A SOAP OPERA
Owongo sat on his stone seat in tears. He had never wept before â€“ even in prehistoric times before mankind could truly be said to have evolved the male of the species was supposed to be able to hold his emotions in check. It wasn't manly for him to cry. Instead he ought to grit his teeth and suffer. It's what men were supposed to do.
But Owongo had resorted to actual salty tears on account of the pain.
Mirumda was cutting his hair, and never did any hominid lay claim to so much matted, disgusting and not very fragrant hair. It lay on the cave floor all around him in piles of curling stuff, and it was on the move. It had been so infested with insect life whilst adorning his head that, once it was hacked off it assumed a life of its own as the insects that had quite comfortably resided within it, in a state of total confusion, tried to leap every which way they could.
But that wasn't the source of Owongo's anguished tears so much as the blood.
Mirumda was, to say the least, a novice in the hairdressing business. In fact it would be truly generous to suggest that she was anything but a novice in any business that involved a blade. She had only ever used an implement with an edge for skinning the rodent-like creatures that Owongo managed to catch whilst on the hunt, and she had no intention of skinning Owongo â€“ not that her intention mattered much because, to all intents and purposes, she was skinning him. And every time that flint blade dug into his scalp Owongo produced an ear-splitting yelp and his eyes started leaking once again.
After far too long (from Owongo's perspective) of hacking away at his head Mirumda stood back and surveyed her handiwork.
â€œI may have nicked you,â€ she murmured, â€œand there may be a few drops of blood, but it look good. Owongo look good.â€
Owongo was well aware that there may be a few drops of blood because quite a few of them had managed to run down his face and were, as she spoke, dripping in rapid succession off his chin onto the earthen floor of the cave.
â€œOwongo bleed,â€ he complained.
â€œOwongo a wuss,â€ pronounced Mirumda, â€œa big wuss if he can't take a little pain!â€
â€œOwongo dying...â€ howled her bleeding man. â€œMirumda killed Owongo with blade and Owongo dying â€¦ the pain, the pain, the pain â€¦ it beyond all agonies...â€
â€œOwongo go and invent sticking plaster,â€ suggested Mirumda. â€œOwongo stick plasters on wounds and staunch bleeding. Then Owongo go to river and wash himself. Have a bath. Owongo use soap!â€
â€œWhat's soap?â€ demanded her agonised spouse.
â€œMirumda dream of sweet-smelling foam that washes skin as you rub it in,â€ sighed Mirumda, â€œbut there no such stuff. It only a silly dreamâ€
â€œOwongo go forth and bathe,â€ muttered a contrite caveman, and he waddled towards the river, avoiding contact with any other mortal for fear they might mock his multitude of blood stains and call him names. One thing Owongo couldn't abide was being mocked.
When he arrived at the river he spied a turgid little inlet in which the water was still and almost stagnant, and floating on it was a layer of fat from the carcase of an overfed squirrel that was decomposing nearby, and growing right next to it was a glorious burst of bright red fragrant flowers the like of which grew in wonderful profusion in that part of Africa (yes, we are in Africa) in those far-off days. What else drifted in that idle inlet of water no man can say, but the combination of what can be said with what can't produced a fascinating grease, and Owongo decided to experiment with it.
It felt slippery between his fingers, and when he rubbed the large red petals of the flowers into it the aroma, on his fingers, was unbelievably pretty. It filled his heart with yearning, and he gathered as much as the greasy mess and mixed it with many flowers and then rubbed it all over himself.
Then he jumped into the main current of the river and rubbed at the grease, and to his shock and delight it foamed up as if there was a great deal of magic in it. The more he rubbed himself the more foam he produced and the more his entire environment, both liquid and gaseous, was filled with glorious fragrance of large red flowers.
He dived and splashed and scrubbed for ages, until the foaming creation was all washed away, bobbing in little fragrant foamy bubbles into the distance as the river flowed away, and by the time he had finished he was the cleanest Owongo that had ever lived, and the most fragrant.
It was only when he returned to Mirumda, though, that he came to appreciate the special benefit of the kind of hygiene he seemed to have discovered.
â€œWhy, Owongo,â€ she trilled, â€œyou smell like angels â€¦ come, my sweet-smelling hominid man, come to my cot, for smelling like that I require a solid hour of passion from your sanitary loins!â€
And she pulled him into the darkest part of their cave, tugging him by his very confused willy.
Â© Peter Rogerson 25.04.12