It was the sort of still-unexplained occurrence of hens being pelted by their own eggs pelted fresh daily from the sky, scrambling minds by the dozen. A twist of fate, the papers called it, though I think professional papermakers could’ve come up with better. Every day since we ran into him (and I would say “literally” ran into him, as we were running (away from what don’t ask), but at this point, ice-enshrined as it was, it’s not quite accurate to refer to him as a “him.” Not inaccurate either, but there is no in-between accuracy and in-, as far as I know). I watch where I’m headed, watch the things and theys and its I might otherwise run into, and most definitely keep an eye to the skies so that I don’t end up frozen and torn to shreds and eventually behind a glass case. So far I keep my helmut fastened, and it’s been okay, except for all the cursing.

They think he might have been sacrificed to the gods, which is unlikely because there’s no umlauting any god I’ve ever known, even if war almost broke out over the chance discovery of this peculiar bit of jerky.

That’s insensitive, I know. He might have been somebody’s father, or somebody else’s lover. The first time I mentioned this, Erika joked that he might have been father and lover to the same person, which I found beyond insensitive. Still, she said, in that culture, in that era, all things were possible. That they might not share our modern bourgeois disdain for such relationships. That I should be more open, less quick to the draw with my ridicule.

She’s right, of course.

Not only was there no reward for the sort of discovery that changes the way we think about ourselves back then, but when we go to pay him a visit (and we visit him sometimes; he’s family, inasmuch as an “it” can be family. It’s family.) When we do, we’re at the back of the line, and our cash is tilled with everyone’s. We’re Frankensteins, made inconnu by our own disclosure. But don’t tell Erika that; she’s seen too many movies and still think it’s the monster.

Others think it was an act of vengeance, that he (it) was a killer (I’d say “cold-blooded” killer but given the circumstances, Erika would definitely consider that insensitive).

You should have seen him, though, just floating there, head-down in the ice, in a position not so different from my own the night before at the bar. We had no idea what we’d run into, at the time (“what” we’d run into, that’s more accurate): what we’d literally run into. Or rather, actually, what I’d run into; he was trotting, or maybe even walking, but I was at full-speed, really just to get the cold air into those deep bronchial crevasses you rarely remember are there, when I, I admit it, I tripped right over him, it, he who hadn’t been him for, what, five thousand years, if you can count that far. Almost as long as the world’s even been here, if you trust the lunatics.

We don’t trust the lunatics. We do, though, trust carbon dating. And our own two feet, whose relations by definition with the things they trip over are intimate.

Collectively, it would be our four feet, of course, though it was my own individual two feet, or more precisely, my one left foot, that did all the tripping.

The scientists, some time after they admonished us for chipping his hip, but before he was sent museum-ward, also found him infertile (who knows how they discovered that one in a specimen that old). And so of course, there are those who think this had something to do with it, that he was put out of the tribe for being irreproducible, if you can believe that. But at that altitude, you can’t blame a man for eschewing the need to breed. I can’t imagine you’d have it any other way if you were full of worms. Basic contrarianism will only take you so far when you’re just teeming over with parasitic phalluses competing with the one you’re trying to keep warm enough to rise. Erika doesn’t understand these things, by anatomical nature. I doubt the scientists do either.

It would be understating to say we were criticized for hacking away at him (or rather, it), but how were we to know what we were dealing with? We thought he could still be saved, even nicked-hipped. It’s what you do with the frozen. You get them out of their hole. (I’m tempted to say “smoke them out of their hole” but we’re in friendly territory, even if the strangers did steal the clothes off his back, which wasn’t much of a back by the time we were through with it). And anyway, it would also be understating to suggest that finding him was a sort of key to our understanding of human history. What I found was just history.

Of course, most of the time, when we’re at the bar we’ll talk about it; how could you not? And we get to the part of the mystery of it all and people will roll their eyes and huff that “maybe that arrow in his shoulder had something to do with it?”

And those people would be right to wonder, even if they could use a little sensitivity training. Although again I’d ask how they knew, being that most of them had never been backed up against similar circumstances.

I’ve never heard a saying about judging a man’s intelligence by the quality of his footwear, only the one about walking a mile. But if there is a saying about judging a man’s intelligence by the quality of his footwear, it would apply here, without fail. Either he was no ordinary cobbler’s son, or his other half was something of a foot fetishist, by the looks of things. His feet had the soles of a bear, or at least, the skin of a bear on his shoes. When the ice is running, I suppose your only chance at outrunning it is to be dressed like them, or at least, ursinishly warm.

The most explosive word is that he was hit by debris falling from some unidentifiable point from the cosmos. Maybe even from the back. Maybe even with enough force to drive one of the arrows shoulder-ward from his back-saddled quiver. If that happened, we must assume that he didn’t know what hit him. Erika always reminds me that we can’t really assume anything and that queueing up with the public to visit him is living proof of this. To that I remind her that he’s family, and if we can’t assume it, we can at least hope he was knocked out cold, hit so hard on the back to sandwich him deep into the crevasse, so hard that he never felt a thing. And then, we cinch up our helmets, and keep a cautious eye up.

Leave a Reply