Sweat trickled down the old man's brow as he flapped the blanket over the fire in a couple short, staccato bursts. Puffs of smoke floated airward, spelling out the next phrases of the message. Finally, he rested, weary arms hanging limp as he squinted across the plains waiting for the return signal.
Behind him, a yawning teen shrugged through an opening of one of the wigwams and shuffled over in mismatched moccasins.
''Hey, Gramps,'' the kid mumbled in greeting. ''How come you still insist on using smoky-mail?''
''I like it,'' the old man replied. ''I understand it.''
''It's old-fashioned, Grandpa.''
''It's quiet. It's easy. Except when your grandmother insists I send her recipe for buffalo stew to your aunt. I can never remember if it's two longs and a short puff for two-thirds cup or if that's for a tablespoon.''
''Ah, Gramps, you could solve everything if you'd just use the new technology like I've been trying to tell ya,'' the kid said.
''Those tom-toms give me a headache, Little Running Mouth. I'll never understand how you kids can pound them so loudly. That kid on the thumping bass ai-yi-yi! Too much reverb.''
''Not that, Grandpa. We tweet now.''
''Yeah. We call it Twitter.''
''First, you write your message on a little slip of paper, like this. We call it a tweet.''
''That, uh, tweet thing is small.''
''Yep. That means you have limited characters, so whatchya do is use abbreviations. Like, instead of writing, 'I find your proposal repulsive and I strongly disagree,' you simply write, 'Ugh.' ''
'''Ugh?' That sounds pretty uneducated. A thing like that could stick to a person and become the basis for some pretty ugly stereotyping.''
''It's cool, Gramps. It's Twitter language. But if you prefer, you could draw a little sideways smiley face like this using the letter 'P' so it looks like his tongue is sticking out. Same thing.''
''Ugh," the old man said. ''Then what?''
''Well, anyone who wants to follow your tweets subscribes by creating a link. What they do is send you a hawk, carrier pigeon, buzzard, chicken - some kind of bird that knows their address. You simply wrap the tweet around the bird's leg and toss the bird in the air. We call it 'press send.' And the best part is the bird does all the flapping. You don't have to flap your arms over a smoky-mail fire anymore.''
''No thanks, son. If I sent a tweet to your Uncle Box of Rocks, he'd roast the bird. Then poof, the text is deleted. Oh, ugh! I see across the plains that your aunt and all her friends now want the recipe for Gram's gopher glaze. Hand me her cookbook and the smoky-mail blanket. I need to compose another message.''
''Suit yourself, Gramps. But you're way behind on the times.''
And while the old man tried to remember how to make fractions, the kid shuffled back to the wigwam, shaking his head, wondering why old people always seem so resistant to technology.
Anyway, thought Little Running Mouth, it was time to work on casting shadow sports on the wigwam wall, where he could simulate all the running, jumping and throwing stuff of real games without ever leaving the wigwam. He was thinking of calling the new game Wee.
----- Cole isn't a tweeter but you can send him smoke signals at firstname.lastname@example.org