Chipper came out of the grain hut ruffling his red hair pleased with himself and was about to turn down the track to his workshop when he spotted his wife’s mother peeking at him from behind a bush. She whisked the branches back to hide her face but she knew it was too late and that he’d seen her and that he had begun shuffling over towards her, and in her mind she quickly went over the routine she’d thought up should she be beheld.
“Oh there you are, Chips, I was looking for you, you left your lunchpack at the man-hole,” her delivery a smooth, flowing, light-as-a-feather bravado.
Chips glanced unwittingly at the hut he’d just left and could still taste the mutton and flat-cake not to mention Martha’s ruby-red lips. Rumbling sullenly, he bought time.
“Oh, erm…didn’t I say I’d be back for lunch today? I thought I told you.”
“Well…er…yes, perhaps you did, dear. Silly me, you know what my memory’s getting like these days,” blustered Carla, her lower jaw sagging slightly, relieved now of its practised obligations.
Chipper muttered a surly thanks as he took the proffered leaf-bound package and limped off to his flints. The orders had been coming in thick and fast since he had sneakily copied the Tangan’s wrist action allowing him to flake deft, light, exquisite blades shaped just right to bind securely to arrow- and spear-shafts. He wished the hunters wouldn’t lose them though, it seemed a lack of respect for his talent even if they did pat him on the back and chortle to each other in mindless merriment. Of course he could make more but the new technique meant he was more likely to hit his fingers and eventually he might have to give the bruised digits a rest. Maybe he should get the gossipping Carla to spread the rumour that truly sharp arrow-tips could only be made when the moon was waning rather than when the hunters might be away at night. Why not deliberately make shoddy ones when it was waxing and insist that it wasn’t worth making them unless the lunar conditions were right? He’d only been getting the technique consistent over the past few days so nobody would be any the wiser. The rest of the time he could get back to churning out bog-standard axe-heads, or just hang around the village when the hunters were away. He’d have to check out the wanderers in the night sky too, like he had had to do to explain the preponderance of ginger-haired kids in the village. Even Martha’s heavy-browed man-child had a russet tint to the dark, curly locks over his mother’s flattened forehead and bulbous nose.