The Cave Girl claims a name, and Moose’s private “what I did this summer” essay comes to an end.
After the Cave Girl finished her story, we were all quiet for a while. It was a lot to think about. The next thing that happened was Jack digging a phone out from a waterproof pocket in his Foursquare pants and stepping aside to make a call. We spent the next few minutes explaining phones to the Cave Girl, who decided pretty quickly that she wanted a “small stone, talk far” for herself.
“Don’t worry, Miss, “said Jack when we came back. “We’ll get you a phone, and some clothes, and … things.” He made a gesture that suggested some kind of unspecified feminine mystery, which made the boys nod wisely and me, Pounce and Nina crack up laughing. I just talked to my girlfriend and she’ll meet us at the Junkyard—that’s where I work and it isn’t far from here— with some stuff to start with and she says you can stay with her and her roommate for a while until you figure out what you want to do.”
“Two questions, handsome. Where money to pay, and why say “Miss”? Am not woman guard children.” The first one was easy —Bud, Jack’s boss at the Junkyard has a special “rainy day” fund that he uses to help people who’ve had stories happen to them. He says that the stories usually end right after the dramatic rescue part, but afterwards the people need to either get home or start over, and that takes practical resources. Bud has a lot of contacts and we knew he’d find the Cave Girl some kind of job or something and she’d pay him back so he could help somebody else.
The second question was harder to answer. We figured out pretty quickly that she thought “Miss” was specifically a term for teachers. (That raises the question of what kind of teacher took kids to carnival sideshow, which sounds really irresponsible. But it seemed like it was something that happened all the time.) Jack explained that it was a respectful title for unmarried women, so of course we had to point it out that it was also pretty old fashioned and most women now just use Ms. and their last names whether they are married or not. And then we had to talk about first names and last names and tell her our names and the Cave Girl got sort of mad at us.
“That strange. Not make sense. Why have two, three names? Why have name not like, make people call other name, but not allowed change?” She pointed at Mr. Spit, who hates his real name like poison and won’t answer to it except under protest, but of course the school won’t call him Mr. Spit no matter how much he insists. “Why have two names different people for fun?” She pointed at Pounce and me, who used nicknames sometimes and our real names sometimes. “You have two friend name now, Moose girl. You Toestabber Moose.” We all laughed. My new name is awesome.
“Me have one name take for myself when become woman. Good name, strong name, everybody call me.” Then she made a long sound that sounded something like Ooolaroshooonokosha It was a weird, haunting kind of sound like wind blowing hard far away, but my first thought was that it was going to be really hard to spell. We all kind of looked at each other, and I could tell the others were thinking more or less the same thing: great name, authentic ancient cave person name, but not very practical for day to day use. Nina was the first person to speak up, with the exactly the right thing to say.
“What a beautiful name. What does it mean?”
“Big storm, “ said the Cave Girl. “Wind that carry leaves along, big wind with small rain.”
“Windy”, said Lee but the Cave Girl was so not a Windy. (Also, there’s an old song.) Pounce said “Storm”, but Murphy pointed out that she was already a character in a comic. I was trying out names for different kind of storms, Tornado and Cyclone and Typhoon, and then the answer was obvious.
“How about Gale? It means a storm with a lot of wind and not necessarily a lot of rain, and it sounds like a woman’s name people already use, so it will be unusual but not weird.”
“Is short, but me like. Matches other short name this-time people have.” We do have short names, mostly. I’d never really noticed that before. Then Jack’s phone rang, and we could hear Iowa telling him she was at the Junkyard and where was he and his latest new friend, and all of a sudden things were moving fast. After a few quick see you laters and lots more thank-yous, they were running through the woods down to the main road. Jack may be a superhero, but Gale is a fast runner. She could go out for a cross country track team.
And then the adventure was over, except for the cleaning up. We tidied up the food (we love raccoons, but not in our Fort) and rolled up the carpet, which had dried in the sun while everything else was going on. We’d return it to the Fairgrounds when we went back to collect our bikes. Remember the bikes? Like Bud says, the story ends with the big rescue, but there’s always stuff left to do. We may have stolen a Frozen Cave Girl, but we weren’t going to steal a rug.
As we crossed over Old Fox Road, we saw Iowa driving by in her red MG roadster, with Gale riding shotgun and laughing. We waved, and they waved back, and Gale shouted “Bye-bye, Toestabber!”
Bye-bye, Frozen Cave Girl. Bye-Bye, summer.