Boog and I are very different people. For example, we have different jobs.
My job is Rock Thrower. I will explain what that is. There are many rocks all over the place and people are always tripping on them. So when I became a man, at age eleven, the Old Person said to me, “Get rid of all the rocks.” Since that day, ten years ago, I have worked very hard at this. Whenever it is light outside, I am gathering rocks and throwing them off the cliff.
Boog’s job is Artist. I will explain what that is. When he became a man, the Old Person said to him, “Cut down the trees so we have space to live.” But Boog did not want to do this, so now he smears paint inside caves. He calls his smears “pictures.” Everybody likes to look at them. But the person who likes to look at them most is Girl.
I love Girl. I will explain what that is. When I look at her, I feel sick like I am going to die. I have never had the Great Disease (obviously, because I am still alive). But my uncle described it to me. He said there is a tightness in your chest, you cannot breathe, and you have anger toward the Gods. I was going to ask him to explain more, but then he died. My point is: Girl makes me feel this way, like I am going to die. There are many women in the world. By last count, seven. But she is the only one I ever loved.
Girl lives on Black Mountain. It is called Black Mountain because (1) it is mountain and (2) it is covered in black rocks. Every day, Girl has to climb over the rocks to get to the river. It is too hard. She has small legs and she is often getting stuck. So one day I decided, “I will clear a path from Girl’s cave to the river.”
I have been working on Girl’s path for many years, picking up the black rocks and carrying them away. I never throw her rocks off the cliff like normal rocks. Instead, I put them in a pile next to my cave. I like to look at the pile, because it reminds me of how I am helping Girl. My mother, who I live with, says the pile “has to go.” (I worry that she will move the pile, but it is unlikely. After all, she is an elderly thirty-two-year-old woman.)
I have made good progress on Girl’s path, but there are still many rocks left. The job would go faster, but I am clearing the path in secret by the light of the moon. The reason is—and this is a hard thing to admit—I am afraid to talk to Girl. If she found out it was me clearing all the rocks, I’m sure she would say something to me like “Hello” or “Hi there.” And then I would be in trouble. Because the truth is I am not so good at making words.
Boog is very good at making words. For example, last week he showed off his new picture at the Main Cave. Everyone was expecting it to be a horse or a bear (all his pictures so far have been horses, bears, or a mix of horses and bears). But this picture was not of any animal. It was just a bunch of red streaks. People were angry.
“I wanted animals,” the Old Person said. “Where are the animals?”
It was bad situation. I thought that Boog would lose his job or maybe be killed by stones. But then Boog stood on a rock and spoke.
“My art is smart,” he said. “And anyone who does not get it is stupid.”
Everyone was quiet. We looked at the Old Person to see what he would say.
The Old Person squinted at the red streaks for a while. Then he rubbed his chin and said, “Oh, yes, now I get it. It is smart. People who do not get it are stupid.”
A few seconds later, everyone else got it.
“It is smart,” they said. “It is smart!”
The only person who did not get it was me. My beard began to sweat. I was scared that someone would ask me to make words about the picture. I headed slowly for the exit. I was almost out of the cave when Boog pointed his finger at me.
“Do you like it, Oog?”
Everyone stopped making words and looked at me.
“It is smart,” I said. I meant for my voice to sound big, but it came out small.
“Ah,” he said. “Then why don’t you explain it to us?”
I felt a burning on my skin. It was sort of like when you fall into a cooking fire and your body catches on fire. I looked at my feet and people started laughing.
I looked up at Girl to see if she was one of the ones laughing. She was not (thank Gods). But she could hear all the other people laughing and that was just as bad.
“I am tired from talking to people who are less smart,” Boog said. “I am going to mate with Girl now.”
He took Girl’s hand and started to mate with her. Some people stayed to watch, but most took this as their cue to leave.
On my way out, I heard Girl making sounds. They stayed in my head all night, like an echo in an empty cave.