Sharptooth: 11

Repeat: If this isn’t your thing, please come back on 12/1 (why yes, that is this coming Wednesday…). Today through Tuesday you might expect to see multiple posts each day. Again, read or don’t read.

Quick refresher: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Unlikely that I’ll get past 25,000 words before the deadline at this point, but why quit?

Need to get caught up? Here are the previous entries:


11

“KitKat!” her father exclaims when he sees her in the doorway. “School over already?” He glances at his watch.

“What’s that?” she asks, ignoring his question and climbing onto a stool next to him at his work bench.

“Watercress,” he says, picking up a tiny, unfamiliar looking seedling and waving it in front of her. “Your favorite.”

“Doesn’t look like watercress. It’s barely even green.”

“Yes, well that’s part of the experiment here, seeing what happens when it’s exposed to different conditions.” He lays the plant back down on the damp towel, removes his gloves, and takes a seat on the stool next to her.

“How about you. What did Primary have to offer for your entertainment today.”

When she grown, this is exactly how she will remember him, lighthearted and slightly irreverent about school, a counterbalance to her mother.

“We put on a play,” she says, excitedly, “about the wild hogs and their babies and the hyenas. We made costumes and crawled around looking for acorns.”

“And truffles, right?”

“No, that was the story before. This one was about how the wild hog mothers took care of their babies and kept them safe.”

“And ate watercress,” he says, pointing to his trays and smiling.

“No,” she says, suddenly serious. “Only acorns. That’s what the story says.”

“They ate acorns, sure,” he says, “but they ate other things too – plants and nuts and whatever they found in the forest. The acorns are just one detail.”

He has upset her, he sees. “It’s been so long since I was in school, I’ve forgotten all those stories. Maybe we should read it together so you can remind me? You can act out all the parts, just you. How about that.”

“OK!” she says, her face brightening. “Are we going to do it in here?” she asks, looking around the small laboratory.

“Hmmm. No.” He shakes his head. “How about helping me tidy up here then we move to the library?”

He puts on fresh gloves, arranges the seedlings in their containers, sets them in a box and turns on a purple light. “See you tomorrow,” he says to the plants while she pushes the stools up under the counter edge. He hands her his coat to take to the hamper, stacks his papers, leaves the towel with his tools in place.

As they walk down the hall, she points to one of the prints on the wall. “Acorns!” she says.

“Yes, acorns!” They pause. “Fascinating, aren’t they? Their design is ingenious. It’s part of why we have them still, why oak trees have survived for so long. The acorns in this drawing aren’t so different from the ones you read about today.”

“How do you know?” She is puzzled. “How do you know these acorns are the same?”

“Oh, easy,” he says. “Fossils. DNA. Chemistry.” He jabs a finger at her, playfully. “Things you’ll learn all about when you, too, decide to follow science and become a Botanist. We save the world, you know, we Botanists.”

She is thoughtful for a minute. “Could I write about plants?” she asks. “Because all of the women in our family have been Writers, so I will be one, too, won’t I?”

He couches on his knees so they are eye to eye. “If you choose that, yes. And yes, you can write about plants. You can write schoolbooks or news stories, so people can learn about the fascinating world of botany. You could even write a book about a Botanist named Silas and all of his experiments on plants that grow in water. Sound good?”

She nods.

“But first,” he continues, rising up and grabbing her hand, “you have to remind me about the wild hogs and the hyenas.”

They had the library to themselves, and he helped her move chairs and ottomans to create a make-believe forest for the story. She pulled a stack of books from a low shelf and lay them out in a curvy line on the rug. “That’s the river,” she said to her father, “so don’t step in it.”

When she had everything set to her liking, she pulled the slim book from her satchel and gave it to her father. “You,” she said, “will be the narrator AND you’ll also be Sharptooth, because she doesn’t do anything but watch. OK?”

“I don’t have to climb a tree – or a ladder that we’re pretending is a tree – do I?” he asked.

She shook her head.

“OK then,” he said, settling into a soft chair and opening the book to read:

How the Wild Hogs Protected their Young

Sharptooth watched the wild hogs every day. She learned many things from them. They were peaceful unless they were disturbed, so she was not afraid of them.

