Gilb’s New Cap


A flower can be a meal or a thing of beauty: a plant or a poem.

Izcup Wobble

Nookton Fell, England.

Gilb has a new cap. It’s not a particularly comfortable cap but it looks smart and gives Gilb an air of importance which is what Gilb wants. As the newly-elected Patriarch of the Nookton Colony, Gilb needs to remind cocks and hens alike, that he’s now, officially, very important.

Gilb is going to launch his new-look at the naming ceremony of his new egg. His mate Pilly produced the egg, two cycles ago. The egg was unexpected. As is the custom amongst the Nookton Grouse, Gilb called the local shell-reader to determine the gender of the gooey-mess inside the shell that will eventually become a chick. The shell-reader, after eating the customary snail and blueberry pie that must be prepared for such occasions, announced, after an unusually long trance and unusually energetic gyrating, that the gooey-mess will become a cock and have a long life. The shell-reader said that the cock will have a fortunate existence and avoid the lesser-state for many, many cycles of the cosmic ovum.

A tear was seen rolling down Pilly’s beak as she considered that if the cock is to live many, many cycles that he may find a mate and provide her with a grandegg. She wanted to name the future cock while the shell-reader was present but Gilb reminded her that as an officially important grouse, he would need to hold a naming ceremony and invite family to partake in some communal gargling, tail-wagging and a few mugs of nettle-sting wine.

Gilb’s cap had been made by his den’s weasel, Yumpit. Yumpit has been with the Old Heather Den for so many cycles that even the elder-grouse cannot remember when it was that Yumpit got conscripted to den duties. Yumpit often asks: ‘When’s my time up?’ But it never is. The little weasel-domestic is just too good at his job to be let go.

Yumpit is one of Nookton’s best Nettle-Sting Wine makers and has won three awards and a Slap. Few wine-makers ever get awarded a Slap but Yumpit had been experimenting with new fermentation techniques and that season’s wine tasted horrible. Clilda, known for her extravagant jams, got a Slap once when she used slug-slime as a gelling agent. Yumpit has fallen in love with Clilda and would like to pick blueberries with her.

Relatives begin to arrive at the Old Heather Den and Pilly greets them with the usual two pecks on the head and a pickled berry. Yumpit is busy pouring wine into glug-basins and chasing fleas out of the den. This particular summer has seen an increase in den fleas and there’s only so many one can use in a salad. The rest just have to be chased away.

As the guests crowd into the den, Gilb appears wearing his cap and his Patriarchal Sash. Pilly smiles proudly. The egg is in the Egg-Breeder Deluxe which has a nice unbreakable glass door, making the egg quite visible while keeping it safe. The Egg-Breeder Deluxe also has an egg-timer which will let Gilb and Pilly know when the egg is ready.

Pilly begins handing round pictures of the gooey-mess she got from the ultrasound that was done just one cycle after the egg was laid. This is quite usual for the offspring of important grouse. Most of the guests agree that the gooey-mess looks handsome and will make a great cock. Pilly invites her guests to approach the glug-basins of wine so that Gilb can announce the future cock’s name. Yumpit squeezes past two of the older grouse and smiles. ‘Hello Goff and Lala. I heard you had three eggs this year. Well done,’ he says.

Lala had thought her laying days were over and had exchanged her Egg Breeder Standard Edition, for a nice new dust-suckerupper. Lala is not particularly den-proud but she has always wanted a dust-suckerupper. Fortunately Goff and Lala have been able to acquire a used three-birth Egg Breeder Classic from Lilipip whose mate was lost during the last grouse shoot. Lilipip found the loss of her mate so distressing that she joined the Order of the Eggless, a contemplative fellowship for those hens who choose a life of asceticism.

Gilb clears his throat. All guests and the weasel look at him. ‘I name this gooey-mess-soon-to-be-chick, Oily. May he fly freely, gargle greatly, and see the cosmic-ovum hatch many a cycle.’ The guests all cluck. Yumpit claps. Pilly sniffs and puffs up her chest. She feels so proud. A large bowl of salad is presented to the guests and this is followed by a rather boisterous session of gargling and tail-wagging. Pilly loves her mate dearly and hopes that Oily will hatch before the next grouse shooting season starts. As a patriarch, Gilb will be expected to lead the First Flight. This dangerous but essential task helps identify where the shooters are hiding. The last three patriarchs have all been lost on their maiden First Flight flights.

Gilb’s new look is appreciated by all guests except Snut who remains bitter that he was not selected to be the new Patriarch. ‘The cap changes nothing,’ he says as he swallows three fleas from the salad bowl. ‘Any grouse can wear a cap and a sash, you have to earn the colony’s loyalty if you’re going to achieve anything.’

Yumpit does not trust Snut and believes that he’s plotting Gilb’s downfall. Every grouse knows how much Snut covets the position of Patriarch, the highest level of authority in the Nookton Colony. Since Snut has been in charge of flight planning many potential candidates have met unfortunate ends while in the air, the most dangerous place to be for any grouse. As den-weasel, Yumpit must do all that he can to protect his den’s residents which are currently Pilly and Gilb and the egg, Oily.  

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