Tart-but-shitty – Desiree Ducharme

All creatures make calculations to survive. Ants calculate the amount of food that needs to be stored for the colony to survive the winter. Squirrels calculate advanced trajectory as they leap from tree to tree. They don’t teach their young to make advanced calculations, they just do it. Humans need the calculations, the classes, and a way to quantify it. It could be a design flaw. It could also be the Universal Goo’s way of hobbling a species so filled with the forces of destruction. Humans are a tiny, short-lived species by Universal Standards. Once they discovered this, their stardust infused egos confused “limitation” with “challenge” and they set about proving they could have just as much impact on the universe as their spherical ancestors. Since the sun provided them with a constant, they began quantifying things using the sun as their base. There is no accurate record of the first time a human quantified how productive they were during their daylight hours. It probably happened after an unsatisfying dinner of grubs and berries. One human, frustrated and hungry, does some survival math and creates the first schedule with productivity goals. 

Uuk spent from star-rise to small-shadows following a hoofed creature through meadows and trees. It stopped long enough for Uuk to throw a rock at it. The rock was ineffective at making it into food for Uuk. Ukk claimed this was how you make other creatures into food. So far, Uuk had only been able to make them run. Clearly there was a design flaw in the rock. Frustrated at the loss of several meals (stupid rock), Uuk spent from small-shadows until low-light gathering and eating berries. Uuk was not the best at survival math and remembered too late that Ukk and Nuk also needed to eat. 

Uuk returned to the cave and presented the handful of berries. Ukk recognized the berries as tart-but-shitty. Tart-but-shitty berries can be eaten, but only in small quantities, like a handful. Then they live up to the name. Ukk felt it was necessary to point this out to Uuk. Uuk thought this was unnecessary and overly critical of the work that Uuk put into gathering them. Uuk presented his flawed survival math (Uuk was no longer hungry since Uuk ate berries). Ukk, felt perhaps Uuk suffered from a design flaw, like Nuk. 

Ukk spent the day turning over rocks and logs hunting for grubs and taking care of Nuk. Ukk did not snack while doing this. Uuk recognized the grubs as yuck-bugs. Yuck-bugs can be eaten but they taste like yuck, hence the name. Uuk felt it was necessary to point this out to Ukk. Ukk felt this was unnecessary and overly critical of the work that Ukk put into gathering them. They were pretty deep into the argument when the berries incapacitated Uuk, causing him to spill yuck-bugs into the fire. They put the argument on hold during Uuk’s evacuation of the tart-but-shitty berries.

Ukk did some quick survival math. The time of cold and scarcity were almost upon them. Nuk was larval and a burden. Uuk was proving to be as well. Ukk picked now crispy yuck-bugs out of the embers and ate a few. It was crispy yuck-bug or hunger because there was no way Ukk was eating tart-but-shitty berries. Turns out, crispy yuck-bug is pretty delicious. Survival math got a bit easier as Ukk thought about the supply of yuck-bugs the area and how many each of them needed to survive. Uuk really liked this plan but continued to pick berries if they happen to be out there. Ukk tried to explain that all the berries in the area were tart-but-shitty berries which they should not eat. Uuk was not good a survival math. 

Ukk was able to adjust their own productivity to account for Uuk’s miscalculations. How did Ukk get here? Was this all there was? Is this success? Turns out it was because Ukk and Nuk survived that winter. Uuk was bad at survival math. He kept adding tart-but-shitty berries to his crispy yuck-bugs. Ukk was unsure if this was a design flaw or a perk.

Desiree Ducharme spends her days imagining pleasant and unpleasant

nonsense then writing it down. During her semi-voluntary, health-adjacent, potentially-permanent sabbatical from her dream job as a Used Book Buying Dragon at Powell’s City of Books, has freed up a lot of her time. She washed her dreams and became a writer. You can find more of her work at her website.

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