Stories of the Bru
Your Little Boy
Told by Nước Hoa
J Gavin Allan
This is a story of a little boy who wanted to prove he was a man and a little girl who wanted to stay a child.
This is my favorite story…N.H.
More complaints were rained upon my grandmother. Her standing in the community could only delay the inevitable.
I stood unashamed. My stern expression showed my bravery. What other child could absorb the bellowing of the Chief without a whimper?
“Tiko…Tiko.” Her tone was laced with guilt. She kept me too long as a child forcing the growing manhood back into my body. She thought it all her fault.
I pretended not to care for the sorrowful situation of my grandmother. It was not the first visit to our modest long house built by my grandfather. Grass paneled walls and roof held erect with sturdy bamboo poles towered over the jungle floor. My grandparents must have looked majestic walking down the grass lined bamboo steps. How my uncles and father loved to jump from the side opening, made for mounting an elephant. Even when no elephant was there. I do too.
Now, the only man’s scent in the long house was my own. They were all dead. Died defending the village. Thai or Viet? Who knew the invaders that slew them? Did it matter?
The village chief admonished her. Not an easy thing to do for the seasoned warrior. His life owed to her long dead son, my father, during battle with Thai slavers. But the pressure was too much even for the great warrior. Attacks from our enemies were fewer and fewer, but before a time of peace could be enjoyed, a rogue elephant terrorized the path to the mountains. Ai Lao pass became its kingdom.
A limit was reached. I must explain. I was twelve years. The refusal to bathe in the area designed for young boys started the problem. Everyone knew I would bathe with the men, or by myself. The snub was expected, but the pummeling given to an older boy surprised the adults at the shore. Again, the villagers accepted my hostile character due to respect for my heritage. Although fighting between boys was not encouraged due to our foreign threats. Energy must be saved for our real enemies.
Thai slave traders plied their trade in the Highlands. The Vietnamese gave up their attempts to capture my people. An impossible task that the Thais were finding out. They moved from the East in hopes of annihilating the tribes.
It was not my fault he started it.
Over time, fighting would erupt over mocking words debating my manhood. Calling me baby or girl boy, due to my gathering for our meals with the women and girls long after I should have been hunting. That would lead to blood letting. My hands were quick and their lips were fragile. I was not a girl. I saw the breasts of women. How could anyone shoot a bow with them bobbing up and down? No matter what my grandmother said, the blood of a hunter flowed through my veins.
Some would make fun of my grandmother, calling her crazy or possessed. My chief saw reason for such action on my part. But did not understand that now, looks and expressions deserved the same reaction. The wrong glint of an eye or curl of a lip let me know of their disrespect.
I love my grandmother. She sits now sulking, thinking it is her fault. I hold no grudge against this woman and the love she gave me.
“I am so sorry. Tiko, it is all my fault.” I would hold her when she talked with such a sorrowful tone. Stripping the loincloth signifying approaching manhood, I would walk through the long house naked as a child. Her wish fulfilled. But not today.
She kept me as a child past the time nature intends. She wanted to prevent my schooling in weapons or tracking. I grew up nude for most of my life. The sign of the young and those in need of nurturing. I was ten and still roamed our area as a younger boy. Our chief would allow the behavior, and his acceptance signaled for others to do the same. I would wear the loincloth when in the middle of our village, but visitors to our home or those seeing us gathering grubs and herbs for dinner must be prepared for the unusual, non-attire.
I know why she did it. Four men, all the men in her life now roam the heavens. Even at my age, I understood.
I am a man and I intend to prove it.
“I will prove I am a man. I will prove it, grandma.” I told her with a strong but gentle sound. “Then I will bathe wherever I want. You will see.” I kissed the wrinkled cheek that meant pure love to me. My bow and quiver slung over a shoulder and my father’s spear held erect. The spear stained with Thai blood.
“I am going grandma.” The last word said to her. The last words she heard, before a realization set in. Her twelve-year old grandson was going to do battle with a five-ton beast that stands about ten feet tall. I expected the scream. But it was too late. Before her third wail, I was deep into the jungle.