What if our ancestors looked less like this…

I wrote this a few years ago, just dug it out for a fresh look, and thought the Glibs might find it interesting.  Consider this:  We humans differ from our closest relatives in many ways, but perhaps one of the most curious is the degree of sexual dimorphity; that is, the degree in which the sexes differ.  Male chimps, bonobos, and especially gorillas are much larger, more powerful, and heavier than the females.  Human men are on average larger and stronger than women, but the difference is less marked.

Which leads us to the question, how would human society be if humans had evolved a social structure like gorillas? How would human society look today if men were harem-keepers, if they were half again the size of women, if they had to compete and challenge each other for possession of wives and property?

In the following, I offer speculation as to how one such challenge might take place.


Dick examined himself carefully in the restroom mirror.

People generally considered Dick a pretty decent-looking sort of guy.  He had a wonderfully heavy jaw, with a thick beard covering his receding chin.  His nose was wide and long, with large nostrils flaring away from broad cheekbones; his eyes were startlingly dark, almost black, and deep-set under a heavy, shaggy brow.  His hair was dark, heavy, tightly curled, and only slightly thicker on his head than on his chest and back.  He stood a good, healthy six foot seven inches, and weighed in at two hundred sixty pounds of rock-hard muscle; he took pride in being almost two inches taller than average, and a good twenty pounds heavier.

He grinned at his reflection.  His canines were strong, white, and interlocked evenly.  Dick was proud of his teeth; when he was a boy, his father had retained a good dentist to make sure Dick’s teeth came in evenly.  His upper canines were almost two inches long, a good half-inch longer than average.

“Ready for your big night?”

“I guess I am at that,” Dick answered, turning to see his friend and partner Pete standing behind him.

“You think you’re going to win, do you?”

“I think so.  Where we at on the Pfitzner account?”

…And more like this?

“About ready to close.  I figure we’ll have a contract by Friday.”

Dick looked back at the mirror, straightened his tie.  “Good.  We need it.”

They left the restroom quickly, striding down the hallway towards the office they shared.

The building that housed Dick and Pete’s business, Associated Factors, Ltd, contained only the one restroom.  There was no “men’s room,” as no women worked.  Anywhere.

“So, how many wives does this guy have?”  Pete hadn’t yet tried a formal Challenge; his voice was full of curiosity.

“Six.  Hey, don’t look at me that way,” Dick protested.  “I can support six.  Hell, if we land the Pfitzner contract, I can support eight.”

“Better you than me.  I’m not ready to leave the Lodge yet.  I’d rather keep my money for now; I’ll try a challenge when I’ve got my first million in the bank.”

“Better not wait too long.”

Dick remembered all too well when his father had finally lost a challenge; Dick’s mother and his father’s other four wives had stayed behind when Dick’s father had been forced to leave his estate that same day.  Dick had been sixteen and of age, so he chose to stay with his father when he moved back into the local Unmated Lodge, but the old man was never the same after that.

Now, ten years later, Dick’s father was dead, and Dick had lived in the Lodge long enough.  Now, ten years later, Dick was preparing to do exactly the same thing to a middle-aged man that lived a few miles from his office building.

Six months had gone into choosing a target for his challenge.

The man’s estate was conveniently located within a short drive from Dick’s business, in an area with good schools for Dick’s sons, good access to markets.  His wives were all young and pretty; the tallest of them would come almost to the middle of Dick’s chest.  It was unusual to find a woman that tall; Dick was a big man.

Best of all, the man – his name, Dick had learned, was Steve Andrewson – had some gray hair.  He was forty-four, a few years past his prime; while he was still tall, strong, in fine fettle, Dick thought his chances were excellent.  Andrewson had a broken upper canine – the icing on the cake; all men placed great stock in their great teeth.  The broken tooth would diminish Andrewson’s confidence.

So, Dick had filed the legal papers, retained a process server, had Andrewson served with a Challenge Writ, and sent his second – Pete – to arrange the time and place.

