Behind the hill, far to the west, the sun is setting. I walk up the hill, out of breath. The grass is making my feet cold and wet.
There is no grass on the top of the hill. There is only a circle of dirt, like a bald man’s head. I stand there and I turn my face to the wind to sniff, and yet there are no smells coming from a long way off. My belly hurts. I burp, and the taste of it is like the taste of nothing. The scab on my knee is turning black and it itches. I scratch it and it starts bleeding again.
Above me are many clouds, big and grey. They move slowly, as if they have no strength. Maybe they’re hungry like me. One of them is so hungry now that his head comes off and floats away and he runs more quickly behind it, as if he wants to catch it. Below the sky are grass and woods for a long way, then another hill, and after that only little trees like the ones that grow around the world’s edge.
Now I look down to the grass at the bottom of the hill and I see pigs. The pigs are big and long. One is on another’s back and it looks like he’s mating with her. Seeing it makes me get an erection. I have a gut feeling that I can run down the hill to the pigs and hit one of them with a stone until she’s dead and eat her all up. That’s what I’m thinking. Now it’s just a matter of doing it.
I come off the dry dirt on top of the hill and run quickly through the cold grass – I want to get the pigs before they change into something I can’t eat, like the rat I caught one time that changed into little stones. I run down quickly toward the pigs so they will still be pigs when I catch them. My erection shakes this way and that as I run. I run quickly, but oh, my feet fly up off the grass and I fall, oh and I fall down the hill on my ass.
I get up quickly so I can catch the pigs. My fall has slowed me down, and they may have changed already because I can’t smell any pig. Thinking about this, I get a scared feeling, which makes me run more quickly. I look at the pigs as I come closer to them, but oh. Oh, one of the pigs, she’s changing – her hind legs are gone. Her black face is inside-out – it’s now a dark hole. I run quicker so that I can catch them while they’re still part-pig, but oh, they’ve stopped moving, and they smell rotten. The closer I get, the less pig they are.
Now I’m right by them, and they’ve turned completely into white wood logs, one resting on another. Their eyes have become knot-holes. Their feet have become branch stubs. Ah.
I sit on the lower log, that is flattening the grass at the bottom of the hill, and cry hot tears.
I still have an erection. I rub the tears from my eyes and get up off the log to take a piss on it so that she [i.e., the log/pig] will think better of not being a pig. My penis now goes flaccid and goes back in its foreskin; likewise, I go limp and sit back on the log, where grey steam rises up from where I pissed.
Oh, many nights have come and gone without me seeing my people who have cast me off. They don’t want me, and I sit alone upon the old log, and my belly is empty.
Now I look above me. The sky is full of sky-beasts [clouds] and they are all in one grey herd as they run from one edge of the world to the other. It will be dark soon, so I won’t be able to see my long black spirit-shape [shadow] that follows in my path. I’m all alone.
My people don’t want me, and say how I don’t forage yet I eat what other people forage. Inside me I hear my mother saying, as she did when she was alive, how I’m idle and it’s not good that she has to find food for me all the time. She says our people don’t like me and that they’re keeping me with them while she’s alive, and that they won’t after that, and what do I say to that, and so forth. I say nothing back, and she hits me on the head and legs and makes a noise. Ah mother, there’s no helping it, not even a little bit. I’m not good at thinking, like others are.
It’s strange, now. One moment I’m thinking of something, and then there’s no following thought, and all is quiet in me. Yet other times I have a thought and a similar thought comes to me, after which many thoughts come in a row, like my people walking beneath the trees. The thoughts come so many and so fast that there’s nothing in between them. One thought turns into another, as with the pigs and the logs.
I think of my mother hitting my legs, and now I’m thinking of lying by her and everything being good. The back of my big head lies on dirt which feels gritty and dusty. It prickles on the skin of my head through my baby hair, which is as thin as that on a berry. My mouth is full of breast milk that hangs in strings around my tongue, and I don’t want to go anywhere or be anywhere else.
I’m inside blanket-skins, by my mother, warm in her smell, and can smell sour-root on her breath. She is big and I’m as little as one of the Ur-folk.
Now I have another thought, where I become big and my mother is smaller. We are beneath trees. It’s sunrise and I open my eyes and see my mother, sitting with her back against a white-wood tree. Little bits of light fall on her face and on her eyes through the branches above us and she doesn’t move or look away from it. I say, “Mother, get up,” but she doesn’t make a move. Her eyes fill up with light. I’m frightened.
“Hold on, Mother”, I say. “Don’t joke around with me. Our people are getting up and want to journey on. Get up, so we don’t fall behind them.” Now I rub my hand on her leg to wake her up. She’s as cold as stone, and fleas jump off of her.
