William Kotzwinkle
Elephant Boy; a story of the stone age

The baboons watched in silence from the cliffs. The sun was rising.

The leaves were wet. The boy and his father walked to the water.

"A fish," said Father softly. The boy crept to the water with his spear, but the fish darted to the bottom of the pool. "We will catch him," said Father.

Animals were moving through the tall grass. "Shhh!" said Father. "You do not want to be eaten. Then you will be gone." They laid a net. The boy saw the rippling body of a snake in the water.

They walked together up the hill, to their cave. It was the Great Bear's cave long ago, but they had smoked him out.

The boy fed wood to the fire. It licked at his fingers. If he was not careful, the fire would eat him.

Deep inside the cave, the old man was working. The boy helped him.

The old man was called Shining Stone. The boy had no name, for he had done nothing yet, nor had anything happened to him.

"Eat," said Mother. The boy held out a strange fruit he had found in the forest. "Show it to Shining Stone," said Father. The old man tasted the fruit and closed his eyes. He handed it back to the boy with a smile. "Eat."

The sun was high now. Monkeys talked in the trees. The boy wrestled Father. Some day, he thought, I will wrestle the Great Bear.

"A pig!" cried the boy. They chased him into the swamp. "Do not go after him," said Father. He showed the boy the place were the swamp had sucked a man under.

They went to the river to swim. But the Great Bison came to drink.

At the end of day, they went back to the shadowy pool. Their net was filled with fish!

Mother put the fish on a stick over the fire, and they ate.

Everyone watched the sun go down and the old man asked Him to return soon.

Then it was dark.

The Bright One threw himself across the sky. The night birds cried. In the forest, the animals were hunting.

The boy crawled into his animal skin, and slept.

He became an animal and roamed the wood in the moonlight, down the way of the dreamer.

The days turned gray. "Winter is coming," said Father. It passed over the water. It moved through the trees. The boy felt it on his fingers and toes.

The fruits and nuts were gone. They hunted the frightened deer.

Father hung the deerskins at the mouth of the cave. Shining Stone carried the horns and they climbed the mountain.

High up, where the Great Birds had their nest, was a dark cave. The boy laid the horns down. Now the spirit of the deer could be born again.

As they came down the mountain, the old man stopped and said, "The elephants are coming. They look for grass." The boy ran along the cliffs. He heard the rumbling of a storm.

The rumbling grew louder. He climbed down from the cliff and waited. The elephants crashed through the trees, and the ground shook. They came by, close enough to touch.

He ran along behind them to the river bank. They crossed the river and disappeared down the valley. Soon their footsteps were far away.

The boy ran back to the cave. "Look!" He held up a long hair he had pulled from an elephant's tail. "I will make you a necklace," said Shining Stone. He strung teeth from the Great Bear on the hair of the elephant.

"Now you have a name. We will call you Elephant Boy."