The wild hogs lived on fruits, wild nuts, and roots, just like Sharptooth did.

When they had eaten all they wanted, they moved to the river for water.

When they rested, they hid in reedy marshes. The hid in thorny thickets. They always stayed together.

Sharptooth watched them from high in her tree. She saw that the littlest pigs had long, light stripes. The littlest pigs stayed closest to their mothers. The larger pigs had lost their stripes. They, too, stayed with their mothers because they were not strong enough to protect themselves.

There were many full-grown hogs with tusks.

Sharptooth watched them eating acorns.

A pack of hyenas was watching, too. The hyenas were hiding in the underbrush, stalking the smaller pigs.

But the old hogs scented danger. They gathered the smaller pigs together. The strongest ones stood in a circle around the young. The white tusks of the largest hogs glistened in the sunlight and made them look fierce. They would fight to protect the young pigs.

The hyenas were afraid. They sneaked away through the underbrush.

The Treedwellers

As he read the last line, he watched her slink on all fours under a table and into the shadows. “Bravo!” he said, clapping. “Well done.”

She climbed from under the table to stand and take a bow.

“You were very fierce as a mother hog and very scary-looking as a hyena,” he said, approvingly. “You had my full attention.”

“You always say that,” she replied, hands on her hips.

“And it’s always true,” he said, patting for her to sit in his lap. “And now for the questions, your favorite part!” She groaned. “What kinds of plants do you think were in those reedy marshes and thorny thickets, hm? What gave those mother hogs and their little piglets such good cover?”

“I know what you’re going to say,” she said. “You’re going to say it was watercress, aren’t you?”

He laughed. “No, not watercress, not for cover anyway. Though they probably nibbled on some for food. No, no; the reedy marshes were probably horsetail, or something like it. Shall we have a look?”

She knew this was his favorite part of their time together in the library, when she came to visit him on school days. “Yes,” she said, “let’s have a look.” She turned so they were both facing out to the walls of shelves that were filled, floor to ceiling, with books, all bound in red, navy, or green. “Where shall we start?” She tapped her finger to her mouth in mock contemplation, knowing that he knew exactly where to find this answer.

He lifted her off his lap, set her in the chair, and said, “Ah, I think I know just the place.” He walked to the far side of the room, carefully avoiding the “river” that was still in the middle of the rug, and pulled out a green book. “Everything there is to know about the plant called ‘horsetail,’” he said, crossing back to the chair and settling in beside her. “Let’s see if there’s anything in here about ‘reedy marshes for hiding wild pigs’ shall we?”

He opened to the index. “Hmmm. Nothing here under ‘pig.’” He turned a page. “Nothing under ‘hog,’ either.” Looks like this volume will be ready for a full revision when Katharine the Writer is ready to launch her career.”

He flipped to a page of vintage illustrations. “It’s really a beautiful plant,” he continued. “A bit invasive, but beautiful – and very sturdy.”

“What happens to this book, if I write a new one?” she asks, as he turns to a page of photographs. “Would there be two books about horsetail then?”

“Well, no,” he says, “of course there wouldn’t be two. The new one would replace this one. The new one – when you write it – will have everything we need to know, all that has been learned since this one was printed.” He closes the book and holds it in the air. “So, this one would head straight to the incinerator.” He makes a sound to imitate a roaring fire. “They’d keep one copy in the vault, just for record keeping; but all of the other copies, including this one, would be eliminated.”

She takes the book from his hand. “But this is a lovely book. And it’s your book, in your library. Wouldn’t you want to keep it?”

“That’s not how libraries work, KitKat,” taking back the book and rising to place it back on the shelf. He gestures to all of the books in the room. “All of these books hold what we know right now, everything we need to know. When someone makes a discovery and writes about it, if the idea makes it far enough to be worth writing and a Publisher approves, then a new book replaces the old one. Keeps everything tidy.”

He starts moving the chairs and footstools back into their proper places. “Time to put away the ‘river’ for today, I think,” he says.

She picks up the books, one by one, and sets them back on their shelf with newfound reverence, not wanting any of them to need replacing.


Total word count as of 2:30 p.m. on 11/25/21: 13,198/50,000 (don’t even…)

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