I say more loudly, “Get up!”, and grab her and pull her and hit her. There’s no strength in my grip, and she falls down. The dots of light move from out of her eyes and hang on the trees. Her head is lying in a puddle, hair floating.
I don’t know how to help her. I jump on top of her and try to put my penis in her, so that it will make her warm and make her move. Her legs are hard and her knees are together. I’m not strong enough to open them, and my penis stays flaccid. I put it against her belly hair and push and push. Her head moves in the puddle. Her belly hair is cold and she smells different. I push and push.
A man from our tribe comes now and pulls me off of her. He says I’m a shit and tries to hit me; I run a little ways off, beneath the trees. Now a lot of people come around my mother. They pull her head from the puddle and say, “She’s cold”, “She’s not breathing”, and so forth. Now our wise man arrives and sits by my mother; he’s wearing a feather belt that makes his ass itch, and he scratches it constantly.
He says, “She’s dead, and it looks like overwork is what did it to her.” He says, “She needs to be buried, after which we will move on.”
Suddenly a rough-voiced woman says that if my mother is no longer alive, it’s her lazy son that made her that way, that she had to work all the time to forage for him. Many there say, “Yes”, “She’s right”, and so forth.
More loudly, she says, “If his mother is to be buried, it’s not my hole to dig”. “Yes,” says the man that pulled me off my mother. “Make her boy dig her grave, so that he’s working for her for once.” Now the wise man says, “Yes,” and scratches his ass. “Find the boy,” he says.
I try to run. Ah, but they’re men, and longer-legged than me, and I’m so scared that I fall into a briar bush. They pull me out, all scratched up, and they drag me to feather-ass, who’s sitting by my mother. Her head is lying in water. The spots of light have crawled slowly from off the tree, across the grass and back into her eyes.
He scratches at his ass and gives me my mother’s stone axe head; there’s no strength in my hands to hold it. It falls down, and the wise man hits my face so hard that blood comes out of my nose. “Now pick it up,” he says, “and dig her hole. So that the odd-smelling spirits do not come to her and make us sick with their breath. So that the vulture and wolf come not. So that the earth takes its due and thinks well of us, and that it is not hard below our feet.” So the wise man says now, and, licking the blood from my nose, I dig hard in the dirt.
Below the grass the dirt is cold and grey, and soft enough that I can push a bunch of it up at once [?]. I dig around roots and stones, slowly. The bright dots of sunlight come back on my mother’s face, then come off her cheek and slowly move off to between the grass and flowers. I lift up a stone, and there are many worms beneath it. Now I dig the blade of my mother’s axe head between them, and there are even more of them. My digging makes my fingers bleed. There’s blood on my mother’s axe head, now; blood in my mother’s hole.
My people stand around the hole, switching their weight from one foot to the other, wanting only to move on, and continue their journey around the edge of the world from winter to winter, finding prickle-rats [hedgehogs?] and pigs and edible roots.
The sun travels high above us, with the sky-beasts [clouds] running in front of it, in fear that it may burn them all away to nothing but sky. I dig, and the wise man becomes agitated at my slowness, and says, “Stop now – the hole’s deep enough,” and so forth, even though I’m only belly-deep in the hole. He says, “Jump out and cast her down.”
Out I come, grey to the knees with dirt, and look at her. Nothing but white. Nothing but bare, and the life is all gone out of her. I take one step, and then another. Her hair is grey like the dirt. “Be quick about it,” says Feather-Ass, and, “Come now. Pick her up,” and so forth. I take another step and reach her.
I bend over to grab her foot. She’s colder now, and there’s no light on her. I lift mother’s legs, which are all white on top, and see that the back side of her is dark, as though filled with blood. I pull, which makes her move a little ways from the puddle, and drags her hair like seaweed behind her, and makes her fart. This is the way we come to the hole, my mother and I. “Cast her in,” says Feather-Ass, “and cover her up.”
I cast her in. The hole isn’t big enough for her. One leg sticks up above the edge and I can’t push it down. I cover her and my hands are grey with dirt, the dirt that falls in her eyes, in her mouth, in her belly button; and now her face is gone, and now her arms and breasts go; and now she is only one white foot sticking out, which I put dirt around and push it, soft and grey, to her toes. I tramp the dirt down, and Feather-Ass sets my mother’s axe head beside the hole, at the edge opposite from where the dirt rises around her foot like an anthill.
I say, “Now she’s buried, and we may journey on to find hedgehogs and pigs and edible roots.” And now my people look away and are quiet. And now old Feather-Ass looks at me. And shakes his head.
And makes the sign for “no”.