She stormed into the living room, throwing her tools at the storage bench. The clatter would have startled him, if he hadn’t heard her cursing all the way up the hill. “Vile-assed, scum-eating, mouth-breathing idiots!” She pointed an angry finger at him. “They wouldn’t know competence if it dropped a hammer on their toe, and all they can do is sit around and make stupid fucking comments about women’s body parts.”
“Sweetheart, really. You shouldn’t let the Neanderthals get to you like this.”
“I’m not talking about the Neanderthals. You don’t get it. I’m about fucking ready to move in with the Neanderthals. This is the men in your clan. The so-called progressive males of our vaunted fucking Cro-Magnon community. They’re a bunch of mis-bred, ill-trained, self-absorbed, mouth breathing, own-breath-smelling…”
“Oh, Sorry. I misunderstood. What happened?”
“Just more of the fucking same. They’re perfectly happy to add my kills to the pile — and I was the only one with a kill today, again — but when it comes to dividing it up, do I get a hunters’ count? I get the goddamn nuts-and-berries count, and jokes about how they have some meat I can… never mind. I’ll be okay, lover. I’m sorry. I just need to sit outside for a minute.”
She left. He limped over to the bench, picked up the knife where it had fallen onto the ground, gave it a once-over. It had a good-sized flake out of the edge that hadn’t been missing this morning. There it was, on the ground beneath the bench. She must have been pissed. He headed back to his workshop, pulled a knife out of the “new” stack he’d made that week, placed it on her bench.
She was sitting on the log outside, staring at the horizon. He sat down next to her.
She chuckled. “Sorry.”
“You gotta be more careful with your knives. I just had to replace another one.”
“Your high-maintenance woman, that’s me. Where are the kids?”
“Helping my mom with the baskets. Bad today, sounds like.”
“Actually, you know what? It wasn’t any worse than any other day. This shit just builds up. It was a good hunt. Got us an Elasmotherium.”
“No shit!” He whistled. It’d be a nice break from aurochs.
“Yeah, it ran like hell. And so did I. And to tell you the truth, some of the other hunters backed me up when it came to divide the meat. A couple of them did, anyway. I got us the liver, some good flank.”
“Hell yes! I’ll get the fire going.”
“Not just yet. I’m not going to be hungry for a bit. Anyway, it’s not so bad as I made it out. It’s just that that asshole Bradley and the rest of his Bro-Magnon friends take every opportunity they can to shit-talk me, steal my tools, and all the time I’m saving their inept asses from the goddamn cave bear. Same old shit. ‘Woman no hunt, woman find berries and make babies,’ same fucking thing my mother put up with her whole life. We’re at the Last Glacial Maximum, for fuck’s sake! I can’t believe women are still dealing with this shit!”
They sat in silence for a time.
“You know,” he said after a while, “some of the hunters talk to me about you when they come for new knives or points. They say things I’d never have expected to hear ten years ago, about how women can be just as good hunters as men. I do really think you’re making a difference.”
“Well, Bradley’s never gonna fucking change. But he’s never gonna mate either. His attitude dies when he does. Those other guys? I think they’re listening. I mean, they might be saying nice things so that I’ll give them sharper knives and all. But they’d never even have done that ten years ago. Not my father. Not his father.”
” I mean it. By the time our daughters are grown, things are gonna be a lot better. You’re changing things for the better. They’ll be treated the same as any man.”
“Fuck, I hope so. You always know how to talk me out of my funk. But to tell you the truth, by the time you came out here I was mostly thinking how beautiful the sun looks on the glaciers.”
“It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?”
“You really think they’re melting away?”
“As near as I can calculate.” He shrugged. “They used to be right here when I was born, and now they’re a day’s walk away.”
“Bradley thinks you’re being an alarmist.”
“Bradley’s a fucking idiot.”