The following morning, I lounged in the grass, keeping a casual eye on Nar as he sorted through the stalks of bamboo that he had dragged across the bridge. At first, it looked as if he were, indeed, planning to build another raft. He laid out several armloads of stalks, side by side, and trimmed them so they were all the same length. When he had enough to make a decent-sized raft, he tied them together with vines. So far, so good, but he was going to need several more layers on that thing because it was pretty flimsy. But instead of adding another layer across the first one, he laid out more stalks on the ground and made a second raft. Now I was curious. Was he going to make a raft for himself and another one for Zan? That didn't make sense, because it took two people, one on each side, to move a raft in a straight line. With only one person to paddle, the raft would go around in a circle, which would be amusing but not practical. I became even more puzzled as I watched him make two more rafts. Now he had four. What the hell was he doing? Were two of them for Wimsie and me? If so, they wouldn't do us any good, because dogs can't paddle a raft. I sat up to get a better view.
Nar slung several short sections of vine over his shoulder, and then he called Zan over to help him.When she arrived, he lifted up one side of the first raft that he had made, until the whole thing was vertical. Then he told her to hold it there and keep it from falling over. It couldn't have been very heavy, in spite of its size, because the stalks of bamboo were hollow. She braced herself and held the first raft in place while he picked up one end of the second raft. Maneuvering his raft over to hers, so they were at right angles to each other, he tied the edges of the rafts together. Then he brought the third raft over and attached it at right angles to the other side of the raft that Zan was holding. At that point, all three rafts were able to stand up on their own, without anyone holding them.
"What are you making?" Zan finally asked as she let go of her raft.
"I saw them in a dream," Nar replied. "It's a 'house.' People were building them and living in them. They're like caves, but they don't have to be in a cliff. They can be almost anywhere."
Zan suddenly remembered one of her own dreams. "I saw houses, too!" she said excitedly. "They were all in rows along wide, flat paths, like those tall caves that I saw." Then she frowned. "But I don't think they were made of bamboo."
"I could make a house out of trees," Nar said confidently. "I saw some houses that were made of big slabs of wood." He shrugged. "But I figured I would try the bamboo first."
I looked at Nar in utter disbelief. A house made out of trees? Well, I intended to be around for that show. The humans had lived happily under the elephant-ear trees, and just as happily in the cave, but now, thanks to those damned truffle-dreams, the cave wasn't good enough for them. They reminded me of a pair of beavers that Wimsie and I had seen. The beavers had flooded a whole valley with their enormous lodge, which was far larger than they could possibly need, but they kept adding more sticks to it anyway. The beavers had probably eaten some truffles. It wouldn't surprise me.
Nar fastened the fourth raft, which wasn't quite as wide as the others, to the edge of one of the other rafts. That made a four-sided "house", with an opening in the front.
Already thinking ahead, Zan pointed at the top of the structure. "What if it rains?"
"I need to put a 'roof' on it," Nar said. "Like the ceiling of our cave. It goes across the top of the 'walls,' and keeps the rain out."
"The walls?" Zan asked.
Nar patted one of the rafts. "The sides of the house."
Zan folded her arms. "And how are you going to get up there?"
She had a point. The tops of the walls were higher than Nar could reach. A monkey could make it, but Nar would have to fly up. Or so I thought.
Zan went back to the cave, where she had been working on her own project, a large basket with a lid. She knew when to get out of the way. Nar sat and stared at the house for a while, and then he picked up his axe and went over to the small pile of bamboo stalks that were left. He put two long stalks on the ground, about a foot apart, and notched them with the axe. Then he chopped another stalk into short sections, which he attached crossways to the two long stalks. When he was finished with the new item, he took it over to the house, propped it against one of the walls, and climbed to the top.
The odds that Nar would Fuck Things Up had just increased dramatically, so I sat up and paid close attention. I didn't want to miss a thing. Nar spent some time perched up there at the top of the wall, trying to figure out how to make a roof. Then he climbed down, grabbed his axe, and headed for the bridge. A short while later, he returned with more bamboo stalks, and when he had enough to make a roof, he cut them to the length that he wanted, a bit longer than the longest wall. He leaned several of them against the wall, near the cross-stalk contraption that he had made, and then he climbed up again and placed the stalks across the top of the walls. After studying the arrangement, he wasn't satisfied with it, so he climbed down, trimmed three more stalks, and tied them together so they made a sturdy bundle. It took some maneuvering, and considerable up-and-down, but he finally succeeded in positioning the bundle across the top of the wall that had the opening in it, which made that wall a bit taller than the other three. When the bundle was in place, he tied one end of each roof-stalk to it. That gave the roof a gentle slope.
