Everyone loved the hunters. Lots of chatters and pats on the back for the hunters when they came back with the fish and mice. Lots of dancing and music, drumming and yodeling for the hunters. They fed the tribe. The young cubs looked up to them because they brought food and everyone liked them. But Yub Yub did not like them. He didn’t like their fur, and their stupid, fancy hoods with the special colors and stripes for how many seasons they hunted. He hated how the tribe bowed down to them like they were gods.
Yub Yub hated one of the hunters more than the others. Snub Chuk was the worst member of the tribe. He wished he could put a sharp stone in Snub Chuks bed, so when it was time to sleep he would lie down on it and blood would come out of his back. Then maybe Snub Chuk couldn’t hunt and he would get no more stripes for his hood. Then maybe Libna would stop liking him so much. Libna should like Yub Yub, but she liked Snub Chuk.
Libna had the softest fur, and the brightest eyes, and she danced the bounciest to the drums. But Yub Yub hated when she danced to the drums for the hunters, when she danced for Snub Chuk. Like she was doing right now.
Snub Chuk had a big haul tonight. He swung around an entire stick of fish, their eyes looked like shiny stones. The tribe hooted and squeaked. Yub Yub hid behind a moss log. He didn’t want to see Libna pat Snub Chuk on the head between the ears and watch the hunter do the spin around her. Soon Snub Chuk would claim her.
Yub Yub hated that the hunters came back so early tonight. He had found a mushroom for Libna, and he hoped to get her alone to give it to her. Getting her alone was hard. The tribe was on a heat season trip, with tents pitched closely in a group. Lots of cubs everywhere, new ones and mischievous ones born the year before. So it was hard to give something to Libna alone. But that was not the biggest problem.
Libna liked Snub Chuk. Yub Yub was stupid. She would never like him. He was not a hunter. He tried to hunt with the others, but he just scared the fish away and the mice were too quick for him. He wasn’t good with a spear. The hunters teased him, and singed his fur when he slept on the hunter trips. The tribe talked about pushing Yub Yub away, but Yub Yub knew about plants, and he had good eyes to watch the stars.
One time Yub Yub thought he saw a star fall from the sky. He tried to tell the others, but they poked him with stone blades and threw little rocks at him until he said he wouldn’t talk like that anymore. All the tribes believed that one day, the gods would come down and rule them. But no one wanted to believe Yub Yub.
Now Yub Yub hated himself for thinking that Libna would ever like him with his big mushroom when Snub Chuk could give her fish. She would want a big hunter, not a Yub Yub.
Snub Chuk and the other hunters lifted the stick above their heads to signal the beginning of the celebration dances. Some of the cubs found Yub Yub behind his hiding place log and brought him out into the dance. The cubs and females bounced around the fire in rhythm to the drums on the mats between the hunting tents and the cook fire. He tried his best to keep up with the steps, but he couldn’t match the drums. Soon the surrounding ferns and broad-leafed canopies of the trees above were a blur. When he saw Libna it was too much. He tripped over his paws and fell over. Libna’s mushroom rolled out of his pouch and into the fray. The others kept dancing, and before Yub Yub could pull the mushroom to safety, Libna bounced on it. All that was left was a pile of mushroom smush.
Snub Chuk pulled Yub Yub up onto his feet, “Yub Yub is no dancer. Why you act like female or cub Yub Yub? Yub Cub?”
The other hunters chittered and chortled behind him. They mimicked Yub Yub trying to dance. Soon the drumming stopped and the rest of the tribe joined in the chitters. Yub Yub looked around, helpless. His face burned under his fur. Even Libna joined in the teasing. He looked down at the mushroom smush. Yub Yub hated Snub Chuk. He hated all the hunters. He hated the tribe. He hated living.
He grabbed his little stone knife and swung wildly at Snub Chuk. He was clumsy, and he fell over mid-swing, but it cut a small, rough groove into his fur. The hunters all pounced on him in an instant. Two of them held him on the ground while the others took turns kicking him. Snub Chuk picked up a flaming piece of wood from the fire and held it close enough to burn the fur between Yub Yub’s ears. Yub Yub squeaked. It hurt like being squished between a huge rock and a cave floor.
The hunters all hissed at him until Snub Chuk shrieked.
“Yub Yub is no hunter,” he growled. “So Yub Yub no eats hunter food again. Eats mushrooms only.” They all hooted and chirped. Snub Chuk squished the mushroom smush further into the dirt. “Yub Yub hungry?” he said offering him the smush.
Then the tribe started chanting in little grunts.
Yub Yub struggled to his feet and backed up slowly as the hunters, females and cubs surrounded him. Soon there was no where to go. He was blocked off from his tent. Then the fire. Then the cubs started throwing small rocks, and the hunters started yodeling. Yub Yub knew the yodel. They yodeled before attacking on the hunt. He could never yodel like that. He was no hunter.
He hated the tribe. The tribe betrayed him. He looked for Libna. She was not in the circle, and she wasn’t throwing stones. He could see her sitting near the fire looking at the mushroom and putting her ears between her claws. But he could not stay. The hunters looked fierce, and they were good with spears. Yub Yub had really done it now. He hated the tribe. Now the tribe hated him.
He turned and stumbled into the forest. He tripped on gnarly roots and swept through sweeping ferns. He stepped on sharp rocks and bits of wood. Soon it would be dark. Yub Yub knew all the best hiding places. He knew hiding places that hunters were too stupid to see. But soon the smell of the hunters’ kill would be in the air, and the hiding places weren’t far enough to escape the smell. He was already hungry.
He could not go back now. It was not the way. He was worthless to them. To come back, he needed more than mushrooms. He would search the forest until he found it, and he would show them. Then Libna would push Snub Chuk down and have cubs with Yub Yub. It was in the forest. The sun was setting. He had to find something soon.
To be continued…