· POETRY ·
J Andrew Clark
Bill the Cat
· FICTION ·
· SWAG ·
W H Y D O G S B A R K
As the dawn broke through the slit in the teepee, put there strategically so the sun would shine directly onto Rake-Shaped Cloud's eyes when it came up, he stirred and instantly realized he'd slept wrong on his back. "Shit," he thought. "Figures it would happen on the morning of a buffalo hunt."
He sat up. The pain was unbelievable. It hadn't felt that bad since the day Narwhal Breath needed help moving a huge rock. How was he going to get up on a horse and lead a buffalo hunt? If he did that in his condition, his back would probably never be right again, he thought. "Why have I been cursed with an 80-year-old's back at age 34?"
Rake-Shaped Cloud looked over at his squaw, Born Several Times. She was still sleeping soundly with the odd smirk she always had when she slept. Rake-Shaped Cloud used to wonder what she might dream about which would amuse her so, but had reached the conclusion that she wasn't necessarily dreaming about anything, it was just a measure of her feeling of overall superiority over the rest of the world.
He got up and headed out to face the day. It was absolutely wonderful, with the brand-new day's sun illuminating the land, unimpeded by clouds. Rake-Shaped Cloud didn't know from temperatures, but if he had, he'd have guessed it would get up to about 75. "What a gorgeous day," he thought as he bent down to touch the ground in an attempt to limber up his sore back. "Damn nice day for a buffalo hunt."
"Looks like a damn nice day for a buffalo hunt," said Born Several Times, sleepily emerging from the teepee as Rake-Shaped Cloud was doing trunk twists.
"I was just thinking that," said Rake-Shaped Cloud. "Man, I just don't know if my back can hold up. It hasn't felt this bad in weeks."
"Why don't you go see Uninvented Object and see if he can't straighten it out a little?" said Born Several Times, hugging her brave from behind, leading him to stop limbering for a moment to enjoy the physical closeness.
"I guess I'd better. You won't need help getting breakfast for Eyeglass Booger and Existential Hen Cabinet?"
"Naw, Shaved Hamster Pellet is trying to get rid of some of her food before it goes bad."
"Okay. Might as well head over now," said Rake-Shaped Cloud, with the unspoken understanding that he wouldn't kiss her goodbye since they had both woken up and hadn't chewed their spearmint leaves yet.
So off Rake-Shaped Cloud went to see if Uninvented Object was up yet. Uninvented Object was a very small man with a big brain. He was one of the least physically fit of the braves in the tribe, but for some reason, he was able to work miracles on the others. Rake-Shaped Cloud secretly suspected that Uninvented Object was immortal and therefore didn't need to take care of himself. He'd been an avid peyote user since his teens, he stayed up until well after the sun went down, and no one had ever seen him eat anything green. Rake-Shaped Cloud figured he'd eat broccoli if someone could come up with a way to make it brown.
Uninvented Object was also nocturnal, which meant at the hour when normal people like Rake-Shaped Cloud were getting up on the morning of a buffalo hunt, he was just starting to get his quality sleep. But he knew from past experience that no matter how often he asked people not to bug him until the sun was directly overhead, the day of a buffalo hunt was different. There were always braves with little nagging problems who wanted them to go away before they tried to kill anything.
Rake-Shaped Cloud was met at the door of the teepee by Uninvented Object's beautiful sixteen-year-old daughter, Secretly Sleeps Around, who hadn't yet figured out that braves weren't looking at her on the day of a buffalo hunt.
"Hi, handsome," she said. "I bet I know what you're here for."
"Nice try, Secretly Sleeps Around. Is Uninvented Object up yet?"
"Is Uninvented Object up yet? Do you know what time it is?"
"Sure, but there's a buffalo hunt today. I take it no one's been here to wake him up then?"
"No. I'll save you the trouble. Uninvented Object," she shouted back into the teepee. "Rake-Shaped Cloud is here to see you."
"Wind and fire gods," said her mother, Vomit-Inducing Soup. "Why do you find it necessary to shout so early in the morning?"
"Shut up, both of you," said Uninvented Object, stirring from his slumber. "Secretly Sleeps Around, tell Rake-Shaped Cloud I'll be about ten minutes. Is it about his back?"
"Is it?" she asked him.
"Spot on," he said.
"Spot on, Uninvented Object."
"What the hell does that mean?" he shouted, rubbing his eyes.
"It means you were right," said Rake-Shaped Cloud.
"Why the hell doesn't anyone speak plain Apache anymore? Ten minutes, Rake-Shaped Cloud. Secretly Sleeps Around will keep you occupied."
"Nice day for a buffalo hunt," said Rake-Shaped Cloud.
"Quit yammering about the weather," said Secretly Sleeps Around. "I bet I can make you feel much better long before Uninvented Object even gets out here."
