Something was rotten within the Thunka Glunka Clan, and the putrid stench swirled around the vortex that was Thag.
The previously unassuming Thag.
Thag was a competent hunter, a low-key leader, once a loving partner (before his mate Onga had left him for the clan’s shaman, Weasel-Scratch-Face-Brother) and a burgeoning artist.
It was Thag’s art that had caused the stench storm; in particular, a satirical painting showing how Dubyag — the leader imposed on the tribe’s hunters — had screwed the mammoth, so to speak. Thag just didn’t blame Dubyag, who was ambitious beyond his abilities. He blamed Bushenor, an influential Elder who had foisted the incompetent Dubyag on the hunters.
It had been a political decision that had caused the hunters dearly, and would, in turn, cause much hardship over the coming winter for the whole tribe. Some would die for lack of food. Just like the hunters who had met their demise in a poorly conceived hunt of a rutting (and enraged) wooly mammoth.
Since Thag’s painting had raised the issue, he was asked by the surviving hunters to speak to the Elders before a gathering of the tribe. Thag had reluctantly agreed, but he was nervous. Never before had he spoken to so many at once:
“Thag not like being center attraction,” he began, “but Thag speak must!”
The Elders were silent, though others of the Thunka Grunka Clan grumbled in the background.
“Elders make Dubyag leader of hunters. Dubyag not wise. Not Dubyag’s fault — him kicked in head by wooly rhino. Him bad leader of hunters. Some die. Mrogak learn fly when mammoth throw him from cliff. Not learn land. New Thunka Grunka with strange hairdo, Fonzag, get turned to jelly. Bad. Many hunters hurt. No meat to cure for winter. Many be hungry. Bad.”
Words were failing Thag quite seriously, but when he saw the others nodding their head — even some of the Elders — he plunged on: “all because Bushenor want me to take back Onga. All because phallus-with-ears shaman not want her any more. Bad. Not Thunka Grunka way. Thunka Grunka be not selfish!”
More grunting in agreement. It was true; for the clan to survive, everyone had to play their part. Everyone had to cooperate and sometimes, put their personal wants aside.
“Thag take Onga back, but only if Elders make him leader hunters. Only if Bushenor leave clan.”
Dead silence. It was a serious demand, for Bushenor was an old man. He would not live very long outside of the clan. But he had caused two hunters to die, and most of the others to be injured beyond the point where they could hunt big game. Many nodded when they saw the wisdom of punishing Bushenor, not his incompetent son, Dubyag.
And not a few took note that Thag did not ask for the shaman to leave, though much of this originated with his own selfishness around stealing Onga from Thag.
The Elders argued into the night, but finally agreed. Bushenor would leave the clan. But Thag would have to take Onga back, for the good of the tribe. And he would take Bushenor’s place on the council.
Both of which displeased Thag, but he acquiesced: “sometimes Thag have take one for team.”
Scientific explanation of why people need a push to cooperate. And these folks always play well with others. Originally published in 2006.