The time was to be seven o’clock that evening; the place, Overton Park, only a mile from where he stood.

The day dragged by endlessly.  Dick made the phone calls he had to make, met with his accountant, and had lunch in his office.  He lingered at work until almost six-thirty.

Finally, there was a knock on his office door, and Pete stuck his head in.  “It’s about time.  You should get changed.”


Dick stood up and removed his jacket, hanging it carefully on a wooden hanger.  He took off his tie, removed his shirt, and took off his shoes and socks.  He took off his trousers and folded them neatly, while Pete carefully packed all of Dick’s clothes in a garment bag he’d brought along for that purpose.

The traditional Challenge outfit was simple; a heavy, hard rawhide breastplate, leather leggings, a leather clout, studded leather sandals; the rig dated back thousands of years.  Dick had only bought his the week before, and the leggings were still stiffly new.  He laced them on last, jumped up and down a few times to get the feel of everything.

“Everything OK?”

“Yeah,” Dick agreed.  He bared his teeth at his friend.  “How do I look?”

“Terrifying.  Let’s go, wouldn’t look good to be late.”

They weren’t late, but Andrewson was, by almost half an hour.  When he finally arrived, climbing out of a van driven by his second, he looked about cautiously before stepping into the field to face Dick.

A doctor and the local Challenge Judge was waiting for them, clad in his traditional blood-red robe.  A few yards away, a small knot of younger men and a few small boys gathered to watch.

The Judge began by issuing the formal notice.  “Richard Michaelson of Border Township, you have extended a Formal Challenge for Hearth and Home to Estate Master Stephen Andrewson, also of Border Township.  Mister Michaelson, do you acknowledge the issue of this Challenge?”

“I do,” Dick snapped.

“Stephen Andrewson, you have been served with a legally binding Formal Challenge.  You understand that in the event of your loss, your Estate, your mates and other assorted chattels and holdings, with the exception of personal clothing and other effects of a personal nature, will be forfeit to the Challenger?”

“I do,” Andrewson said softly.

“Seconds, are you prepared to render assistance and first aid as required, short of interfering in the Challenge itself?”

“Yes,” both men agreed.

“Very well,” the Judge said, stepping back.  “You may begin when ready, gentlemen.”

Dick and Andrewson faced each other, staring; unconsciously bracing themselves up, they tilted their heads back to stare imperiously down their long, hooked noses at each other.

“You’re late,” Dick snarled, baring his canines.

“I’m here now,” Andrewson snapped back.  Dick noted the broken tooth when his opponent bared his teeth.  “You want to give up now?”

“No, not hardly.”

Andrewson dropped into a crouch, and Dick followed suit; the two men began circling, slowly, making threatening growls deep in their throats.

Suddenly Andrewson leaped, catching Dick off guard, as he slammed into him, chest to chest.  Older, Andrewson was still surprisingly strong; he sank his one good canine into the thick skin on Dick’s right shoulder, making Dick screech in pain and rage.  Dick managed to get a grip on his enemy’s leather breastplate and fling him away.

He stood, breathing hard, as Andrewson slowly got up.  He could feel blood trickling down his chest; it wasn’t a good start.

“You want to quit now?”  Andrewson was taunting him.

“No.  Let’s do this.”  The circling began again.

Andrewson lunged again, but Dick sidestepped.  He lashed out with a rock-hard fist as Andrewson passed, catching him on the shoulder.  Andrewson spun and grabbed, but Dick leaped forward, inside the arc of his opponent’s swing, and fastened his great teeth in the flesh of Andrewson’s inner arm.  He tore away a strip of skin and flesh as Andrewson howled in rage.

Dick spat out the strip of flesh.  He could feel more blood now, running down his face, but the blood wasn’t his this time.  “You want to quit now?”

Andrewson snarled again, blood still showing on his teeth.

The two men circled some more, gauging each other carefully.

