Once upon a time, there lived a man of the most simple times and means. One day, after eating some improperly-handled game meat, his stomach began to ache and cramp, his brow quickly dripping with sweat.

“Ow! I have pain!” the man exclaimed to his hut-mates.

“Damn! That so sucks for you!” the hut-mates replied in sympathetic union. They made sad faces at the man, and then went on with their regular neighborhood business of gathering sticks and gossiping about the height of some folks’ loincloths.

Time passed, and the man still was not relieved of his distress. “Ow! This so sucks for me! Little help?” He raised his eyes piteously to the sky, and at that moment a large bird of prey dropped a huge white glob of its waste in the suffering man’s left eye. “Aw, damn!” the man cried out. “Damn!” Three of the other men glanced over, conferred briefly, then walked a few hundred feet away from the hut to construct a funeral pyre. When the aggrieved man saw this, he did not again look to the sky, as he was a smarter-than-the-average-hut-dweller, but instead mournfully regarded his bubbling mid-section and feces-laden eye, and mumbled to himself, “Aw. Damn.”

One of the elders of the hut folk, a wrinkled and hunched crone of about 30 years, squatted down by the man, who was lying in a fetal position on the dusty ground whilst moaning low moans, and she pressed her bony weathered hand against his wet forehead.

“Damn? Right? Am I right? It’s like, damn?” the man asked her, his lower lip trembling.

“Yes, damn,” she croaked in her crackly rasp of a voice, nodding somberly at him. “Damn.”

“Aw!” The man’s stomach audibly rumbled.

The old crone, wise in her golden years and possibly his aunt, began thinking how to perhaps cheer and/or shut up the pained fellow before he would be dragged off to Flamin’ Friday ceremonies. She knew that some sweet red berries still remained on the low bush by the river, and that their delicious taste might be a kindness to offer the man in his last moments and at least would stuff up his mouth. She stiffly rose, slowly hobbled her way over to the plant, gathered a few handfuls of the tiny scarlet fruit, and placed them in the pocket of her loin apron as she hobbled back again to the man. She knelt down on the ground, and placed a few of the berries into the man’s dry mouth.

“Mmm…mmm,” The man’s face contorted as he began to chew the fruit, then his features relaxed. “Damn! That’s tasty!” He managed a small grateful smile towards his elderly benefactress as she pondered how to best recycle his loincloth into a shawl.

As MC Hut prepared his topical rap for Flamin’ Friday, this time with the working title of “Home Slice Got Taken Out By A Fly-By,” the men preparing the funeral pyre had almost finished their work. Fire was a recent acquisition to the hut people, and drew a nice crowd because of its novelty and spectacular efficiency. People began to gather around the pyre, glancing at their wrists frequently, which had no use at all because the wristwatch had yet to be invented. It was a simple time, as previously mentioned; simple, and dim.

“DAMN!” It was the sick man, yelling with great vigor, and all the neighborhood hutters turned towards him. “DAMN! MY POSSIBLE AUNT IS FRIGGIN’ AWESOME! I FEEL, LIKE, LOTS BETTER!” He grinned a large grin, and his three teeth glinted in the late-afternoon sunshine. Flamin’ Friday was canceled, with some sheepish disappointment on the part of most, and the man did a small jig of joy in the dirt.

Soon, the old crone was sought out whenever any of her neighbors had an ailment, her status in the ‘hood now greatly elevated. As there also was no Botox or liposuction or Spanx then, she knew that her assumed ability to cure illness was a damn good thing, especially as village females hit the wall at like, 14. She was important and useful again. She was clever enough to know that those berries were pretty much the only thing she had going, and that she would have to disguise her knowledge of their powers, or what looked like knowledge but was in fact sheer luck, or the secret of the fruit would be known, and her value greatly diminished.

The hut hag began to speak to people that came to her in a “new” language, one only those with “special wisdom” could understand. “Yes, damn, you look terrible, “ she addressed a rather pale-complected woman one day, “I believe your panticular is receding towards your frentella, and we need to schedule a partial-panticularotomy for you. Next Thursday work?” The ghostly woman could only nod in confusion and awe. As Thursday arrived, the old woman had already gathered her berries, unseen by the others, mixed them into some river water with a little dirt and a bug from the bottom of her foot, and offered the concoction to her patient. She laid her hands upon the woman’s back and poked around officiously. “Come back the next Tuesday and the following so I can monitor the status of the panticular. See the receptionist.” The woman did so, and told all that she was feeling much better, her lack of Vitamin C remediated by the berries, this detail unknown to her and the old woman, of course.

