“It’s the Bowhands, the Bowhands,” Little Quon chants.
“Shut up,” I hiss. It’s the Bowhands, yes, but there’s others out there as well. Animals. Others.
Little Quon makes a face and flexes his bow. A few metres ahead, a squirrel falls down from a tree.
“I couldn’t care less about your hunting skills,” I say, “let’s have the odds in our favour.”
Three men on my left, three on my right. Two crawlers. I am Hunter today, which means that I can call the orders. I’m thinking we’re going for something larger than a squirrel. At least if I want any of the girls to bend for me tonight.
Little Quon gets his squirrel handed to him by Mose, our most skilled crawler. The fact that I hadn’t even seen him until now proves my point. Yesterday Grenn told me he and Mose sometimes held crawl-competitions while hunting. He has to learn so much still.
I touch my bow lightly. The crawlers, Grenn, they don’t have to do much. Just scout ahead and try not to be seen. It’s quite an easy task my brother has there. Sure, there’s room for competitions for him. I’m in the center. I can’t have mishaps. If I’m not in time shooting my prey, they’d probably trample me. You can’t be used as a center if you’re not strong enough.
Mose gives the wolf sign. I’m annoyed. If there’s any wolves here, we won’t see much larger animals. Especially not on the ground. Sometimes we couldn’t spot any running wild and would have to hunt for small animals the entire day, just to make up for it in meat. A squirrel isn’t a trophy. Maybe that’s why Little Quon is still so green.
The bowmen are facing all sides of the forest. We can all feel the ground shaking.
“Crawlers up,” I command. You won’t do any good facing a herd while on the ground.
“To the left,” Wreyn says. Black bear, that one. Ridiculously strong arms.
We look to our left. A doe rams into my shoulder.
I’m in the tent. Grenn’s doing something where he builds a small village of stones. Evi steps in. Mocking green eyes, adorned around her head by straight, black hair, her mouth slightly open, revealing that gap between her front teeth that sometimes makes her look like she’s fifteen.
“Heard you made a complete fool of yourself today,” she begins, arms folded. Like she’s mad.
“Heard you’re making a complete fool of yourself every day, Craze,” I say. Grenn looks up from his hobby and rolls his eyes. Like he’s the mature one here.
“So there’s no meat,” Evi declares.
“Quon shot a squirrel.” I know this is nothing.
“A squirrel!” She acts like she’s about to jump for joy, then looks at me like the tease she is, “how.. exciting.”
At this point there’s nothing more for me to do than put her in her place.
“Right. That doe would’ve probably killed you. Then we would have meat,” I go.
Grenn gets up and leaves the tent. He probably wants to give us some alone time. Evi steps closer to me and points her finger at me.
“I’ve said it before and I will say it again. You suck as a Hunter. I’m not letting the Chief make you center again and again only cause you advise it. Let me be the center.” Quite a fire, she has. I smirk.
“Let a woman be Hunter? You must be crazier than I thought you were,” I grab her wrist and put her pointy fingers down. She looks at me blankly.
“Oh right, this trick again. I’d gladly beat you in hunting contest, man,” Evi’s not one to give up easily. I’m putting my hand on her back and forcing her forward, close to my chest. If she has to beat me, let it be while we’re fucking.
“Or we could do something else,” I say and slide down my hand. She doesn’t respond to the gesture.
“You can keep trying, but I’m still not interested,” she says matter-of-factly. Like the stubborn minx she is. I release her and stroke her arm.
“One day I’ll be coming for you, Craze,” I say. She can’t resist me forever.
“I can’t wait,” she says and walks out. Probably going straight for the Chief to try and seduce him as well. Her, hunting. I spit on the ground.
Grenn and I are sitting by the fire with Wreyn and Mose. We’re eating old meat, what a failure.
“Quon probably chased away all tree-life shooting that first squirrel,” I say.
“I don’t know, wasn’t there,” Grenn says. He doesn’t like talking about others. He’s scared of what they’ll think of him. Wreyn and Mose shrug.
“Or you could’ve just paid attention when I warned you,” Wreyn says. I shoot him a dark look. What does he know.
“Yeah yeah, it isn’t easy being the center,” I say, and get the last piece of meat from the fire pot.
“I thought you wanted to be the center?” Mose asks. He knows nothing. What’s he doing? Lying on the ground all the time. Like that does any good.
“I’m a good Hunter,” I boast, “can I help it does have the worst eye sight.”
“If you’d ask me,” Grenn says suddenly, “I would say Evi’d make a good Hunter too.”
“Are you retarded?” I yell at him. What’s this sudden interest for this crazy woman? Everyone looks at me.