Dick examined Andrewson carefully as he circled.  His arm, the one I bit, it’s on the same side as his broken tooth.

He lunged suddenly, slamming into Andrewson head-on.  He slammed his heavy, hard-boned forehead into Andrewson’s nose, shattering it; Andrewson gasped.  Dick caught Andrewson’s shoulder in one hairy-knuckled hand and spun the older man around, slamming a knee into Andrewson’s kidney as he turned.

Andrewson fell to one knee.  He lashed backwards with a fist, leaving a red welt on Dick’s thigh.  Dick balled both fists into a cantaloupe – sized ball and crashed them into Andrewson’s neck.  The older man fell into the bloodstained grass, spitting blood.

He tried to get up, once, and fell back.

“Do you yield?” the Judge asked softly from a few feet away.

“Steve,” Andrewson’s second spoke up, “You must answer.”

Andrewson hawked, spat blood into the grass.  He nodded.

“Yes,” he finally gasped.  “I yield.”

Dick threw back his head and roared his triumph to the sky.

His blood was pounding in his ears, and his shoulder ached where Andrewson had bitten him; he’d have to get something on it as soon as possible.  Bites tended to get infected.  He turned to the Judge.

“I claim my rights as victor,” he announced.

“Be it known,” the Judge announced, “That Richard Michaelson has defeated Stephen Andrewson in a Formal Challenge.  Stephen Andrewson, you have twenty-four hours from this moment to remove yourself and your personal effects from the Estate now belonging to Richard Michaelson, said Estate being twelve-oh-two Forest Parkway, Border Township.  Do you understand these requirements?”

“Yes,” Andrewson muttered, still on his hands and knees, staring at the grass.

“Here,” Dick said, extending a hand to the older man, “Let me help you up.”

Andrewson took the proffered hand, clambered to his feet.  “You’re a good, fast fighter,” he acknowledged.

“I’ve practiced.  You’re not so bad yourself.”

Andrewson shook his head.  “Well, I’m finished with it now.  Tell you the truth, it was bound to happen sooner or later; I’m not a young man any more.  I’ll move my stuff into the Unmated Lodge first thing tomorrow – is that all right?”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Dick grinned.  He couldn’t begrudge the man one last night with the wives that would be Dick’s from now on.

They were shaking hands when another man walked up, a man Dick didn’t recognize; he had a piece of paper in his hand.

“Are you Richard Michaelson?” he asked.

“I am,” Dick acknowledged.

“I’m Lawyer John Richardson,” he announced.  “I have been retained by Peter Oscarson to serve you with this Notice of Immediate Challenge, signed and registered this eleventh day of May.  Do you accept this Notice?”

Dick’s jaw dropped open.  He looked over to his best friend and second, Pete, who was stripping off his flannel shirt to reveal a rawhide breastplate.  “Pete, are you serious?  This isn’t some kind of joke, is it?”

“I’m afraid not, old buddy,” Pete grinned, baring his own canines.  “I went with you to look at your new Estate, remember?  I like it about as much as you do, and let’s face it, Dick, I couldn’t take you unless you were already worn down a little bit.  So…”

“Is this legal?” Dick demanded of the Judge.

“It is,” the Judge replied.  “It’s not generally done any more, but the Assembly has never outlawed the practice.”

“Well, you son of a bitch,” Andrewson muttered.  “This was your best friend?”

“He was,” Dick growled.  “He was.  All right, Lawyer Richardson, I accept the Challenge.”  Under the law, the recipient of a Challenge had to either accept or forfeit his holdings to the Challenger.  “I assume you’re acting as second?”

“I am,” the lawyer replied.

