Word Count 500
By Sharon Collins
I did not witness my Grandmother’s Judgement, although I was present, in-utero, but present nonetheless. To ensure our continued survival that Fourth-Dawn, Mother donned the Shattered-Shell-Necklace and became the Headman’s Third-Wife. The Clan believe me to be his, but my long bones and flat-brow, speak otherwise.
Today Mother sews me a new tunic. I fear it will be her last, for she is nearing her end. Bent with toil and shame, her greying hair tangles in the shells of The Necklace she must never remove, her mother’s lasting legacy. Laboriously she pierces the skin with a stone awl and then hole by hole pushes the gut-lacing along. I will wear it with pride when she is gone, but I will not wear The Necklace. I will weigh it down with a stone and cast it back into the sea.
I wish to take the work from Mother’s tired fingers, but the Headman’s First-Wife watches, and I dare not. I wait patiently for her to turn away. I have the tool tucked inside my tunic. Its point pokes me, and the small pain makes me smile as I remember the day I thought to create it.
Sitting on the beach breaking clam shells, I watched a crab drag an iridescent string of fish-gut home to its lair. Depositing its dinner before the opening, it worked its way around the string of flesh and begin to push it through the hole. Try as it might, the piece of gut folded and twisted but would not go through. Failing to push its treasure in, the crab dragged the uncooperative mass aside and retreated into the den. I thought it had given up when I saw a claw reach out, grasp one end of the stringy mess, and pull the prize in with ease. The simplicity struck me. Pull the gut; do not push it…if only Mother could do this too…
It took many attempts before I got the tool just right. I tried making it of shell first, but the point was too brittle to pierce even the softest skin. I looked for a sharp stone with a hole, but I never found one. Finally, I thought to use bone. Slyly, I secreted several wing bones from the midden and ground each to a point. Then using the stone awl, I pierced the other end. How I wanted to cry when they cracked. But I did not give up. I shaped a new one and left it in sea-water to soften so I could drill without damage. Once dry, I had a perfect sewing too. Today it pokes me and tells me that the moment has come. The Headman’s Wife has gone off to scold his Second-Wife.
I take the tunic from my mother and thread my tool. I press its sharp point through the soft hide. In and out it goes. I pull the gut through. Mother’s closes her eyes. She does not see me complete the first stitch in Time.