By BG Hilton
“Why do our names all end in a ‘guh’ sound”, Thag said, rubbing a sore on her chin.
“Would you please focus?” Grog replied.
“You know. ‘Guh’. I’m Thag, you’re Grog, Rog is Rog… Always that ‘guh’ sound. ‘Guh’. ‘Guh’.”
Grog shook his head and wiped long strands of greasy hair from his eyes. “Thag,” he said, “Thag. You’re the ideas person. I respect that. I understand that. But come on, we’re only as good as your last invention, you know? We need something practical.”
“Making rocks have pointy bits on the ends was my idea,” Thag said. She sat against the cold cave wall, playing with a couple of mouse skulls, the way she often did when she was thinking.
“Making sharp rocks was genius,” Grog said. “It should have been our key to victory over the Big River clan.”
He sighed. The pointy rocks had been a wonderful idea, Thag’s best. The only trouble was, the Big River people had thought of it at the same time. The planned final battle had ended turned into an embarrassing and indecisive brawl.
Even so, the Hill clan had found other uses for the pointy rocks. You could poke ground sloths with them, and the ground sloths would die. You could cut meat with them. You could even do fancier stuff, like scrape hides. Grog shifted comfortably in his skins. He’d never worn anything quite so free of rancid-meat.
“Putting points on the ends of rocks things was genius,” he sighed. “But it’s not enough. As long as those Big River jerks are around, there can never be peace. We need weapons, Thag. Weapons.”
Thag was staring at a painting of an elk that adorned the opposite cave wall. “’Guh,’” she said. “I wonder…”
“Enough wondering!” Grog said, standing up. “Look, we’ve got a good deal here. You come up with ideas, I convince the tribe to use them, and we both get a little breather now and then from all that hunting and gathering malarkey. But it’s only going to keep working as long as we keep the chief happy, and nothing is going to make him happy except some nice fresh fish.”
“What does a ‘guh’ look like?” Thag said. “We can paint elk and trees. Why not sounds?”
Grog clenched his teeth. Paint had been a great invention. For two whole waxings-and-wanings of the moon, no one in the tribe had noticed when Grog and Thag had been skipping water-carrying duties. They’d all been too busy painting animals all over the cave.
“Weapons, Thag. Weapons! Sticks didn’t work. Pointy rocks didn’t work. We need something that will.”
Thag’s eyes focused on Grog and a look of distaste crossed her grubby features. “Why not just… I don’t know, why not just combine the two? Attach the pointy rocks to the sticks?”
“Oh, for the love of the Great Fire in the Sky!” Grog moaned. “You’re not even trying!”
Just then, the chief strode in. He strode everywhere. Thag had invented the word ‘strode’ specifically to describe her chief’s mode of ambulation. “How’s it coming along,” he said. “’Cause me, I’m kind of hot out there, hunting in the hot light of the Great Fire in the Sky, while you two are nice and cool in the shade. But no doubt you’ve used your time here wisely, right? What have you got to put those fish-sucking river-lovers in their place?”
“What’s your name, chief?” Thag asked. “I mean, I always just call you chief, but you must have a real name, right?”
“It’s Torag,” the chief said distractedly.
“What? ‘Guh’? What is ‘guh’?”
“Rocks on sticks!” Grog said.
“On sticks. We take the pointy rocks, right? And we attach them to sticks.”
The chief stood silently, his mouth open.
“It’s just the beginnings of an idea,” Grog added, hurriedly. “We’re still working on…”
“If the rocks were on sticks,” the chief said, slowly, “we could poke the River people from further away! Thag, you are a genius! Get to work at once, I want a…”
“Prototype,” Thag said.
“Yeah. One of those. I want one of those by Time of Darkness,” the chief said, as he strode away.
Grog watched him go with stunned surprise. He shrugged. “Rocks on sticks,” he said. “Takes all sorts. Oh well, let’s get cracking. I’ll get some nice straight sticks, you make some pointy rocks. We’ll meet back here and try to work out how to stick ’em together.”
He trotted off. Thag rose slowly to her feet and dusted off her skins. She stopped still for a moment, lost in thought and sauntered over to the elk that had been painted the night before. “’Guh,’” she said. With one fingertip, she drew a rough circle in the still-wet paint. It didn’t look right. Her heavy brow furrowed in concentration, as she drew a little curving tail under the circle. There! Now it looked like a ‘guh’.
“Not now, Thag!” Grog said, returning. “Oh, no what have you done?”
He licked his finger, and smoothed the paint back into place as best he could.
“There, that’s better! Now come on! Enough nonsense, we have work to do!”