Part Two – The Valleys
Summer or ‘winter-lite’ as it was sometimes known had arrived in the valleys. Daytime temperatures now averaged around 12 °C with a warm day reaching 20 °C. The snow which had cloaked the hills and valleys for the last few months had finally melted, feeding the numerous streams, rivers and waterfalls. A riot of wildflower colour and bird song seemed to spontaneously burst forth throughout the valleys. The daylight hours became longer with the sun not setting until almost midnight and rising again just a few short hours later.
School was finished for the year with the more adventurous of the valley’s students now looking forward to a couple of months of hiking, fishing, swimming and camping. Some would travel back to Aoraki to see friends or relatives.
The full moon fire circle gatherings, now stepped up to weekly events – a focal point for the community to socialise, share food, tell stories and trade general news and gossip. Conducting any sort of formal community council business was now generally frowned upon – however there were always those that could not resist talking in small huddled groups to others about their latest pet project idea to benefit the community, usually involving others doing the work – or to air their pet peeves and grievances.
The first of the summer gatherings following the thaw, was the forest music festival where all the valley’s musicians would come to play their various stringed, wind and percussion instruments. The fire circle for this gathering had a definite festive mood to it.
Tenzing had his usual barrel of fish strapped to the back of his pickup when he pulled up at the fire circle road end. He spotted Jaak and Tag near the trail head.
Tenzing: Hey lads come’n help a cat offa’wif this load eh?
Jaak and Tag always pleased to see Tenzing, ran over eager to help.
It was then that they noticed.
Jaak: Um – Tenzing…? What the duck fluff have you done to your fur?
Tenzing had slicked down the fur on his head with some kind of hair oil, and it looked like he had attempted to tame it with a comb.
Tenzing’s ears wiggled back and forth and the end of his tail twitched.
Tenzing: Wha? – Um… nothing!
Jaak shot an impish look of ‘yeah right’ to Tag.
They also caught a whiff of some kind of perfumed scent emanating from him in occasional wafting bursts.
Tag: Strewth…! …and what’s that funny smell?
Tenzing: I dunno what you two are jabberin’ on abou’ – just help me with this fish – we gotta get it up to Miss Asha! C’mon then..!
The three of them hauled the barrel of fish onto a small hand cart – the sled having been retired after the melt. Just before they set off, Tenzing turned his back to the boys, and quickly put something into his leather pouch that hung from his leather shoulder strap.
While Tenzing had his back turned, Tag gave Jaak a poke and made a barfing motion with his paw.
Tenzing pulled the load from the front and the two boys pushed from the back. In short time they arrived at the fire circle to deliver the barrel of fish to Miss Asha.
Miss Asha: Hello boys!
Oh my fish – how wonderful! Thank you Tenzing!
Miss Asha turned to Jaak.
Hello Jaak – how’s Lizzie going? Is she still keeping your batteries charged?
Jaak: Oh yes! Lizzie is going just fine Miss! My Dad is even thinking of getting a fridge this summer – he seems to have taken a liking to drinking ‘coldies’ with Tag’s Dad.
Tenzing seemed to be keen to hurry the boys along – impatient with the chit chat. His tail twitched impatiently.
Tenzing: Er.. yea – thanks boys! Now be off with you – you know Miss Asha don’ like kits unner her feet while she is fixin’ the fish!
The two boys smirked and slinked off, crossing over to sit on the rock outcrop near the fire circle to keep an eye on what Tenzing was doing from a distance. They watched as Tenzing chatted to Miss Asha for a little while, but then he took something out of his pouch and handed it to her. It was a small bunch of summer wild flowers, wrapped in brown paper – looking slightly worse for wear from having been stashed in his leather pouch, for the journey up the trail.
Tag gave Jaak a poke.
Tag: You think he likes her?
Tag: You think he wants to kiss her?
Tag: Eww! Gross! She’s our teacher!
Tag made another barfing motion.
Jaak punched Tag playfully on the arm and Tag poked Jaak back – both of them dissolving into fits of giggles.
Two weeks earlier
The very last of the spring snow had well and truly melted and only very sparse patches in shaded areas remained.
Altai and Jaak were in town and had stocked up their larder of food supplies. Altai had spent some time discussing with the hardware store owner, the pros and cons of the various options for 12 volt fridges suitable for his ‘coldies’. He came out armed with various brochures and catalogues to take home, intending to pore over them at length, comparing the specifications, energy ratings and relative benefits of each. Altai was not one to make snap decisions over such a significant purchase. When Jaak had suggested that he ‘just pick one’… he had chuffed loudly…
Altai: If I am going to spend my hard earned money on an item of technological coldification, you’re darned right I’m going to be picky!
The pickup rumbled its way along the valley’s roads twisting its way around and over the hills back towards their cabin.
Jaak: Dad – school finishes in a couple of weeks, do you think I could invite my friend, from Aoraki to come and stay for a bit during the summer holidays?
Altai was lost deep in thought thinking about ‘coldification’ specifications.
Altai: Oh – A friend from Aoraki? Sure – I guess he will fly up then – its a long haul by road – there will still be snow on the high mountain passes.
Jaak: Thanks Dad! I will message him when we get home.
Jaak kinda forgot to mention to his Dad that his friend was Dieter, and that his friend was a hunde.
He’ll live – what’s the worst that could happen?