I strolled over to the entrance of the house, went in, and looked up at the roof from inside. I could see a lot of sky in between the stalks, and it was obvious that the roof wasn't going to stop the rain. Slow it down, maybe. Give it pause for thought. But not stop it. And if someone got wet, it wasn't going to be me, because I had no intention of living in a leaky house. We didn't need a house. I liked my dry bed in the cave.
Nar came through the entrance and frowned up at the roof. He stood there for a long time. I could tell that he didn't want to get wet, either, but he seemed to have run out of ideas. Zan finally called, "Dinner!" and he gave up on the roof and headed for the cave to have something to eat. So did I. When our meal was done, we went back to the house. Nar showed Zan the thing that he had built to climb on, which he called a "ladder," and then he motioned for her to go inside the house.
"The roof isn't finished, but I don't know what else to do with it," Nar said. "The rain will come right in." Clearly, he was hoping that she would think of something. And she did.
"Cover the bamboo with things that overlap," Zan said. "Like the leaves on the calladia trees that we used to live under."
A-ha! I finally had a name for those damned elephant-ear trees. Calladias. Well, that was a relief, like scratching an itch.
"The leaves will wilt," Nar pointed out, "and we'll have to keep going upriver to get more."
Zan shrugged. "Then we can use something else. Like rushes." She turned and walked briskly out of the house, heading for the river. I recognized the look on her face -- it meant that she had an Idea.
"How are we going to use rushes?" Nar asked, still looking up at the roof. When he didn't get an answer, he glanced behind him and saw that Zan had already taken off. Wimsie and I took off, too. It was difficult to keep an eye on both humans at once, and since Zan was where the action was, we followed her.
Using the flint tool that Nar had made for her, Zan sliced through the rushes a handful at a time, and when she had enough to make an armload, she carried them to the house. After collecting the scraps of vine that Nar had left all over the place, she began to tie the rushes together in flat bundles that fanned out, sort of like a bird's tail. She made a lot of bundles. Then she cut some long sections of vine, draped them over her shoulder, and climbed the ladder to the roof.
I couldn't see what she was doing up there, so I went inside the house and tried to peek through the chinks in the roof. As far as I could tell, she was weaving the vine back and forth across the roof. When she came to the end of one vine, she tied another one to it, until she had strung the whole roof with vines. Then she climbed down and went to find Nar, so she could show him her Idea.
Nar practically ran to the house to see what she had come up with. "What are these for?" he asked, holding up one of the fan-shaped bundles.
"They're 'shingles,' to keep the rain from coming in," Zan explained. "I ran vines across the roof to hold them on. They have a bump at the top, where the rushes are folded in half. See?" She pointed to the bump on the shingle that Nar was holding. "If I shove the bumps under the vines, the shingles won't fall off." She climbed the ladder with a couple of shingles, and wiggled them into place under the vine that was closest to the back wall of the house. Nar brought her more shingles, and she kept working until she ran out, about halfway up the roof. At that point, she paused for a drink and a snack. Then she gathered more rushes and made more shingles. By sundown, she was done with the roof. She brought all the bedding over from the cave, and arranged it in one corner of the house, and that's where we spent the night. I must admit that the house was rather cozy and den-like. It was darker inside than the cave, which had sparkly white walls that reflected whatever light there was. Even moonlight. I decided that I could get used to an above-ground den.
But the very next morning, Nar ruined the house. At least in my opinion. He had made another axe, a smaller one with a shorter handle, and he used it to hack an opening into one of the walls.
Zan came over to watch. "Why did you do that?" she asked him.
"It's a 'window,' so we can see out from inside the house," Nar replied, still hacking at the wall. "There were windows in the houses that I dreamed about."
I was puzzled by the idea of "windows." If he wanted to look at the scenery outside the house when he was inside the house, why didn't he just go outside? It seemed silly to build a house and then put holes in the walls to see out of.
"It will let more light in, too," Zan said, "so we can work on things in here when it rains." I rolled my eyes at that comment. Rainy days were for napping, as any dog knew. Dog logic and human logic were rapidly parting ways.
It was becoming clear to me that the humans were extracting information from their truffle-dreams, just like Wimsie and I did with our Big Cosmic Dream. Our Big Dream would usually, but not always, remind us of the names and characteristics of animals and plants that we encountered, and it also gave us some general ideas about the world so we had a sense of how everything was put together. That was all a dog needed, really. The dreams we'd had on Truffle Island had been fun, but not very useful. The humans' truffle-dreams, on the other paw, were giving them ideas that they could act on. Humans could make things, and change the world instead of just learning about it. I had a feeling that life was about to get more interesting.
To be continued...
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