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Howard Waldrop - The Dynasters

By Ryan Rogers,2014-06-16 12:05
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Howard Waldrop - The Dynasters

HOWARD WALDROP

THE DYNASTERS

Vol. I On the Downs

    UG AND HIS FRIENDS STOOD in front of the hillock, wondering how to get the bear out of the good cave. It was getting colder, and the other cave leaked.

    Meanwhile the women and children were doing something useful like finding stuff to eat.

The men looked at the cave.

"Stick holes in same time?" asked Ab.

"You seen thing?" asked Nu.

"No," said Ab.

    Ug spread his arms wide, hairs fluttering in the cold wind. Then his son Nu jumped up on his shoulders and held his hand up as high as he could.

"That big?" asked Ab, and looked at the cave again.

Mo was chewing one of the last leaves. They turned to him.

"Stick fire in face," he said.

They ran around gathering up stuff.

Afterwards, he was known as Mo the Smart.

    They stood at the water's edge, in the snow, under the high white cliffs.

    From the top of them you could see more land way way off, across the Big Water. Only now, where the bottoms of the cliffs used to be covered, there was much sand and rock. It went far out before the water began there.

"Bad feeling," said Ug.

"What happening?" asked Ab.

"No know," said Ug. "Will ask Mo."

    On the way back to the cave, on the path, they threw their pointy sticks into one of the Big Head-horn things that was browsing in the crusted snow. It took them half the day to drag it back to the other people.

"Uh-oh," said Nunu.

    She ran back to the cave as fast as she could through the thick snow, putting her feet in the holes she'd made coming out.

"Quick!" she said. "Stoop-shouldered guys big jaws coming!"

    They grabbed their clubs and pointy sticks and all ran to the top of the cliffs.

    Out a ways on the mud and sand ramp that divided the two parts of the Big Water, which stretched out toward the land far away you could almost see when it was clear, men were coming. They could see their big jaws this far away, and their skins flapped around them, dark in the breeze.

Mo counted.

"We more," he said.

"Get 'em," said Ug.

    Afterwards, they found that the big jaws belonged to the men themselves, and admired them. They were large and were out in front of the mouth. Some of the children wobbled those of the dead ones -- yaga yaga yaga. Their teeth were all different too, the front ones not as sharp.

    But the skins, which had flapped and fluttered around them while they were fighting, were not theirs at all. They belonged to dead animals. They could be taken off the stoop-shouldered men.

    Ug wrapped one around himself. After a while he said, "Hey! This warm!"

They rushed to grab them.

Mo was looking at the sandy causeway.

    "Next time, bring more," he said, pointing toward the far land. "They tough. Take long time die."

Ug had two skins wrapped around him. He danced.

"Hey!" he said. "What have supper?"

    Nu looked for the bug crawling in the fur of his leg, found it, pinched it to pieces.

    It was his time to watch from the top of the tall cliffs as he had done many many times before in his youth and early manhood. Now he had children of his own. The stoop-shouldered guys big jaws never had come back. It had gotten colder, though there had been a few golden summers in there.

    He sighed, and watched, and waited, and hummed the song about the big animal with the horn in the middle of its nose.

    Mo the tenth Smart sat at the edge of the cliff on a cool summer night and looked at the quarter moon. His grandson little Nu lay beside him, looking up at the summer stars and the pictures they made -- the Big Thing, the other Big Thing, the Ugly Thing, the Little Boy with the Snake.

"Which that?" he asked.

"That Woman With Stick," said Mo the tenth Smart.

"Over there?"

    There was a long pale light across the sky with a bright dot at the front.

    "That Girl Look for Husband," said Mo. He poked little Nu in the ribs. "Maybe marry you. She come round long time between. Mo the fourth Smart saw; told Mo seventh Smart who saw, Mo tell me." Little Nu rolled over and looked at the moon.

    "Will Moon get eaten tonight?" he asked. It had happened when he was very little and it had scared him.

    Mo pointed. "Remember words Mo fifth Smart: 'Quick bites come out Moon only full.'"

"Forget."

"Learn not forget," said Mo the tenth Smart.

    He looked over at the big strip of land that went between the two shallow Big Waters. As usual there was just dirt and the bushes that grew there.

Little Nu propped himself up on his elbows.

"Where come from, Grandad Mo?"

"From cave," said Mo, and laughed.

"No! Where come from? All us?"

