TWO MOTHERS AND ONE PAIN
Several years before she found herself shivering and shaking under the baleful gaze of the gorilla, Mirumdoo had given birth to twins. There had been one of each sex and she had been delighted. An instant family!
At the age of about ten they had done what Neanderthal children always did: they had left home to have spouses and families of their own. So Mirumdoo had grandchildren somewhere back in the homeland, way over the sundering seas and somewhere in the continent that would, one day, be called Africa.
And when she looked into the face of that fearsome gorilla she saw something she recognised, something that drew back memories from the days when she had nursed her little ones. Owongoo had been no help: the moment they squawked or did any of the irritating things babies do he was off, using the hunt as an excuse. They had eaten well back then because having two babies there was a great deal more squawking than in other caves, and Owongoo did an unnecessary amount of hunting.
But she hadn't been irritated. Babies squawk, and that was a sound that oozed into her psyche and awoke the deepest maternal feelings a female of any species can feel. And now, here in the wilds of a strange and almost forbidding country, she could almost feel the way motherhood makes a heart beat differently when she looked into the eyes of the huge gorilla.
This creature, this beast, knew what it was like to be a mother, and for some reason Mirumdoo couldn't be expected to know about it was hurting inside. And it was that hurt that she recognised. Her own twins had, from time to time, become ill, and Owongoo Junior had even broken one of his legs so badly that the bone stuck through when he'd been climbing where he'd been told not to climb. Sickness and injuries in her young hurt them, but they also hurt Mirumdoo as well. She was a mother, and she felt their pain.
So she looked at the gigantic primate and nodded her head sympathetically.
“I understand,” she whispered, simply.
The primate looked back at her and then reached out a hand.
Without so much as giving it a moment's thought Mirumdoo took that hand gently in her own and climbed up the slope to the creature.
“I understand,” she whispered again.
Without pulling and in no way threatening the gorilla led Mirumdoo along a ledge and into a cave that was barely lit by the light from outside. And in that cave, in a dusty, dusky corner, a baby gorilla lay weeping.
Mirumdoo couldn't help herself. She took herself right up to the creature, so close she could hear every whimper on its fragrant breath, and she saw what was wrong. Just as her own son, when he had been little, had broken his leg, so had this young gorilla. How it had happened Mirumdoo couldn't guess and she shared no language with its mother to ask what had occurred. But one thing was clear: she, Mirumdoo, knew how to help the leg to heal and the gorilla didn't. Primate it might have been, but its limited intelligence knew only how to watch the injured slowly die.
Without giving it a second thought Mirumdoo started to deal with the injury, and the gorilla looked on, confused, puzzled but aware that help was being offered to her injured child.
Mirumdoo, with supreme gentility, contrived to ease the shattered bones into a semblance of where they should have been. She was patient, the infant wriggled until she whispered calming words to it, and smiled a warm Neanderthal smile. Then she cast about her for a stick that would make a splint, and found one propped up in the corner of the cave, next to the remnants of a dead creature that was probably being kept for supper. But that dead creature still had its skin, and Mirumdoo managed to create a bandage from it and wrap it firmly round the splint until the leg was immobile. Then she left the cave to look for what she needed to prevent infection, and she found some straight away.
Growing within yards of the cave entrance was a patch of wild garlic, and she collected an armful and took it back into the cave. She squeezed the small garlic cloves until she had a barely adequate quantity of aromatic liquid, which she soothed into the bandage, pushing it in so that it bathed the wound with its fragrant and very medicinal balm.
“It will heal,” she told the gorilla, and by some magic or the simple mind-to-mind contact of understanding mothers, it seemed to understand. Mirumdoo smiled at her, then said, equally quietly “I must go now because that silly man of mine is bound to get himself in trouble sooner or later.”
The gorilla led her out of the cave, and compulsively Mirumdoo kissed her before starting on the path that led the way she had come, back down the mountain.
Meanwhile, Owongoo gazed at the giant lake monster and tried to work out how he might kill it.
© Peter Rogerson 24.06.12