In celebrating Indigenous Heritage Month, Kaieteur News is featuring literature with themes about our First People.
Here is a brief but unsettling piece by author Ruel Johnson about a hunt that goes terribly wrong.
By Ruel Johnson
Akawaio unslung his long bow from over his shoulder and fitted an arrow to it. The deer glistened like blood-drops against the green grass. The sun was hot: hot against his bronze skin, his short, strong arms, his sturdy thighs, his brow, his back; everything burned.
He aimed at one deer, not one of the largest nor one of the smallest, that stood a bit away from the herd. The bow-string whipped a small sharp breeze against his cheek. He ran through the tall grass watching as the shot deer tried running after her herd until her legs fell out from under her. As he neared her he saw blood smeared on the tall grass. When he reached her he saw that the arrow had pierced less than a hand-space from where he had imagined it entering.
The deer on his shoulders, he set off back for the village. The deer-meat would richen the pot greatly. Aruka would be proud of him; everyone would praise his prowess, would comment on his skill and strength at only seventeen rains. He had gone out alone and come back with food. He could taste the meat and the cassava bread and the piwari in his mouth.
He could see the smoke rising from some fires within the village a short distance away when he heard a low snarl and suddenly he was knocked to the ground. He sprung up again and picked up his bow. His three remaining arrows were a good deal behind the jaguar. He grasped the bow at one end, like a club and swung against the animal. He caught it at the side of its face but before he of Akawaio’s grasp. He turned and started running hard toward the village. He could not hear anything behind him. He was suddenly no longer afraid but angry: the jaguar had taken all proof of his skill. He was nothing without his bow, his arrows, and the deer-meat.
Akawaio turned around.
The fear ran through him, sending his head reeling, causing his knees to buckle. When he finally saw it again, the jaguar was dragging the deer into a clump of bush. It let out a low growl on hearing him but did not let go of the deer.
He picked up his bow and then an arrow and fitted it to the bow. His strength was returning. He shot the jaguar, hitting it in its side. It let out a loud snarl and ran into the bush. He fitted another arrow into the bow and aimed at where he saw a rustling of some leaves. The bow-string snapped, sending the arrow far wide of its intended mark. Akawaio threw down the useless bow, picked up the last arrow and held it like a knife. He would kill the jaguar and then fetch it and the deer to the village.
One month after they found his remains, the first priest came.
(Salvation can be found in the short story collection Ariadne and Other Stories, for which Ruel Johnson won the Guyana Prize for Literature ( First Book of Fiction)
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