THE PLEISTOCENE GAP

He came wandering into the cave out of the Pleistocene mist idly scraping the bark off a twig with a sharpened stone.

“Where have you been?” asked his mother, giving the rabbit on the spit another turn over the fire.

“Outside.”

“Outside where?”

“Just outside.”

“Doing what?” she persisted.

“Just thinking. Sitting and thinking,” he replied wearily. Then he sank onto the bearskin by the fire.

“You do too much thinking,” she said, with an edge in her voice. “There are things that need to be done. We need new arrows and spear heads. Baskets need weaving. Your father is getting a little disgusted with your lack of help.”

“Oh, Mom,” he said, flinging the twig into the fire. “What do you and Dad know? Don’t you realize we have no future? Our race is doomed.

“What good is it going to do to make better spears and arrows when the game is disappearing. Why make new baskets when the berries are giving out?

“Don’t you realize that it’s just a matter of time? There are just too many of us for the food supply. Why just the other day there were several fights over a single blackberry bush!

“And besides, with the invention of the bow and arrow, the whole race could be wiped out overnight.

“Things can’t go on like this forever. There’s just no way out. Nobody will limit his number of children. Each tribe is afraid the other will become larger and stronger and take over.

“We live with a sort of balance of terror. It’s all so pointless.

“There’s nothing to do. The council of elders just sit around the fire grunting and scratching their fleas. They won’t listen to those of us who really know what’s happening. We’ll just have to resign ourselves to the end.”

“Perhaps if you presented some alternative …”

“There is no alternative,” he snapped.

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