“You don’t know a thing about hunting, Grenn.” I shouldn’t be hard on him. Must be really dull staying home all the time because you’re not experienced yet. Probably looks at Evi a great deal. Probably wants to fuck her too. She’s such a tease. Can’t really blame him, he’s as green as Quon.
“I’m not retarded,” my brother says slowly, “I went hunting with Evi once. She has a knack for it.”
“I didn’t know you went hunting with her.” I’m quite confused. I didn’t think Grenn could even hurt something.
“Oh yeah, we’re quite good together,” he adds.
“Ah,” I say. I didn’t know. I didn’t care.
The next morning I wake up feeling annoyed. I dreamed of being a crawler on a hunting trip, and instead of looking out for wild life, everyone just kept running and tripping over me. But no one said anything, as if I was some log that was in the way. I can’t seem to get it out of my system. The next few times I see Evi, she’s always in the company of my brother. It feels weird. Firstly, I wasn’t aware that Grenn spoke to women at all, and now the craziest one is his friend.
I get up and put on my trousers. There’s a new totem ritual starting today. I remember speaking at Grenn’s, as a six-year-old. Grenn’s totem should be a squirrel, cause then we could play in trees together. Grenn’s totem didn’t turn out to be a squirrel, no, he is a boar. Such a strong, confident animal for such a tiny creature. I don’t know if boars and raccoons go together, no.
The ceremony is held in the big tent in the back of our camp. It’s painted dark inside, and whenever there’s something significant going on, we paint it on the canvas afterward. There’s drawings of birthing rituals, attaching ceremonies, memorable hunting trips and important wars. It represents the storyline of the Bowhands. I look around and find Grenn, who’s sitting all lonely on one of the rugs most far away from the fire. He’s such a dreamer. Just waiting until someone comes and sits with him, instead of the other way around.
The tent is almost full and I recognize most of the people here. Our tribe isn’t very large, which comes in handy when traveling, but not when looking for a new tentmaid, if you know what I mean. The faces I don’t particularly know well belong to the people in charge of responsibilities far from what I’m doing for this community. Such as cooking. Or painting.
Evi and two of those friends of hers are standing over the fire. It’s a big fire, spitting out blues, reds, yellows. One of her friends, the brunette, is our medicine chief. She’s short and chubby, with steady hands and honest eyes. I don’t know what to do with women like her. They’re too motherly to ever offend, so I’m not sure how to speak to them. Not that I only speak in insults, but I’m aware of my inability to be polite.
But then that motherly woman starts this ritual fertility dance and I can’t help looking at her hips. It’s because of a newborn, I remind myself. That’s about the most undesirable thought I can think of, and, of course, the truth. Marlon, I just remembered; the woman’s name is Marlon. Evi, Marlon and Tonge. Our three most attractive women.
Marlon holds up the newborn and it starts crying and squints at the fire.
“I feel,” she calls out, and the drums beat, “a doe.”
We all yell and throw our arms up and the newborn is handed over to his mother, who then hands him over to his father. This is the first time he holds his child, I know. Marlon applies mud on the child’s belly and he sneezes.
“A doe,” I can’t help but noticing, “that’s about the least dangerous animal she could come up with.
I snort a little. Grenn looks at me with a funny look in his eyes.
“You were attacked by a doe just yesterday,” he says.
I’m a bit taken aback. Grenn usually agrees with me.
“I wasn’t attacked,” I say and lean back to get another look at Marlon. “That doe just didn’t see where it was going.”
“And so what,” Grenn suddenly continues, all boiled up, “SO what if his totem is a doe. You know the viciousness of those animals doesn’t say anything. Your totem is a raccoon, for crying out loud.”
“Ha! So you admit my totem isn’t right for me!” I got him there. “You admit I’m far more hazardous than a raccoon!”
Grenn rolls his eyes and this reminds me of Evi far too much for my liking.
“You just completely miss the point all the time,” he says. I don’t even know if he’s still speaking to me, or to the world in general.
“Grenn,” I say. Let’s explain this once and for all. “I am the point.”
“You are not the point.” Grenn looks like he might just explode from some sort of frustration.
“Hey man, maybe you should just get in a tent with one of the girls tonight,” I try. He needs it.
“I can’t cope with this,” Grenn says as he stands up. “You are the most ignorant person.” Calmly, he then walks over to Mose and Little Quon and sits down with them. He leaves me with no one.
I don’t know what his problem is, I was just making conversation. I am not ignorant. I just notice everything. You might even say I have some kind of all-seeing eye. That’s why I am the Chief’s adviser. And not Grenn.