The only thing visible in the early morning moonlight was the breath in front of his face. He hunched on his creaking bed, pulling on his thick woolen socks with difficulty. There were early morning sounds to be heard of birds and gentle waves on the beach but they weren’t familiar in the slightest. The boy hardly ever saw this time of day.
The old man could be heard in the kitchen with cups and kettle, shuffling around the table and chairs – opening cupboards and draws – rustling through cutlery for a teaspoon. He’d been in the room moments before to wake the boy.
‘Hey Tama. It’s time for us to do this thing. Get up boy. Tea in the kitchen for you.’
He had pulled the covers back to let the cold morning frost start on him, his body recoiling instinctively with the shock.
The boy’s eyes were still tight against the lights as he joined his grandfather at the table. The old man pushed the mug of tea across the table to him. He cupped it in both hands, just below his chin and let the steam warm his face.
‘Is the Whea not coming?’ he asked, fighting off a yawn.
‘No boy. This is work for the men. She can sleep on. She works hard.’
‘I have work today too. Why do I need to go?’
‘I said it is work for men. I need you to drive me. The child of Tangaroa needs you.’
The boy couldn’t help rolling his eyes and checked himself too late to hide the gesture from his grandfather. The old man fixed on the boy from under thick grey eyebrows and held him in his stare. The boy new better than to hold eye-contact.
‘Don’t make light of this privilege boy. Your people have always been gifted with these treasures of the sea. Their bone and flesh have kept us warm, safe and fed in the past. We may not depend on whale anymore but without them your ancestors would not have been, and, of course, neither would you. It is good to show your respect to this lost child out of respect for his ancestors. Keep your mind on that this morning.’