Chips had only just got to his work-hut and sat down on his stool when Shoman turned up walking backwards as usual, his feathered headdress dancing gaily in the bright sunlight, the scanty rabbit-skin loin-cloth above long, tanned legs and knee-high fur leggings, necklaces of polished stones and ex-predator teeth, wide white smile and laughing, wily eyes.
“Whassup Chips,” he greeted merrily. “How’s it going?”
“Fine till you showed up,” grinned Chips wryly.
“I was thinking maybe you might be able to help out with a recurrent dream I’ve been having.” Chips, having been caught up in some of Shoman’s other ideas is a bit wary. “What is it you’ve seen this time?”
“Well, I was thinking that Shortnight isn’t far off and for this year’s festivities we could get some stones, maybe different sizes, that would mark the position of the sun on that particular day more permanently than the sticks we have to source every year.”
Chips rubbed his chin before he replied. “…well, I did think it was a bit daft to have to find new sticks every year for the event and then burn them like we usually do. I’d thought about having some special, permanent, stronger poles but then we’d have to keep them apart from the other firewood, I dunno, keep them safe I mean, relics. So they didn’t get used because somebody needed them to fix up their hut or something.”
Chips looked off into the distance. “Maybe we could get ambitious, maybe use tree trunks even, but they would be well, you know, permanent, you know? We wouldn’t have an excuse to have all that build-up, the pre-rave if you know what I mean.”
“Yes, it would be a shame to miss out on the preparations,” continued Shoman, “and I know it would mean a lot more work, but we could turn that itself into an event of some sort and the stones wouldn’t get burnt even if we had a fire in the middle and if they’re too big to move easily nobody will touch them. And we can get a lot more people involved in the whole thing, maybe those mountain folk that turned up last year. I bet they know where we could get some decent stones.”
“They’d have to be the right sort of stones, special stones, big ones,” said Chips, “and to get them here would take some organising.”
Chips picked up a fresh flint from the pile to his left and reached for the antler chipping tool. Shoman squatted down on his haunches, hands cupping his chin. Chips tossed and caught the stone to feel its weight. He glanced sideways back at Shoman, whose lips were pursed, his nose wrinkled.
“Count me in.” said Chips.
From “Monday Morning at the Pearly Gates” 2019
Photo credits: Shropshire Star Oct 26, 2018