"We always here," said Mo the tenth Smart.

    WEENA AND OOLA lashed together the summer hut with tendons from one of the big red deer. The breeze was warm. They were setting up the hut near the break in the cliffs where the stream came through.

    Mo the many Smart stood looking at the mouth of the stream. Some of the men and boys floated on logs, sticking things in small fish, or falling off into the water beyond its mouth. There was once more Big Water all across in front of the cliffs though it was not very deep.

"Something bother?" Oola asked him.

"Yummy fish not back."

    Every year big fish had shown up at the mouth of the stream, which was up the coast from where the land used to divide the Big Water. They came up in the stream. You could stick things in them, or hit them with rocks, or pick them up with your hands. They ignored you, only continuing to make eggs and sticky stuff and flopping around. They did that for most of a moon, and everybody ate and ate until they made fish puddles from their mouths.

"Next moon," said Oola.

    "No," said Mo the many Smart. "Next moon when come while land there." He pointed. "Land not there. They come this moon when used come before land there. All Mo's know when that was. Now should come this moon."

"Me see day before day," said Oola.

"Is where?"

    "There." She pointed down the coast where the Big Water curved around into the

    Big Big Water. "Them come. Them swim round. Then go that way." She waved her hand, indicating the Big Big Water. "Go round all land-world. Here next moon."

"Why them do that?" asked Mo. "Them right here!"

Oola lifted her shoulders and raised her hands.

"Hmnm," said Mo the many Smart.

    A moon later, in the middle of the night, they heard flopping in the creek. They all ran down there with sticks with pointy deer horns on them and clubs and rocks. For most of that moon they ate and ate and ate.

    Mo the many Smart lay between two big broken chalk boulders. His stomach was stretched tight under his fur. He could barely move.

Oola walked up to him.

"Told so," she said.

    "Not forget," said Mo. Then he made another fish puddle from his mouth.

After a storm, Nu the many-many ran into his hut.

"Stop dinner!" he said.

"Make leg-of-wolf roasted tubers," said A-la the many.

    "Change plans," said Nu the many-many. "Blue painted guy some jaw wash up, log thing. Jabber a lot. Ug the many-many poke him, no feel ribs. Big feast coming, yum yum eatem up. Have wolf day-add-day."

    "Blue paint some jaw?" asked A-la. "Not pictured up guy some jaw?"

    "No. That one-back-one. This blue all over. Paint come off. White as cliff."

A-la sighed. Men!

Ab the many-many had troubled eyes, yellow and far-seeing.

    He was on the cliff, looking toward the land you could barely make out.

    He came up to look at it often. He did his work in the village on the downs, but his mind was not in it.

    He came down to where the men and boys were making log-boats that would hold man-add-man for fishing.

"What there?" he asked Mo the lot Smart.

"Big Trouble," said Mo.

"How know? Every time man come we eat," said Ab the many-many.

    "Goes back long way land here," said Mo. "Land come. Stoop-shouldered guys big jaw come. More try come before land go way. Then grandfather time pictured up guys some jaw and blue painted guys some jaw wash up. No be too careful."

"What we know them?" asked Ab.

"Them trouble," said Mo.

"Me find out!" said Ab, jerking his thumb toward his chest fur.

    "Smart of ages, Ab," said Mo. "No look trouble. Trouble find anyway."

"Me find out," said Ab.

    They had watched him build a boat-log that would hold man-add-man-add-man. It had taken him day-add-day-add-day. Then he put his pointy stick, his club, hide cloak, and food into it. Then he launched it, pushed out, lined up on the big white cliff and began to paddle hard.

    They sang him the song of safe journey, Ug the lot himself beating on the big singing log. Then they went up to the top of the cliff and watched until he was lost from sight.

    It was almost a moon later that one of the fishermen called them all from their huts in the village on the downs, and they went to the shore beneath the cliffs.

    It was late afternoon and there was a dot on the water. It got bigger but very slowly.

"It Ab," called down the watchman from the cliffs.

    He came to shore slowly. He paddled with only one arm. When he was close enough they saw one of his eyes was missing and his head was swollen up on that side. His right arm flopped at his side. He beached the log and hopped out, bracing

    himself with his left arm. (Some things a person has to do themselves.) His right foot was missing toe-add-toe-add-toe.

"Hello, Ab," said Mo the lot Smart.

