Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: STEW (11/26/15)
- TITLE: Birthday Celebration
By Jennifer Woodley
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Elated by his success, Timboine scampered from the bushes and raced towards his prize. The roo was dead. Blood spurted from the wound, as Timboine wrenched the deeply embedded blade away from the soft flesh. He smiled at himself in satisfaction, thinking of the surprise on his mother and Bubba’s face when he returned. With his father away, accompanied by elders of the tribe, he was the man now. As the mid morning heat increased and the summer flies began to swarm around the roo, Timboine began the arduous trek back to camp, dragging the carcass by its thick, heavy tail. Timboine turned ten today; he could not think of a better present.
Tungabiddy looked up proudly at her daughter, Bubba, as she thrust the club into the earth, exposing the roots of tender round yams. Only seven, Bubba was just as skillful with the club as other older girls in the camp. Occasionally, distracted by her labor, Bubba would call out in joy, as she uncovered a chunky, white witchetty grub. Bubba knew what to do with those! The delicacy quickly disappeared, sucked away without a trace. Bubba burped in pleasure.
Gathering their woven baskets of seeds and roots, they moved close to the nearby fire. A group of women laughed noisily, alongside a large pot that bubbled on the burning coals. Tungabiddy tossed her collection into the pot, stirring the stew with a large stick. Now and then another woman or a small child would add their contribution to the brew, enhancing the pleasant pungent smell that arose from within. All that was needed was the meat.
Bubba heard her brother before she saw him. Almost spent, Timboine shouted loudly to his family, emerging from the mulga scrub dragging the carcass behind him. Tungabiddy laughed at her son. ‘No,’ she corrected herself, ‘he is a man now.’ Such a prize! The roo was a large male, a convincing trophy for a small-framed boy. Others rushed forward to assist Timboine as he dragged the beast to the fire. Slicing the tail into chunks, Tungabiddy and her son carefully placed each piece into the pot. They then lifted the carcass onto another fire close by – black ash and yellow flames scooted high up into the air. The fire crackled loudly like popcorn erupting in a hot pot.
Bubba jumped happily, roast roo and stew for midday meal; a feast for Timboine’s birthday. Timboine was swamped by his relatives who slapped him on the back, affectionately tussled his matted black hair and warmly congratulated him on his success. Timboine beamed; his weathered brown face shined like it had just been polished.
The sound of far-off chattering and deep laughter disrupted this celebratory scene. Hopeful, Timboine raced in the direction of the mens’ voices, other boys following and kicking up the dust as they disappeared. Yes it was true; the elders had returned home early. Timboine embraced his father. Bingarrie smiled happily at his son, and entered the campsite cheerfully greeting Bubba, Tungabiddy and his other relatives.
As he stood enfolded in his father’s arms, Timboine mused to himself. His first kill had been a good present, but now he had just received the best birthday present of all. Later, the women spooned the rich aromatic stew into coolamons, and the feasting began while the elders told stories of their recent journey. Squatting under a casuarina tree, Timboine listened and laughed with his friends. They poured the thick stew into their hungry bellies and gnawed at handfuls of tasty kangaroo bone. Timboine had never tasted anything so good.
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