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Toke: A Short Story

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They woke up to shuffling feet and breaking sticks. A thick layer of steam shrouded the large basket, and the fire was going strong. Toke rose and stretched his back. “Surprisingly, that was a very nice sleep. My back is killing me, and I’m coated in dirt, but it wasn’t that bad.”

“I agree.” Dexter laboriously pulled himself to his feet, biting his lip to suppress the agonizing pain underfoot. When he finished whacking the dirt off his clothes, he pitched himself in a deep back stretch. Toke sat across from him on a large rock, then began the process of wrapping the rags around his feet, cursing to himself.

A luxurious groan seeped over from Mae’s direction. Dexter and Toke glanced at each other, sharing a curious look, before following
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He plucked a large clump of lichen from the basket and massaged it until it was soft, then placed it on the underside of Mae’s foot, followed by a stiff piece of bark. Once he wrapped the last rag around her foot, she was done.

“Oh, thank you so much, Yu’mi.” Mae stood and tested out the strange sensation under her feet. “They already feel better.” She smiled at Toke and Dexter so they could share her joy, but the distress she saw on their faces, tore at her heart. “Yu’mi? Can you do this to their feet too?” She pointed to her wrapped feet and then to Toke and Dexter’s.

Yu’mi exhaled despondently and tightened his lips. With an unenthusiastically wave of his arm, he motioned for them to sit in front of him. Lacking the gentleness he used on Mae, he repeated the process with obvious reluctance.

Toke strode across camp with his newly wrapped feet. “It feels kind of weird … and scratchy.”

“The mossy stuff must be doing something good, or he’d have given us a soft piece of rabbit fur instead,” Mae
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Seeds, acorns, and berries that Yu’mi had collected earlier and separated into small piles. “Can I help you with something?” She pointed to the ingredients and then to herself.

“Dah.” Yu’mi nodded once. After tying the last rag on Dexter’s foot, he handed Mae two rocks and pointed to the hard shelled nuts and seeds. Then, scooping up the acorns he went on to the next task, leaving Mae with a bewildered expression. She tapped the rocks together, wondering what she should be doing with them until Yu’mi made a motion with his hands and Mae finally got it. “Oh, grind. I’m to *grind*.”

“Grind,” Yu’mi repeated, absorbing the word.

Mae found her job quite easy and suggested to Toke and Dexter that they might want to offer to help too.

“Nah, he’s doing good.” Toke put his hands behind his head and leaned comfortably against a rock.

Dexter walked over to Yu’mi and held out his hands. “Help?”

Glancing into the thicket trees, Yu’mi answered with a sharp nod. “Dah.” He gathered up his quiver of arrows and bow, then handed them to Dexter. He motioned off into the forest, then turned his attention back to the
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