    He was looking back across the water with his good eye. "No understand, Mo," he said. "They kill each other over there all the time."

"All the time?"

"All the time. Every day."

"Come. Me fix up," said Mo.

    "Something do first," said Ab. He leaned down in the log-boat and made a big fire, and they all watched it burn.

"Mo?" asked Ab, as cinders drifted over them on the beach.

"What, Ab?"

"Mo. Me ever want go somewhere again, kill me with club."

"Can do," said Mo.

Then they led him back toward the village huts.

    Then came big nosed guys some jaw, and they brought with them the Great Big Things with Long Noses and Two Big Curved Teeth. They came in big log-boats with big square hides on trees and many many paddlers.

    Ug the lot-many-lot said, "Get all people up down coast, jump on them."

    The big nosed guys some jaw lined up all together in one place with shiny pointy sticks all sticking out in one place. In front of them they put the Great Big Things with the Long Noses and the Two Big Curved Teeth.

    "They just like old ones great-great-many-many grandfathers hunted. Only they no have hair," said Mo, the lot-many Smart.

"We know how do them," said Ug the lot-many-lot. "Get 'em."

    The fattest big nosed guy some jaw they chose for signal honors.

    They whacked up the Great Big Things with the Long Noses and the Two Big Curved Teeth, the people of the other villages carrying off as much as they could.

    They found that the one-add-one-add-one big log-boats were filled with men who were fastened where they sat. They jabbered, afraid. The people broke up the things that held them down with some of the useful hard implements they found. They herded all the loosened men onto one big log-boat.

Ug the lot-many-lot made a shooing motion with his hands.

"Go way," he said. "Go way."

    The men looked at him a moment. Then they began yelling and making noise and running up and down and below into the log-boat, and the big hide flopped down and they waved and yelled and ran out of sight and the paddles all started working. And the big log-boat went out of sight toward where the Big Big Water started.

    They wrapped the fattest big nosed guy some jaw with the things which had held the paddlers to the log-boats.

He jabbered, but he stood straight and tall.

Ug the lot-many-lot leaned in very close.

"Yum yum eatem up," he said.

    NU THE LOT-MANY-MANY stood on the cliff, looking back over the downs and the village. He could see a herd of the red deer browsing not very far away, and further up a flock of birds drank at the mouth of the creek. He could see women gathering seeds at the weed fields, and a couple of men were out killing hares up near the boggy place.

Down in the village, the gray shapes of the old boat-logs from

    many-lot-great-grandfather time, which had been made into a meeting place where the people from all up and down the coast came every twelve moons to make Ug All-Boss, stood out from the other hide and mud huts. Here and there was smoke from a cooking fire. He raised his eyes and could just see smoke from the next village far up the coast.

    He turned his eyes back to the Big Water, still dull in the early morning sun, and the far smudge of the land you could barely make out. It was going to be a warm fine day, and Mo the lot-lot-many Smart said it was just one more moon until the yummy fish came up the creek again, and there were signs of a mild

winter.

    Later he would go down, he thought, and join the boys poking sticks into the little fish that were always in the Big Water. They would have to do until the yummy fish came in.

    Girl Look For Husband was in the sky. Even in the late afternoon, a swatch of white with a glowing head stretched halfway across the heavens. "She really looking this time," the people said.

    All-Boss Ug the lot-many-lot was fixing his hut, pounding wooden pegs in with a big rock.

    "Grandfather! Grandfather!" yelled little Nu the lot-many-lot, running in from the cliffs.

    "Not have time everyone come in flaring sagittal crest," said Ug. "What now?"

    "Ab many-lot-lot say big logs come again. Come quick bring clubs pointy sticks."

    Ug dropped the rock and began to yell everyone out of their huts and send ones running to the other villages.

    All the people stood on the big white cliffs. It would have been dark had not Girl Look For Husband been blazing bright as a full Moon. Everything was a sort of silver-gray twilight.

    They looked down where lot-many boat-logs were drawn up on the beach and saw (what Ab who had seen them before dark had said were) weasel-eyed guys some jaw there. Many-many-lot. They all had long pointy sticks with shiny ends and shiny flat things on their hip-clothes, and some had curvy things on their backs and bags full of little sticks.

Ug poked Mo the lot-many-many Smart.

"More them than us," said Mo.

"Not wait day," said Ug. "Go get 'em!"

    Yelling and waving their clubs and pointy sticks, they charged down the hills.

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