Running Shoo – Episode 17

We’re sitting at a table in another chamber of Tosh’s home which I’m starting to think must be an entire network of caves. The table is a large oak job under a chandelier made of roots wrapped around chunks of polished crystal. Light from above bounces dazzingly through the lumps of quartz. He’s got woven wall hangings up, there’s a fire burning in a hole in the wall. It’s really quite cosy.

Technically, I’m the only person sitting at the table. Tosh is crouched comfortably by it with two sets of his arms acting like legs and his smallest arms at the table. The three kids are standing on it. Some of Tosh’s other children have emerged too. About a dozen swarmed over to the bodies hanging up. I can hear nibbling and crunching. One or two, smaller than my thumb (and I have small thumbs) came over, their shyness defeated by their curiosity and are sitting further down the table watching things with fascination. For all the situation’s weirdness, it feels homey, like a family dinner I’ve been invited to.

Tosh brought my food over in an oven dish. The dish was packed with what looked like beige stone. I thought it was an embarrassing dietary confusion until he cracked it open and pulled out a steaming fish and some veg.

“Salt-baked,” he explained, laying a generous amount on my plate. “What do you think?”

I tucked in. It was pretty ruddy good, the fact that I’m starving probably helped the flavour. I could only give him a thumbs up as I was too busy stuffing my face. He looked pleased and hurried off to get his own, returning with a full bowl of his noxious stew for himself, big enough to bath a baby in, and a plate with a chunk of fresh meat (he has a new bandage on one of his lower arms) which he put in front of the kids. Ank, Barr and Car got stuck in. The other two timidly joined.

So, right now, there’s just the pleasantly disgusting sound of lots of people eating. It’s nice. Tosh himself genteelly sips spoonsful of his stew. It doesn’t smell too bad when it’s cooked, like herby mud. There’s no conversation for a bit, everyone is too busy satiating the immediate need for food. Even the kids. After a moment, one of the kids I don’t know raises a bloody face and says, “Mmm, good.”

Tosh puts his top hands to his mouth and tears up, “Oh!”

I look from one to the other, a little confused.

Tosh takes his hands away and his mandibles are arranged in what I think is a doting smile, “Well done, little one. Your first word!”

“Does that mean he gets a name now, dad?” Ank asks.

The chwillion composes himself and ponders for a second. “It absolutely does. Let’s see… Dara, I think. Yes. Welcome to the world, Dara!”

“Hi, Dara!” the other kids exclaim.

The newly named Dara ignores them and continues to gorge himself on the meat.

“Aw, sweet,” I say, only slightly sarcastically.

“It’s a special moment, I’m honoured you were here to see it,” Tosh agrees. “So, Shoo, I was thinking about your situation while cooking and have reached a conclusion. I have a cousin in Mimmereremere. Our best bet is to get you to him and he, in turn, can get you through town and onto the riverboats. It will be risky but he knows the town very well and offers you the best chance to be smuggled through undetected.”

“Okay, thank you,” I say, uncertainly. “I’ve just never been to mimmumm… mimnere… mummyra… to that place.”

“Mimmereremere?” Tosh asks.

“Mimmerrmmem…” I try. Still can’t say it.

“Mimmereremere,” Tosh says, looking amused.


“What? There’s no P in it, where did you find a P? Mimmereremere.”

“Sorry, I have trouble with that word.” Carr is clearly sneering at me, I ignore him, take a breath and try again, “Mimmerzzerep.”

“You found a Z that time,” Tosh says, perplexed. “Now that’s somewhat ridiculous. Listen: Mimm EAR rem ear. Break it down in your head. Mimm EAR rem ear.”

“Mimmurrurrrumm.” Nuts

“Okay, say it with me. Mim.”










“Do you have some kind of condition?”

“No, I’ve just never been able to say it. It’s not an easy word.”

The newly dubbed Dara raises his head, “Mimmereremere!” he squeaks. His second ever word. Now that’s humiliating. Tosh looks at him proudly. Carr snickers.

“Mimmereremere,” Carr says. “What’s so hard about that?”

“Easy for you to say. Ahahaha.”

“Shoo,” Tosh says, a little sternly. “Take this seriously. You’ve got to try, or you’ll never pass as a local and Florend will spot you immediately.”

“Well, what do the locals call it?” I say, defensively and a little annoyed. “I mean, I didn’t call Footfall “footfall” much.”

Tosh considers this, “No, now you mention it, I tend to just say ‘town.’ I think most folk do.”

“Town. Tuh-Ow-nuh. Town. I can say that. Town.”

“Okay, that’s a good point. Just say that.”

“Marvellous. Town. Town. Turwn. Nuts,” I feel myself blushing and change the subject. “Um, when will I be going?”

“As it happens, I’ve already phoned him and explained the situation. He’s on his way.”

This prompts a quiet patch from me. Everyone eats in contemplative silence. I’ve never been to Mimmereremere. I’ve only ever been to Footfall and, a long time ago, my little hometown which I’ve forgotten the name of. Florend is bound to be there in Mimmereremere, waiting for me to show my face. Possibly to rip it off. I chew on a rubbery but tasty vegetable of some kind; I hope it’s a vegetable anyway. If I do manage to get past Florend, where will I go from there? Will this cousin of Tosh’s get me on a boat and sail me further down the Muddle River? Perhaps to the coast and from there across the sea? Will I ever be able to stop running? My mind is wobbly with uncertainty.

I jump when a loud ding-dong sounds through the caverns.

“Your caves have a doorbell?” I say to Tosh.

“Oh, that’ll be my cousin, now,” he says.

My stomach lurches.

I’m not ready.          

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