"Secretly Sleeps Around, you know you'd be the first person I'd come to if I had a problem with my penis, after giving Born Several Times a shot at it, but Uninvented Object does a much better job with backs."
"Whatever. If you change your mind, you know where to find me," said Secretly Sleeps Around, going back inside.
Rake-Shaped Cloud sat down, put his feet together and pulled himself down in a stretching exercise as he looked around the village. Other braves were just getting up, and a few of them were getting a few spears together. Proof of Evolution, in the next teepee, noticed him stretching and came over. Proof of Evolution was a very large man and a great warrior, and if Rake-Shaped Cloud needed something killed, Proof of Evolution was the guy he talked to. But he wasn't exactly the shiniest quarter in the roll.
"Back trouble today, huh?" he said, observing the pained expression on Rake-Shaped Cloud's face.
"Yeah, it's a little stiff."
"Man, and on a perfect day for a buffalo hunt too," said Proof of Evolution, rubbing his chin. "You should see Uninvented Object about that."
"Did you happen to notice whose teepee I'm sitting outside?"
Proof of Evolution looked up at the teepee, which had been next to his for several years, through seven moves of the village. "I don't know," he said. "They all look the same to me."
"It's Uninvented Object's teepee. His teepee has always been next to yours. Had you not noticed that?"
"Gee, Rake-Shaped Cloud. You know I don't notice stuff very often. So are you going to be able to join us, or no?"
"Oh, it's too soon to tell. I'm not normally the type to let something as trivial as acute, debilitating pain keep me from my task of leading a buffalo hunt, but if the choice is between leading a buffalo hunt at 35 and walking at 50, I think I'm more inclined toward walking at 50."
"I don't know what you mean by that," said Proof of Evolution, scratching his hairy stomach. "I guess I'll find out when I see whether you're there or not."
As Proof of Evolution wandered back over to his tent, Rake-Shaped Cloud sat up, put his right elbow on his left knee and pushed, making about thirty different popping sounds at the same time. Uninvented Object instantly stuck his head out the door of his teepee.
"What the hell was that?" he demanded.
"What the hell was what?"
"You know damn well what the hell I want to know what the hell it was. You just popped your own back, didn't you?"
"No, I was making popmaize."
"You stupid idiot! Part of my job is to pop your back in healthy ways. If you go around popping your own back, it's not in an ergonomically controlled method. Don't you understand?"
"But it feels better."
"No it doesn't. Now lie on your stomach and hold still."
"Yes, master," said Rake-Shaped Cloud, doing as he was told.
"And don't talk," said Uninvented Object, rubbing a secret liniment on Rake-Shaped Cloud's back. He started humming softly, and Rake-Shaped Cloud quickly recognized the song as "Why Dogs Bark," which his mother, Everything's Better Than Everything Else, used to sing to him, and it was very calming. Later, when he was allowed to talk, he would have to remember to mention to Uninvented Object what a lovely singing voice he had.
"Now drift off to a place where you feel comfortable, and uncle Uninvented Object will take care of everything," he said. That was retarded, thought Rake-Shaped Cloud. He felt comfortable there. Why should he drift off to another place? But whatever. He drifted off into a field full of cacti, where Everything's Better Than Everything Else was feeding him something that didn't taste very good, but made him feel wonderful and somewhat odd. "Spin around if you want, Rake-Shaped Cloud," she said. "I'll protect you from the cacti." Then she started singing. "Dogs bark because they see dead folks. Dogs bark because they hear bad jokes..."
"There," said Uninvented Object, interrupting his fantasy. "How does that feel?"
Rake-Shaped Cloud stood up and leaned backwards, testing his back. "It's better," he said. "Not miraculously better, but better."
"Not miraculously better? Shit, I'm losing my touch," Uninvented Object lamented, wandering back into his teepee. "Not miraculously better. Why did I even bother getting out of bed? Vomit-Inducing Soup, I need some comfort food."
"Shut up. I'm still sleeping."
"Thanks, Uninvented Object," Rake-Shaped Cloud shouted into the tent, with silence coming back as the reply. He rubbed his back with his own fingers, his elbows jutting out like viking horns. His back didn't feel better at all. In fact, it felt worse. He headed over to Proof of Evolution's teepee and knocked on the resident's head.
"Yes sir," said Proof of Evolution, who was oblivious to most forms of pain. "Did Uninvented Object fix your back?"
"No, actually, he didn't. But don't spread that around. I don't want to wreck Uninvented Object's reputation. Listen, I don't think I can do the job right on today's buffalo hunt. Do you think you can take over the reins?"
"It's going to rain?"
"Never mind, I'll do it. Forget I ever stopped by."
Rake-Shaped Cloud went back to his teepee and laid down on his stomach. "Shit," he said to himself. "Shit shit shit shit shit shit."