Not all who came to see the crone were cured, but this inconsistency was easily accepted by the commonly-used hut phrase, “It was Glob’s will.” Glob was the name given the crapping bird of prey, seen as a destiny-delivering deity.

The supply of berries from the bush by the river eventually ran out, and the crone had to travel to find more, for the demand was never-ending. Flamin’ Friday was cut down to once a month, replaced by 2-for-1 Fermented Yak Milk Happy Hour at the pyre site. “Damn!” thought the old gal, “The hell I’m gonna do? There aren’t enough berries to give to everyone.” She fretted about this, staring at her red-stained fingertips.

A handsome young man from one of the higher-class huts came to see her early one morning, desperate. “I need your assistance, immediately! My face has erupted in foul pustules, and I have a date with that hot red-headed chick who is the hostess for Yak Milk Happy Hour this Friday! Please, remove these unsightly horrors from me!” he begged.

The old woman glanced outside her medihut. The line to see her was long, her berry supply low. A plan of action crept into her brain. “Damn, dude!” she exclaimed. “You aren’t getting’ any looking like that, for sure. How badly do you want this chick to dig you?”

He opened his eyes wider. “Dude! You kidding me? You see how she’s rockin’ her mini-cloth. Come on!”

“Well…” The crone leaned towards the anxious young man, and spoke in a low gritty whisper, and continued, “…you see all those people out there waiting? They want help right away too. I can’t possibly know yet whose need is paramount. Perhaps…perhaps if you leave here and return with, oh, say, a small premium to assist me in my endeavors, then perhaps I can provide you with expedited treatment and your hook-up shall be salvaged in time. Perhaps…” She turned away, and made the tiny huffing noises of The Very Very Busy.

“YES! YES! Say no more! I will be right back!” The young man ran to his hut, and brought back a beautiful blanket, woven from the finest yak hairs, a flacon of Premium Stock Fermented Yak Milk, and his own mother’s loinshawl. “Here! Will these suffice?”

The old woman greedily eyed the three items, things she normally would never possess. “Yesssss…yes, these will be of great comfort and allow me to expend the extra energy for your cure.” She handed him a small vial of red liquid. “Spread this upon your face and sit with your face to the brightest sun each day this week. Return to me if you require more. More cool stuff gets you bumped to the head of the wait line, dig?”

“Dug! Thank you!”

The astringent properties of the berries combined with the drying effects of the sun calmed the young man’s acne, although he did have to spend quite some time washing the red berry dye off his face. His hook-up was successful, and quickly word began to filter through the ‘hood that if you wanted reeeeeally good help from the old gal, it was smart to bring her cool stuff. The crone’s hut became filled with the riches of the village, her powers even more legendary, almost Glob-like. Splantism and Crung’s Disease and faffomas were treated, provided you came up with the goods.

The poorer hutters were depressed. Their ranks at Flamin’ Fridays were increasing, and not to drink Yak Milk either. “Damn! What can a poor boy do?” they wailed, as MC Hut sang “Cave-Fightin’ Man,” drowning their sorrows while watching the fire reach into the sky.

One man had been watching the drama with beady-eyed interest. There must be some way to get in on this illness-deal and get some of that cool stuff. He knew he didn’t have any special healing skills, but…ah ha! A plan came to his mind, and he made an appointment to see the old woman, bringing her a lovely weasel-skin hat. She regarded him with some curiosity. He seemed perfectly fine.

“Ma’am, let me say first how grateful we all are for your gifted abilities. We are truly blessed, praise Glob. But I must warn you: there is growing discontent amongst those with modest means.” The old woman’s face turned serious and she stared at the man as he continued confidently. “These folks feel that as members of the Hut community they are just as deserving of your skills as the more materially-rich. I believe that the day could come when they may attempt to band together. With their numbers, they could easily force you to provide care for all with no additional goods offered to you.”

Oh, damn, the old woman thought, that would so suck. She had gotten quite used to getting cool stuff all the time, because, frankly, it was cool, and she didn’t want that to end any sooner than necessary, because at some point there would be no more berries. “Why do you tell me this? Have you some idea to counteract this?”