“Well, isn’t that nice.”  Dick turned to Andrewson, who was bent down with his hands on his knees, spitting blood into the grass.  “This is going to sound crazy, Andrewson, but…”

“Would I act as your second now?  After you just took my home and wives away from me?”  He glared at Dick, then glared harder at Pete and his lawyer.  Pete was removing the rest of his clothing to reveal the Challenge outfit he wore under his business suit.  “Well, I’ll tell you what – I’ll do it.  A formal Challenge, well, I did it to old Henry Morganson, and now you’ve done it to me, but it was all fair and above-board.  But this…” He motioned at Pete contemptuously.  “When you’re injured and tired…. Yeah, yeah, I’ll do it.”

“Good.”  The two men shook hands again and turned to face the Judge.

“Peter Oscarson of Border Township, you have extended an Immediate Formal Challenge for Hearth and Home to Estate Master Richard Michaelson, also of Border Township.  Mister Oscarson, do you acknowledge the issue of this Challenge?”

“I do,” Pete answered, a nasty grin on his face.

“Mister Michaelson, you have been served with a legally binding Formal Challenge.  You understand that in the event of your loss, your Estate, your mates and other assorted chattels and holdings, with the exception of personal clothing and other effects of a personal nature, will be forfeit to the Challenger?”

“I do,” Dick barked.

“Seconds, are you prepared to render assistance and first aid as required, short of interfering in the Challenge itself?”

“Yes,” the lawyer answered.  Andrewson nodded, wiping the last remnants of blood from his jaw.

“Very well,” the Judge said, stepping back.  “You may begin when ready, gentlemen.”

As the circling began again, Dick appraised Pete carefully.  He was a good four inches taller than Pete, and thirty to forty pounds heavier; through the normal horseplay that went on at the Unmated Lodge, he knew he was stronger.  But his thigh ached from the blow landed in the first fight, and he could still feel blood running down his chest from the bite.

Pete feinted to his left, aiming his fangs at Dick’s wounded shoulder.  Dick dodged away, swinging a fist at Pete’s head, and missing.

He’s fast, Dick thought.  He’s much faster than he ever let on in games.

Pete feinted again, quickly, dancing back as Dick grabbed at him.

He’s trying to tire me out by making me jump around, Dick thought.

Dick stood still, only turning as necessary to face Pete.

“You’re going to have to close, Pete,” he taunted his former friend and partner.  “You can’t win a Challenge by dancing around.”

“I thought I’d let you bleed a while longer, first,” Pete grinned.

“Come on,” Dick growled.  “Bring it.  You wanted this.”

“Be patient, buddy,” Pete laughed.

The circling continued.

I’ve got to make him close, somehow, Dick thought.

Both times he’s faked, he’s faked towards my injured side.

Dick leaned his injured shoulder a bit away from Pete as they circled and dragged his right foot a little.  He watched Pete’s eyes.

Pete’s gaze flickered towards Dick’s dragging foot.  His shaggy brow rose a bit, just a bit.  Pete looked at Dick, bared his great teeth in a snarl.  Dick snarled back, showing his own great teeth, a good inch longer than Pete’s.

Pete danced to his left suddenly, striking with both fists at Dick’s injured shoulder.  Dick pivoted only slightly, taking the blow on his breastplate.  He let out a grunt of pain, a bit louder than he really felt.  He lashed out at Pete’s head with one fist, missing deliberately.  Panting, he snarled again, blowing froth and a bit of blood at Pete.

Circling again, and Pete stared hard into Dick’s eyes.  Pete was growing more confident, noticeably, by the moment.

Which was just what Dick wanted.

Dick let out an intimidating roar and lunged, grabbing at Pete’s breastplate.  He caught hold of the smaller man and threw him, but he held back, just enough that Pete could stay on his feet.  Before Pete could recover completely, Dick rushed him, fangs bared, fists swinging wildly; he let Pete sidestep, and took Pete’s blows on the hard rawhide armor across his back.  He swung as Pete drubbed on his back armor, catching him with a fist on the side of the head, but he pulled the blow.

They separated, began circling again.  Pete was grinning openly now.

Any moment now, Dick thought.

