The bed of coals is perfect when the men strut into camp, larger than life with spears in hand and slabs of beef on their shoulders. The women are up on their feet whooping and dancing. Gail is back on the job, with the station ready to operate once she completes checking what she’s already re-checked three times over. Nevertheless, she pauses to take on the role of observer.
“An exemplary example of the hunt celebrated,” she notes, although the libidinous dance of the women strikes her as being more suggestive of fertility rites, and makes her a tad uncomfortable. There is also some discomfort in seeing the glistening slabs of fresh flesh the men are laden with, meat so fresh it almost seems alive.
Spears are stood in the ground and the meat is dropped on the bed of leaves. Red gets on his knees, cutting off chunks and hoisting them onto the coals, filling the air with a rich aroma in no time. Dixie proudly holds what he calls the best cut, and once Gail has inspected the choice fillet she’s informed that it’s especially for her. She thanks him respectfully, but grieves over matters of a sanitary nature as interested flies lazily buzz around the bloodied meat left lying on the leaves. When Rusty licks the blood on his hands she recoils, only for her repulsion to be undermined by hunger and the scent of the cooking flesh. Guilt then promptly plays its trump card, catching her off-guard. Meat, she reminds herself, has been recently eliminated from her diet on grounds of being philosophically unsound; the sisterhood know, after all, the slaying of animals only reflects men’s violent domination of the world. But with juices running in her mouth, and her stomach rumbling, such a point of view is judiciously set aside. Furthermore, the rhythm of feet pounding the earth as the women continue celebrating is starting to move her.
As a precaution she turns her attention to the station, running through a final checklist before making it operational. Satisfied everything is functioning as it should be, she makes the appropriate announcement with a hearty sigh. Everybody ceases what they’re doing and gazes at the weather station, convinced it looked no different to how it did when it wasn’t turned on.
“And you reckon it bin gonna tell you when it gonna rain?” Dixie asks dubiously.
“Absolutely. You’ll be surprised.”
Gail chuckles confidently.
The ensuing feast is more like a pagan rite in Gail’s opinion. No crockery, no cutlery, only a huge steak placed on a small bunch of green leaves, seized in both hands and torn into after brushing errant charcoal bits aside. The meat is tender, the taste delightful, quite unlike any steak she’s previously had. The damper is moist and light, with a wholesome crust, and the tea to wash it down with is thick and sweet. Where to wipe her mouth and hands after indulging poses a problem, but following Beth’s example she settles on trousers and shirt sleeves after licking her fingers clean.
By the time the meal is finished the sun is dipping into the trees on the rise, softening the campsite with speckled shade. And a pleasant breeze caresses sweaty skin and despatches the bothersome flies. Gail is laying on the ground, labouring with the task of digesting the solid lump in her stomach, like everyone else. Wriggling her naked toes and gurgling at the sky, she whimsically wonders how eating food could get any better.
(A sample from Donkey Dundee by Russell Roberts)