“Ok, so now what? What do you use to kill spiders in this world?” It was a rhetorical question, but Tyler could count on his mother for an unexpected answer. “It’s not a spider. It’s a Pilonian Snaptooth.” Tyler bobbed his head up and down in mock assent, with sword raised…”But it’s still going to eat me, right? And, while we’re on the subject, this isn’t Pilonia. How did it get here?” Banjeel held two shindies, one resting lightly on each shoulder while she waited for the crucial moment. “No, Tyler, it is not going to eat you. The Pilonian Snaptooth is not carnivorous. Not generally…unless they’re surprised, which we have apparently done…my apologies.” Tyler waved it off in cavalier fashion, much the same way as his father Tyrfel would. “Oh, it’s all right. It did look like a good place to sleep.” Banjeel lifted one of the shindies from her shoulder. “I really should amend that statement. The ones with the blue markings along their front ribs are carnivorous…and the ones with the yellow…are not.” Tyler nodded again. “So, which one do you think we’ve got here? You know what, I think you put him here yourself, to complete your perfect warrior’s environment, and if that’s true, I figure you’d put in the most dangerous one you could find. How am I doing so far?”
Banjeel was feeling testy. Her motives were being questioned at a most stressful time. “I’m sure I don’t know what in the world you’re talking about, and anyway, I don’t remember what kind he is.” Tyler accepted the truth gracefully. “All right, is there anything else I should know before he maybe eats me or maybe doesn’t?” Banjeel pulled up the second shindie, anticipating the moment. The beast, looming over them by a good twelve feet, jerked its head back and forth as if listening attentively to the snappy exchange. Its eight (ten, depending on its age) arms, which jutted out in four directions by way of four major joints (with a disturbing claw at each end) pointed at the intruders in the same back and forth motion. It almost appeared to be saying, “Your turn! Now your turn! Be quiet, it’s her turn!” Tyler thought it appropriate to ask another silly question. “So why aren’t we just running?” Banjeel stepped closer to him with both weapons in readiness. “In the first place…son (it carried strangely little affection in this moment), they run six times faster than Thunder. Secondly, turning your back on these creatures tends to make them…hungry, that is, of course, if he is a ‘blue rib.’ Third, to do that would be running, and that is unacceptable. Now, take out the other mother blade and hold one before each of its eyes. That should keep him sufficiently occupied, and I can handle the rest. Attentive as before, the beast took a step back and raised itself to an even greater height. Banjeel studied each movement, and crouched for the increased traction she would need for her first spring…”Here it comes,” she whispered. “Here it comes.”
“Here it comes, indeed,” the beast boomed. “Madam, is this savagery with which you raise your children typical of life on the biped worlds? Little wonder that our species have gotten on so poorly…a sword on each eye…I’ll handle the rest…disgusting, repulsive. Oh, you silly thing, do put that stick of yours away. The day I eat anything as deplorable as you is the day I allow myself to starve to death! My word! Where do you people come from?” Tyler let his swords dip an inch or two, but Banjeel motioned for him to bring them up again. “Mom…it talks.” Again, no answer. “Mom…it talks better than I do.” Banjeel was preoccupied. Her rational brain was staying on guard against any lurking deception. The Shindaheen brain was thinking the rest of it over. “Mom,” Tyler continued. “It’s British!” Banjeel moved one eye to him in response…”It’s what?”
The beast interrupted…”I hate to be rude, Madam…sir, but you have indeed surprised me, and although the thought of eating you gives me waking nightmares, I would consider murder if I’m not allowed to sleep soon. So, if you would kindly take up this conversation elsewhere, I would be much obliged. Oh, and your backs are no more appealing than your fronts, so whatever form of exit you choose is perfectly fine with me. And please take your horses with you. They smell worse than the two of you combined.”
No one moved, so the beast tried again…”Madam! In six hours or less, my little yellow ribs and I are going hunting for tundra brush, and if I don’t get enough sleep, I won’t be able to get enough, and will have to eat mosquitoes later. Large as they are, it will take five or six of them to get my fill, and they’re terribly hard to bring down. Now, do you mind?”
Banjeel and Tyler came out of their trance, bowed, smiled sheepishly and backed out of the cave, as far away as they could by nightfall. Over the fire, Banjeel let down her guard, a rare occurrence for a Shindahee. “Tyler, why is that we can’t feel close, no matter how exciting and dangerous our times are?” Tyler, at the height of his ‘cool’ age, came right back. “What do you mean? How many mothers and sons go Pilonian Snaptooth hunting together? That’s great stuff.” That response falling flat, he refined the next one. “No, it’s not that. It’s a guy thing, I guess. It is pretty interesting having a mother who’s three feet taller than my football coach. But, there’s a softer side to things that make life…nice. You know, bake sales…cherry pie, bedtime stories when you’re little…that sort of thing.” Banjeel nodded in agreement, but in truth didn’t understand at all. Tyler returned to his ‘devil may care’ style.
“It’s just harder to have a normal human existence when you have Thor for a mother…and when she isn’t there.” That one, Banjeel understood, and Tyler had no idea how much it hurt. In fact, he was almost amused at what he’d said, being the only person in the universe who could speak to the queen of the Shindaheen Sisterhood in such a way, without putting himself at peril. He felt obliged, of course, to put on the finishing touch. “You’ve probably never heard of another guy thing. It’s called, ‘My dad can beat up your dad.’ We’d have had to change the rules to ‘My mom can beat up your neighborhood.'”
As a teenager, Tyler might not have been entirely in touch with himself, but he instantly realized what was going on. He was a young man who ran deep, and had the knack for showing up in the right way at the right moment. Banjeel had, quite appropriately, given birth to a quiet hero whose quiet hand found hers as she stared forlornly into the fire. He made a note of how massive that hand was, but the heart remembered its mission…”Mom.” That in itself terrified her. “Neither one of us is very good at this, but I’m really grateful for what you’re trying to do. We’ll be all right.” Anyone else would have dissolved, but the Shindaheen queen allowed one tear to complete its journey before falling into the fire. One brief and thankful smile extended to the marvelous boy, and she was back in her own world.
If only we all knew, when we were young, the power of such a moment. If every child could just say it once, with a squeeze of the hand…”Mom, I’m really grateful for what you’re trying to do. We’ll be all right.” Maybe that moment won’t decide the fate of nations, but as one cool drop of water in a desert of human relations, a mother can thrive on it for a surprisingly long while, and it will never be forgotten…especially if you’re a queen in a cave, staring at the fire between a rock and a hard place, as so many are.