Pete lashed out suddenly, striking again with balled fists, this time at Dick’s jaw.  Dick stepped back, let Pete’s fists pass his head, and neatly stepped into the swing, grabbing Pete’s arm at wrist and elbow.  He turned, taking Pete’s arm over his shoulder, and pulled, neatly snapping Pete’s arm at the elbow.  The joint separated with a horrible cracking sound, drowned out by Pete’s screech of agony.

The two men separated; Dick stood tall, glaring down at Pete as he crouched, cradling his wrecked arm.

“Do you yield?” the Judge asked softly.

“Well, Pete?”

“Yes,” Pete almost whispered, acknowledging the obvious.

“Be it known,” the Judge announced, “that Peter Oscarson has failed to defeat Richard Michaelson in an Immediate Formal Challenge.  Richard Michaelson retains all rights and privileges of Estate.”

“Wait a minute,” Dick snapped.  Several sets of eyes turned to him.  “I claim rights of the Challenged.”

“What is your claim?” the Judge asked.

“Peter Oscarson owns one-half of the Border Township business Associated Factors, Ltd., and I claim rights of the Challenged to his half of that business.”

“You have that right under the law,” the Judge said, “But it’s not normally done.”

“An Immediate Challenge to a wounded opponent isn’t normally done, either,” Dick snapped.

“Very well.  So ordered; Peter Oscarson, you will yield all claims and holdings pertaining to your ownership interest in Associated Factors to Richard Michaelson.  Under the law you have twenty-four hours to fulfill this order.  Do you have any questions?”

“No,” Pete ground out through clenched teeth.

“Very well.  Gentlemen, are there any other matters to take the Judge’s time today?”

Dick, Pete and Andrewson all shook their heads.

“You will receive formal notification of all orders by noon tomorrow, then,” the Judge said, “and I wish you all a good evening.”  He turned and strode off the field, his assistant trailing along behind.  The waiting doctor came forward now and knelt to examine Pete’s arm.

“Well, Pete,” Dick snarled, “You really blew it, didn’t you?  I’ll be generous, though; I’ll give you forty-eight hours to get your crap out of the office.  Since your arm is broken and all.”  Dick knew that Pete’s shattered elbow would never heal completely; his chances of ever owning an Estate of his own were all but non-existent.

“Oh, thanks, old buddy,” Pete gasped, an edge of sarcasm coming through the pain in his voice.

“Steve,” Dick turned now towards Andrewson, “How’s your schedule?  I need a partner now.  I can’t run Associated all by myself.”

“What?”  Andrewson looked thunderstruck.

“You heard me.  You’re second VP at First Federated Savings and Loan, right?  Does that leave you enough time to help out in another business?  I bet you could buy into half of Associated, couldn’t you?  I’ve just taken over half of the shares, as it happens, other than the half I already owned.”  The two men stood, staring at each other for a few moments.

“Let’s talk about it,” Andrewson said at last.  “I’m free for lunch on Friday.”

“Me too.  I’ll call you.”

Pete’s lawyer was helping him into his van now, Dick noticed; they’d be heading to the local hospital to have Pete’s broken arm set.  The doctor came now to look at Dick’s shoulder.  Dick removed his breastplate so the doctor could more easily see the bite.

The doctor shook his head.  “I don’t know why so many of you insist on biting in these fights.  It’s the worst thing in the world for infection.”  He poured some antiseptic on a gauze pad, dabbed it on the bite marks, and slapped a bandage on the wound.  “Come see me if that starts to swell, or if you notice any unusual pain or discharge.  You’re young and healthy.  If it doesn’t get infected, you should be fine.”

“All right.”

Dick flexed his arms; the bite wound hurt, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle.  He’d have a bruise on his thigh, and several on his back, but he’d had worse in the rough-and-tumble Games put on every weekend at the Unmated Lodge.

“Not a bad day,” Dick said softly, looking at the torn-up grass of the field.  “Not a bad day at all.”