ELECTROLUX, EAT YOUR HEART OUT!
Owongo returned from a hunting expedition bearing an oversized rodent which he’d manage to kill after a titanic battle involving stones and the sharp end of a quill. He was weary, ready for bed, he told himself – and hungry.
“Mirumda!” he called into the mouth of his cave, needing to attract the attention of his grotesque and ugly wife, but there was no reply.
“Mirumda not in,” he muttered to himself, and he sat on a stone step to wait for her. But she didn’t come – at least, not at once, and after a short time he stood up, frustrated, and marched towards the river, which was the only place she might be expected to be. There were, in those days, very few honourable places for a woman to go when her man was away.
He arrived at the river, where it looped round a little island not far from the home cave, and sure enough, there she was. She was sitting on a broad ledge on the bank and thrashing some skins with fist-sized stones as if determined to separate their fibres one by one.
“What Mirumda doing?” he barked, “Owongo hungry and need grub!”
“Mirumda washing clothes,” she replied.
His eyes opened wide. “We not wear clothes!” he hissed, “we go everywhere naked, willy dangling, that sort of thing, big boobs open to the sun! We not wear clothes! So why Mirumda washing what we don’t wear?”
She looked back at him sadly.
“Two winters ago when it snowed Owongo wear clothes,” she replied. “And Owongo get clothes dirty. Mirumda wash them then, and Mirumda wash them again because they start to smell. Owongo doesn’t want neighbours to say he smells if we get snows another winter, eh?”
“And Mirumda bash, bash, bash with stones?” he asked.
She nodded. “No other way,” she told him. “Mirumda work hard all day so that Owongo doesn’t smell.”
“Then Owongo must think,” he murmured, and she looked art him in despair, knowing what his thinking was likely to do. There were more results of Owongo’s thinking littering their cave, and although he might understand them, she rarely did.
He wandered along the river bank until he came upon a small whirlpool eddying in a tiny bowl-shaped inlet that had been carved into the river bank by quite a few years of eddying.
“Owongo get half an idea,” he muttered to himself.
He looked around him for inspiration so that he could complete that idea, and a dozen yards away he spied a tree that had been struck by one of the rare bolts of lighting that interfered with the peace and harmony of the African plains back then. Remember: the very first men had yet to leave their homeland in Africa and conquer the rest of the world.
He went up to that tree and yanked a loose branch from it. Had he known anything about cricket he would have said it looked uncannily like a cricket bat, but as he didn’t he thought it looked just right!
“Owongo triumphant!” he squawked, and carried his branch to the whirlpool, that was still eddying with a perfect circular motion. He searched around for an appropriately-shaped and tough fork of wood which he jambed into the ground so that it took on the appearance of something men many thousands of years later would describe as a sort of rowlock. Then, after forcing it next to his whirlpool firmly and immovably into a crevice so that he could balance his cricket-bat in a rowing position within it, he called Mirumda to him.
“Washing machine,” he said simply.
“Washing what?” demanded Mirumda.
“Machine,” he grinned, and grabbed a rabbit skin that Mirumda had been pummelling with stones and threw it into the whirlpool, that was still busy whirling.
“Owongo mad” shrieked Mirumda.
Then he placed his cricket-bat piece of wood between the fork in his home-made rowlock and heaved it backwards and forwards. It swirled the water in the whirlpool wildy, and the rabbit skin was pounded and battered by forces that, until that moment, had been unknown to man, though fishes knew quite a bit about them.
“Owongo clever…” gasped Mirumda.
He lay back and flicked his bat with one foot, and it continued agitating the whirlpool wildly.
Owongo grinned back. “Wasshing machine. Electrolux, eat your heart out,” he murmured, not knowing what on Earth he was saying but saying it anyway.
© Peter Rogerson 10.05.12