Extract from TOM O’KELL & THE PAPANUK

‘Kabucha? Will you be playing kabucha with the other young braves?’ Kabucha was the origin for modern day lacrosse and was a recreation to toughen the young warriors ready for combat. The game would take place over a large area involving hundreds of young braves and could last for days. Manitaku didn’t care much for kabucha. It was too rough. He was always targeted by the other young braves, especially Haiaku. Haiaku was a few years older than Manitaku and he liked nothing better than hitting Manitaku on his shins with the wooden kabucha stick, which resembled a large wooden spoon. Manitaku saw the mocking enjoyment in Haiaku’s cold eyes, knowing the pain he had inflicted on Manitaku. The young boys saw some kind of perverted honour in causing the Chief’s son to cry. Manitaku saw his cowardice as a threat to his Father’s leadership. His Father was sure to be challenged by siring a boy-girl and Manitaku knew that Haiaku was going to be the main threat in the next few years when he matured into adulthood. Haiaku bragged to the other young braves that when the time was right, he would become Chief of the Chicuan and they would see Chief Watanu cry as well as his boy-girl, Manitaku.

A colourful bullfinch landed close by with a small grub trapped between its beak. The bullfinch dropped the wriggling grub on the floor and trapped it between its small claws. It dug its sharp beak into the grub and pulled at its body, stretching it until it snapped in two. Manitaku knew how the grub felt. Wriggling. Trapped. Split in two. The bullfinch ate the half of the grub, wiped its beak on the sparse grass and turned to the other half of the grub’s body, slowly twisting blindly, wishing it was whole again and had the chance to wriggle its way out of the situation.

Manitaku slowly lifted his bowed head. His sad, red rimmed eyes met the Papanuk. He struggled with the trembling in his lips, using his teeth to quell the quivering. The Papanuk understood.
‘There is no need to answer, my child. I will speak with Chief Watanu. Walk your own path. Hold your head high. Wear your coat with pride.’

Manitaku couldn’t hold his trembling lips anymore. A large teardrop welled over his eyelid and cascaded down his twitching cheek. Wynoka put her arm around his shoulder but he threw it off, turned and ran away sobbing. A group of young boys ran after him, stinging his feelings with shouts of “boy-girl”. They chased him through the silver birch trees and into the lush bushes. Threats, thumps, slaps and kicks stopped Manitaku’s crying. The boys ran away laughing. Wynoka ran after her friend