“Indeed I do, ma’am. I believe that with a minor adjustment you will be able to continue your fine work with no loss of income. After all, we all benefit from your work, and damn, we really don’t want, well…some folks’ running the show, do we?” The man then described his plan. He would address the entire village after the next Flamin’ Friday, telling them how he understood the pain of the poor and that he had a revolutionary idea of how to access better healthcare without actual revolution. He would tell the hutters of his close, personal relationship with the old woman, and that if each person would bring him a small gift every week without fail, he would personally assure their ability to get quick and good care from her if they ever fell ill. He would keep a few of the gifts, but give most to the crone. The people would be calmed, secure in the fact that they could afford a little bit given out each week for some peace-of-mind.

“Damn, “the old woman said as she stroked her sharp chin, “That’s so crazy it just might work! You’re on!” The two shook hands, the meeting was held, and the new plan activated. The participation of all the villagers made them both even more loaded with cool stuff, which emboldened them. The crafty man soon returned to another Flamin’ Friday gathering.

“Rate hike, folks! You know, cost of living, medical research and trials and such. We want to continue to provide you with the finest care any group of hutters could hope for, so please bring in three items of value each week from now on. Thanks!”

A angry older male voice rang out from the crowd. “What?? Are you kidding me? It’s hard enough for me to bring even one! I can’t do that! DAMN!”

The man sought out the mad man’s face and replied. “Bro, I am so sorry. Times are tough. Anyone who can’t keep up with these moderate, reasonable rate hikes just has to be cut from the program. You understand. It just isn’t fair to the others to pay their fair share while some pay less or nothing at all, and we all have to get by. Glob bless you, though, and I hope your fortunes improve sometime so you can avoid an early painful death or something.” The crowd stood, chilled even as the embers still glowed from the pyre.

The rate hikes continued until, essentially, things were as they had been prior to the plan, where only the wealthiest hutters could afford full access to the crone’s help. Some huts could only bring in gifts to secure care for the youngest, or the best hunter, or the red-headed hottie. In frustration, the poor and middle-class hutters tried to form their own healthcare collective using river mud, leeches, and yak tongue scrapings, with little practical success.

The old woman’s searches for her berries one day finally proved fruitless. She had walked as far as she could. There were no more. Panicked, she spotted another bush, taller with darker leaves, prickly and foreboding. It had the tiny purplish-red berries that Glob seemed to prefer. “That must be a good sign – if Glob likes those, maybe they are even more powerful!” she thought. She scrambled over to the bush as fast as her withered old legs would take her and stripped the tree bare, flinging the berries into a large carved bucket, one of her many gifts. She covered the bucket with a bunny hide as to disguise its contents from the villagers and made her way back to her hut, one she no longer had to share with others.

In the morning, she began to see her steady flow of privileged hutters for a range of ailments, from an ingrown toenail to a suspicious cough. The crone made up her potions with the new berries, dispersed them to the ill, and closed her medihut early so she could take some relaxation by whacking a few rocks into weasel holes with a stick. As she neared the 10th hole, she heard the high, strident scream of a young child.

“DAMN! Everyone, hey…DAMN!”

As she neared the circle of huts, the old woman saw to her horror that all of the people she had seen earlier in the day were now lying on the ground, writhing in agony, with nasty liquids expelling from most of their orifii.

Aw, dammmmmmn, the thought came to her, those berries didn’t work out so well. As she stared, frozen and fixed, and as the villagers began to understand the connection between the stricken and the crone and began to stare ominously at her, she felt a heavy wetness fall upon the top of her head through her grayed, thinning hair.

The Great and Glorious Glob had spoken. The crone turned and retreated hastily into the dense wilderness, never to be seen by the hutters again. Her slick business partner also disappeared, although later it was rumored he was selling wooden flutes and yak-skin drums to the good hutters of River City. The bird berry sufferers recovered within a few days and both rich and poor alike decided that berries were now banned from consumption, and that it takes a village to…do stuff. Fermented Yak Milk was now thought to prevent panticularitis, the man who received the good berries to begin with disavowed any personal relation to the crone, Flamin’ Fridays were back and more equitable than ever, and the red-haired hottie was promoted to Pyre Manager. A large monument in the image of Glob was erected at the site of the crone’s last footstep, the hut folk continued gathering sticks and gossiping, and in 2010 the United States passed health care reform legislation. Praise Glob!