did seem magical, words that stayed on the book. He could say words from it and then go back and say the same words again no matter how long he didn’t see them. He tried to teach us how to read, but neither of us could tell one word from the next.
    When the stranger could tell we were not interested in the books he told us stories of his home. I have heard of people living in caves their whole lives so that did not come as a surprise. I have heard of people making their own caves out of wood or mud. He was a very boring story teller until he came to his people’s creation myths about a world without gods or demons. His story was of a giant ball of mud where simple animals grew from it naturally and then they turned into other animals. Decent at best, but not as entertaining as gods making us out of dust.

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