Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Before and After (05/14/09)
TITLE: An old hunter's reflections
By Daniel Kane
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I looked at each of the cubs scattered in a semi-circle in front of me. They were gazing at me, their yellow eyes reflecting adoring amazement. Then one cub spoke up. She was smaller than the rest, with browner spots, and I could already see her hunting talent.
“So what happened then?” she asked, and I couldn’t help but smile. Every cub is the same– they simply won’t accept that the story is over.
“That’s it,” I replied. “We ate the zebra, and the rest of the group complimented my hunting prowess. Any more questions?” Another cub raised a paw. She had spent most of the lesson chasing crickets, and I was surprised to see how much of the story she had taken in.
“So, if you’re such a good hunter, how come you don’t hunt anymore?” she asked. I had been dreading that one, simply because these little ones wouldn’t understand the concept of aging.
I replied, “Well, let’s just say that my claws are dulled, my teeth blunted, and my joints are stiffening. I’m weary from so many children, and I can’t run fast enough to catch zebra, buffalo, or gazelle. However,” I hastily continued, seeing the look of horror dawning on the cub’s faces, “I’m actually quite lucky. I never experienced the wild-tooth-breaker kick.”
“The what?” gasped another cub, sensing that this could lead to a story. I, however, wasn’t prepared to go into detail. My teeth had begun to ache again.
“The wild-tooth-breaker kick,” I explained as simply and quickly as I could. “At the last moment, when he senses that he will be killed, a zebra will sometimes lash out in desperation. If his hoof connects with your jaw, then, BAM! All your teeth get broken, and you can’t eat anything. Eventually you die of starvation.” Sensing more endless questions forming on the lips of the cubs, I quickly ended the lesson. “Well, that’s all for today. You can go over to Mama Scimby for some hunting lessons now.”
As the class left, that darker-spotted cub stopped to say something to me. “Yes, Cardall?” I asked.
“Well, Mama, I just want to say that I liked your story, and that I want to be just like you when I grow up.” Then she left with the rest of the group.
“Just like me. Oh, no, child. You wouldn’t want to be like me. Not anymore,” I sighed as I staggered to my favourite rock to rest.
I had only been dozing in the sun for a few minutes when the new hunt leader, Bertine, came up to me. “Mama Qual,” she began, “the boss wants you to join the next hunt.”
I sat up abruptly. “Is he mad? I would just slow you down!” I replied, disbelieving. But my objections fell on empty air, for Bertine had already wandered off.
When the next hunt came, I was part of it. We needed meat, so I didn’t feel too bad about joining the hunting group. It didn’t take us long to find a herd, or to spread out the net to catch it. When half the group chased the herd into the other half, I felt the old sense of exhilaration. Why hadn’t I done this for so long? It was just like the old times. As I was running, I picked the target: a female. She was pregnant, and lagging behind the rest of the group. I could feel the grass beneath my feet, the wind in my face, and the smell of fear from my prey, as she tried to gain speed. I was coming up behind her. I was putting on that last burst of speed needed to get me neck-and-neck with her! And then, I felt fire in my mouth. A sharp, electrical shock of pain and panic as I realized what had happened. I had been wild-tooth-breaker kicked. I was doomed.
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