I've Still Had Worse Birthdays | Fiction


The hunter pulled his spear shaft from the boar with a sickening, sloppy sound. The freshly cadaverous body released the haft not unlike a bottle releasing a cork; it came suddenly and was followed swiftly with a deep red flow. This river carried not the tang of tannins or bouquet of the barrel, but the iron bite of blood. He grimaced in distaste as the gore welled on the ground at his feet, slopping up over the leather sole of his sandals and squeezing between his toes. He was glad that he had hunted alone; he could only imagine the shit any of his clan’s other hunters would have given him.

He leaned his weight on his right leg and the spear in his right hand, kicking at the boar with his left in an attempt to roll it over. The injury – a spear wound through the still-beating heart of the boar – pumped blood as the corpse rolled and he was covered to the waist in the spray. He would laugh, he thought, if he saw this happen to anyone else; instead, he stood aghast at his own continuing misjudgment and misfortune.

As the last pulses of the boar’s life poured out onto the forest floor, he exhaled long and confounded, the force of his breath flapping his lips in incredulity. “But the boar’s dead, so that’s a thing,” he thought to himself. “At least the hearth will eat for a few days.” He scouted the ground for deadfall branches to build a litter; he wasn’t the strongest in the clan and there’s no way he could shoulder a beast this size. At least he still had his spear. As he comforted himself with that last thought, he glanced over at the end of the haft. 

“Ah, fuck!” he grumbled, out loud, but clearly to an audience of only himself. 

The spear had lost its point. 

The carefully knapped chunk of obsidian had come free of its bindings inside the animal, and he did not relish fishing around inside its heart; the escalating gore aside, the obsidian was sure to shred his fingers with its array of razor-sharp points.

“You know,” he continued to his inner audience, “all of this and I’ve still had worse birthdays.”