Starting Stopping

By Bill Duncan
Posted 7/19/19

Two mid-aged men wearing ill-fitting animal skins, hairy hats and furry-floppy slippers meet. SHANTZ: You got your sticks packed?KRANTZ: Yeah, and my deer skins wrapped. The dogs are set and I hear …

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Starting Stopping

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Two mid-aged men wearing ill-fitting animal skins, hairy hats and furry-floppy slippers meet.
SHANTZ: You got your sticks packed?
KRANTZ: Yeah, and my deer skins wrapped. The dogs are set and I hear there are some great berries a coupla suns that way. Good roots, too.
SHANTZ: Excellent. Shame Jerry’s not coming. Says he’s sick of life on the path.
KRANTZ: He’ll starve. We need the trail to chase the food. He can’t stop starting.
SHANTZ: Whatever. His latest is to save little plant sticks and cover them with dirt.
KRANTZ: So what?
SHANTZ: Says if he waits, the little sticks get green.
KRANTZ: Who cares?
SHANTZ: Says if he really waits, the sticks get leaves—and if he really really waits, the leaves get flowers and then berries and he don’t have to forage anymore.
KRANTZ: You mean “graze.”
SHANTZ: Forage. Buffaloes “graze” and Jerry says we’re smarter, so we “forage.”
KRANTZ: Where does he come up with this? It was so confusing when he added “three” and “four” to our numbers. We used to say “One, two… another… and then, another” and it worked fine.
SHANTZ: He plans to stay warm and put up tall sticks to stop the wind.
KRANTZ: That’s a lot of sticks.
SHANTZ: Yeah, but he says he won’t have to haul ‘em on the trail. Picked a word for it. Calls it “wall” and more than one is “walls.”
KRANTZ: We have too many word already. What about the rain?
SHANTZ: He’s gonna drop extra stick across the top of the “wall.” Call them “roof.”
KRANTZ: We done very good for many suns, back over many lifes. We follow the food, eat the berries and the buffalo meat is good when we can score.
SHANTZ: No more chasing the herd. Jerry says he wants to raise buffalo.
KRANTZ: Nobody can pick up a buffalo.
SHANTZ: He gave “raise” a new meaning: “to bring up,” like a little kid.
KRANTZ: Jerry’s an idiot. The man has no friends.
SHANTZ: Not many berries either unless he’s right about the green sticks in the dirt. Which reminds me. He said the other day that if he covers his little plants with special stuff, the sticks grow faster.
KRANTZ: Get out! Did he find some sacred powder?
SHANTZ: No. It’s dried bison bun.
KRANTZ: Buffalo crap? You’re saying Jerry’s gonna wait for gods-know-how-long to eat berries from buffalo poop.
SHANTZ: Don’t take the gods’ name in vain.
KRANTZ: How many gods we got now?
SHANTZ: I forget. Jerry says there may be only One.
KRANTZ: Now he’s tickin’ off the clergy. Jerry’s gotta go. If he’s right about growing stuff so we don’t have to move all the time people will start stopping and not chasing deers.
SHANTZ: You mean deer.
KRANTZ: You said when there’s more than one, you say “deers.”
SHANTZ: You still say “deer.”
KRANTZ: Who says?
SHANTZ: Jerry says. He has a way about him.
KRANTZ: How come you listen to Jerry so much?
SHANTZ: He comes up with good ideas. Remember how he wrapped tree bark around sticks and made a canoe? No more logs to hollow out. Now when there’s too much water, we can float from place to place. But he asks questions with no answers. He said the other day, “If the little holes in the night sky let in light through the dome, how come those little pinpoints move?”
KRANTZ: They move?
SHANTZ: Yeah. You have to look up a long time.
KRANTZ: Everything with Jerry takes a long time.
SHANTZ: But it’s a good question.
KRANTZ: With no answer.
SHANTZ: He said last Tuesday…
KRANTZ: What’s Tuesday?
SHANTZ: Jerry’s naming the days.
KRANTZ: Why? One’s the same as the other.
SHANTZ: Ask him. And he wants to bury dead people where they die instead of hauling ‘em around ‘til we find a cliff to drop ‘em off.
KRANTZ: He’s out of his mind.
SHANTZ: He says it’s easier. He’d dig a hole near where he’s gonna live cause he’s stopped startin’ on the trail.
KRANTZ: If more people decide to stay, the bodies are gonna add up. He”ll have to count a lot more than… than…one more…past “four.”
SHANTZ: “Five.”
KRANTZ: “Five”?
SHANTZ: Then “six.”
KRANTZ: Stop! How much space does he need for the bodies?
SHANTZ: Not a problem. Nobody owns anything.
KRANTZ: Maybe we should throw him out of the group… tie him to an unscooped log and ride him out.
SHANTZ: We can’t. We’re the group and we’re on the move all the time. That’s what we do.
KRANTZ: He’s a tough case. Maybe we can make him follow us at a distance.
SHANTZ: Can’t. The dogs do that. He might mess with their heads and turn ‘em back to wolves. You never know with Jerry.
KRANTZ: He’s gotta go. He ruins all the stuff we worked to get perfect. Maybe we could sneak up and stab him with a hand ax.
SHANTZ: Not long enough. Wait a minute. Jerry got this new idea. Tie a ax to a stick and throw it. He killed a squirrel last Monday.
KRANTZ: Monday?
SHANTZ: The sun before Tuesday.
KRANTZ: Oh…
SHANTZ: We could do it at night.
KRANTZ: Then we could keep livin’ in the good old days. Will we have to carry him dead on the sled looking for a cliff to dump him off?
SHANTZ: We could bury him. Put up a stone and point to it when we graze… when we forage through here next time. Kids would see the stone and remember Jerry was a guy with ideas. Know he was special.
KRANTZ: Even though we killed him?
SHANTZ: We wouldn’t tell them.
KRANTZ: Doesn’t seem honest.
SHANTZ: Don’t worry. Nobody’s gonna write it down.

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