by Bryce Kenn
Quickly sketched and submitted to The Writers Cramp on 7/4/2015. This is a first draft.
|All my life, I had lived with my clan. We hunted together, ate together, sang together, slept together. Birth, life and death were all in common. I was raised in the clan under the protection of my uncle Og. I am told that this was because my father had been killed by a large cat on a hunt. I never knew my father. I only knew my mother, my uncle, and the others in the clan. I was good at hunting, at catching fish, and generally anything that I was taught.
As I grew older, though, it became clear that I did not have stature in the clan. My cousin Froog, Og's son, was favored. Froog was not as strong or fast as I, but he had support of others in the clan, and whenever we strove in contests, I knew I was in trouble if I did not let him win. On hunting trips, if I killed an animal, I was obliged to give it to him and let him take credit when we got back to our village. We never spoke of these things in the village, but I was told where I stood as I hunted. I carried Froog's burdens when there were burdens to carry. I would skin and clean the animals when there were things to do. I also noticed that uncle Og did not have great skills either, and I wondered how he got to be the chief of the clan.
My questions grew in my mind, and when I had survived sixteen winters, I found Grandmother who happened to be working alone that day on the outskirts of our camp.
“Hello, my child. Can you help me sew these skins? My eyes have grown dim over time.”
“Yes, Grandmother.” Sewing was normally women's work, but the boys learned these skills when they were too young to hunt. Even though I was now a man, I would never deny Grandmother anything.
As we worked, we talked. “Grandmother, tell me about my father?”
“Your father was a good boy. He was the oldest, and he was good at many things, like you. When your Grandfather died, your father became chief.”
“My father was the chief?”
“Yes, my child. He was a good chief. He is brave. He is kind. He is a skillful hunter.”
“You mean he was.”
“No, I mean he is. He visits me every once in a while when I am out of sight of the others.”
“I do not understand. Why would he leave me and mother?”
“One day when they were hunting, your uncle Og killed him. He left him for dead more than a day from the village. When he returned, he said that a wild beast killed him, and the other men agreed. Your uncle Og was always good at getting others to agree with him. But I found out what happened. It is hard to keep secrets among the clan. But your father didn't die. Our relatives towards the rising sun found him. He lives with them. The gods smiled on him to have him found by friendly people and not by an unfriendly clan or by a wild beast.”
“I must go find him.”
“In good time, my child. Be careful not to let Og or Froog know that your father is still alive. They would try to find him and try to kill him. I do not want to be alive when either of my sons die. Meet me tomorrow, before sunrise, near the ceremonial cave. Your mother will be there as well. Then you will see your father.”
I didn't sleep well that night, so it was easy to get up very early the next morning. I quietly removed myself from the village and crept to the ceremonial cave which was up in the hills overlooking the valley that we called home for now. When I arrived at the cave, my mother and grandmother were there.
“Mother, why didn't you tell me you knew that Father was alive?”
“It wasn't time yet, my son. Children talk and make hasty decisions. It is important for the clan that they don't know what your uncle did. Your uncle is a good provider to the clan, and having him where he is keeps the clan together.”
“But he is a bad man! He does not have skill in hunting. Neither does Froog.”
“My son, you have grown tall and strong.”
I whirled around. A man had entered the cave silently as we were talking. The man had a scar on his face, but otherwise looked much like my uncle.
“Yes, my son. It is so good to finally speak with you. I have watched you from the hills for many years. I have watched you grow. I have watched you hunt. You have grown into an able and good man, and my heart swells within me to see it.”
As the sun climbed in the sky, we parted ways. I walked down the hill a changed man. The men were getting ready for the hunt.
Froog scowled at me. “Where have you been? Get ready for the hunt! You never were much good.”
“Since I'm not much good, Froog, maybe you and the others should go alone.”
Og and Froog stared at me. “Are you disobeying us?” asked Og.
“If you value your standing in the clan, you will come with us.”
“I have no standing in the clan. I will leave today.”
“But you need us!” Froog sounded desparate.
“No, you need me. I will be fine.”
“You can't go alone,” said Og.
“He will not be going alone.” My mother was at my side.
“We are going, too.” To my surprise, Kell and Ram, two of the clan's most able hunters were at my side.
“Goodbye, Froog and Og,” I said. “May all go well with you.”