Neria - chapter 3
A Mammoth Feast?
Dad had no work for me next morning so I asked to go up to the sheep with my lunch and stay there afterwards to see if I could spot any eagles or vultures. I didn't say anything about Neria – she was my special secret. I was certain she'd be there again today and she was.
We were going to have lunch together and learn some more words. My sandwiches had sardines in them and she saw they were fish straight away. I didn't know if her word meant any sort of “fish” or only “sardine”.
She had meat again but it was different from yesterday's reindeer – for a start it was still raw. It was a big lump of meat dripping with red blood. Surely she wasn't going to eat it raw? No, she was going to cook us both a meal and she started gathering sticks and arranging them on top of some dry grass that should be easy to light. Neria went back into the cave and carried out a big stick that had been alight and was still glowing at one end. She blew on it, trying to get it properly alight so she could start the fire. It went out and she said a short word very loudly. I didn't need to ask her what the word meant. Fortunately, I had a box of matches in my pocket so I got one out, struck it and lit the fire. She looked absolutely amazed and kept saying “Magia”.
When the fire was going properly we picked a bunch of nice young nettles and stuffed them into holes she made in the lump of meat. Then she covered the meat up with ashes at the bottom of the fire. While the meat cooked we had plenty of time to ask each other questions. I asked her what “magia” meant sand she said she would show me. She collected five little round pebbles and gripped them in one hand. Then she threw them, all at the same time, and caught them in the other hand. Then she opened one hand and showed it was empty and so was the other when she opened that. She reached across and retrieved one of the pebbles from behind my ear and did the same four more times until she had all five pebbles in her hand. Then she threw them away. So she thought striking a match was a conjuring trick and I suddenly realised that we had found a word that was nearly the same in French and in Neria's language. “Magia” is the same as “Magie”.
I got my match box out again and got a match out slowly and showed her which end was going to catch fire. Then I struck it and she squeaked with surprise and seemed to have no idea how I had done my magic trick. But then I didn't know how she had done hers.
I thought I'd show her some real magic: I got out my phone and took a picture of her. I showed her the picture and she was absolutely amazed. So I showed her which buttons to press and she took a picture of me.
I pointed at the cooking meat and said “deer”? She said no and signed to say it was a really big animal and then leaned forward and held one arm so it looked as though it were attached to her head and waved it to and fro like the trunk of an elephant at the zoo. Then she made a trumpeting sound just like an elephant. Her name for the animal was “mamutxoa” - quite like those elephants we call “mammouts” in French. She was saying she was cooking me a chunk of mammoth meat. But mammoths have been extinct for thousands of years. She might be good at magic tricks but not that good.
I asked her where the mammoths lived and she said she would show me tomorrow, if I wanted to see where she lived. You could get there on a path through the cave.
It was a really good meal and afterwards we had a swim and washed all the mammoth grease off our hands and faces. When we were dry and dressed she kissed me goodbye and said “see you tomorrow” and I replied “you and some mammoths” just as she disappeared.
When I got home it was only an hour to our evening meal. I wasn't very hungry and sat thinking about Neria and what might happen tomorrow.
Mum said “What's wrong Édouard? You haven't eaten much and you look as though you are worried about something.” I replied “No I'm fine Mum, it's just that I'm not feeling very hungry. I had a mammoth meal at lunch time.”
Before I went to bed I Googled “Mammoth” and learned quite a lot about them. They certainly are extinct, so I think Neria must be joking. Well, it will be fun to find out tomorrow.
Things to think about
- When did mammoths live where you live?
- How do matches work?
- What ways might Neria's family be able to start fires without matches?
- What other animals might live in Neria's World?
Read the next chapter