OLD NOW THESE BONES, AND ONE LEG WITH A STICK TO HELP
It, old now. He sits, this old one with his stick, on the beach and the agar
About him all spread to dry. It is good the stick, to turn the spread agar and
to poke the ashes round the big camp oven.
She makes the camp oven bread, my daughter, in the morning early, early,
as did the mother before her. Good bread, this of the camp oven, and the work
of this old one to poke the ashes and turn the spread agar with the stick.
Too old now these bones and this leg for the work of young days, and so they go,
Those of young days, to collect the agar from the sea, while this old one he tends the
Fire and with the stick turns the agar to dry. His work, too, to guard the little one
who sleeps there in the tent. A great-grandson this, who sleeps on his rug in the tent.
He wakes, this young one, then it is the work of this old one to wave his stick
For the mother to come and tend him. But no – sleeps the little one, Sleeps he.
Soon they will return, those who gather agar, with kits full and backs tired. Back
To camp to rest and eat, then before nightfall to pick up the dried agar and tramp
It into the bale. Then to get ready the beds in the tent and then to sleep, for it is
Much work this gathering of agar.
Many years now since last we came to camp and gather agar here. Young days then I and the leg without a stick to help it. Two good legs then, and a back strong. Two good eyes,
And the hands to pull the agar from the warm sea.
But a sad time that, when last we came to this place. Died here, my wife, when last we came. Drowned she, under crayfish rock, now named Huria’s rock for her. No more to that rock
Since then for crayfish. We leave it to her, to Huria – it is her resting place.
It was large, the crowd that came that year for agar. A good tide that day – the day she died –
And the top of crayfish rock showing above the water. Many were there gathering agar
In shallow water, but Huria, she took her kit and started out to crayfish rock and took
Her boy with her. We who picked the agar could see the boy sitting ion the rock with the kit,
And many times Huria came to him with crayfish.
A good day for crayfish this, thought I. A good day and a good time.
Then looked again to the rock, and the boy he stood looking into the water. Waiting and
Looking, with the crayfish from the kit crawling about him on the rock.
To the rock then I, calling her name. The others, they left the agar and came behind
Me for they had seen the spilled crayfish, and the boy waiting and looking down
Into the sea.
A sad time this. Caught in a crack of the rock we found her, and much work it was to
free her for we who mourned.
Lonely years since then for his old one who sits now on the beach. But she will come soon.
Huria, and now I see her sitting there on the rock. Look away the I, for they are od now, these eyes.
But then back again to the rock and still she sits. It is Huria. She has come.
‘For this old one?’ I call. But her head is turned away.
‘Huria, Hjuria,’ but she looks not at me.
‘It is time then, for this old one?’ I say.
But she moves then, Huria. Puts out her hand to the tent. To the tent then I, quickly, with
The stick working for the leg. Into the tent. But he sleeps, the little one, sleeps peacefully’
Out then and looking to the rock, and still she sits, Huria, still she looks to the tent.
‘Sleeping, the young one’ I call. ‘Come not for the young but the old.’
Then stands Huria, and moves nearer, looking to the tent.
Quickly then I, to the lagoon where they gather agar, and Wave my stick. She waves,
The mother of the little one, and comes to me.
‘He is sick, the little one. Go to your baby,’ I say.
Drops the kit of agar then, and runs to the tent.
‘He sleeps, Grandpa,’ she calls from the tent.
‘Go to him,’ I say. ‘He is sick. Huria, she comes for the little one.’ I show her Huria but
She does not see.
‘You sit too much in the sun, Grandpa,’ she says. ‘And you think too much of Huria.
It was wrong to come to this place for agar. It was bad to bring you here.’
‘Huria she is close, I say to her and pull her into the tent with me, to the little one.
Screams then, and pulls my stick from my hand.
‘The spider Grandpa – the katipo,’ and beats at the blanket where sleeps the young
One. Beats and beats the katipo with the stick. Picks up the little one then as she wakes
‘Safe my baby,’ she says. ‘Our Grandpa has saved you. Safe now,’ she says.
Out then I to look for one who gave us warning. But gone, Huria. Gone she who
Helped the old one guard the young.
But tired, the old one. Tired. And soon she will be back, Huria, for the old one
With the stick.
Soon she comes.
THOUGHT I'S SHARE A SHORT STORY TO GET YOU INTERESTED IN PATRICIA GRACE'S COLLECTED SHORT STORIES (https://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writer/grace-patricia
(Patricia Frances Grace DCNZM QSO is a Māori writer of novels, short stories, and children's books. Her first published work, Waiariki, was the first collection of short stories by a Māori woman writer. She has been described as "a key figure in contemporary world literature and in Maori literature in English)