4 Jun


willow photo: weeping willow 100_6148_zps0bf28e45.jpg  In the summer, when the weather was gorgeous (and that’s what it invariably was for a good half of every year) the tribes-people in Owongo’s little settlement invariably went about naked.

It wasn’t that they were proud of their bodies and wanted all and sundry to admire them (though some might have) but that nudity was a great deal more comfortable than draping thick and sweat-inducing animal skins over their already perspiring bodies.

Owongo particularly welcomed the summer when it arrived. With joy in his heart and a giggle on his lips he cast aside the repulsively fragrant skins he protected his delicate flesh with during the colder months and leapt about in the open, generating a sense of well-being and delight.

Mirumda (his bosomy woman) also dispensed with her less fragrant garments and, smiling with a motherly benevolence onto creation, allowed her adequate breasts to swing in time with Owongo’s more delicate parts. The two of them, and the rest of the tribe, were at a wonderful kind of peace. A sweet rhythm swept through the community Voices were raised in four-part harmony and the gods were praised with a cavalcade of swirling willies and seemingly floating breasts.

Until one summer, that is, when the sickness visited the people.

You may recall that Owongo lived a very long time ago, at a time before mankind made any of his finest inventions. Indeed, back then there were no apothecaries, no chemist shops, no pharmaceutical industry and nowhere useful to pop to for help in time of dire need. And it was under those circumstances and at that time in the affairs of Mother Earth that Owongo fell ill – with the aforementioned visiting sickness.

He took to sitting inside his cave shivering despite the weather outside, which was accounted to be too hot for any sensible caveman to do anything as strenuous as hunting. And it was as he sat there, knees pulled up and a pathetic look of weary resignation on his face that Mirumda, deciding to lighten the mood and give him something to maybe smile at, pointed at his groin and said “that looks exactly like a dead turkey…”

He looked down and what future eras might call his crown jewels, that collection of soft objects he was most proud of, did indeed look like something avian that had died a slow and painful death. He shook his head sadly, and a tear oozed from the corner of one eye.

“Too small to be even a baby turkey,” he sighed, “my willy is no more … it is an ex-willy, bereft of life it retreats into itself and dies…”

“You need the medicine man,” Mirumda said. “He will find herbs and nettles to cure you, bring you back your penile strength!”

“Or kill me,” muttered Owongo darkly.

But Mirumda ignored his darker fears and went in search of the medicine man. Every settlement had one – they were mostly con-men who fooled the easily deluded into believing they had some power over health (and, oddly enough, wealth). But at times of dread and despair they came into their own by prescribing a hopelessly useless set of medicines for those afflicted by a variety of ailments, and when their cures failed to save the lives of their patients they announced that this or that god needed appeasing or things would only get worse. Oddly enough, that appeasing involved the passing of wealth of some sort into their own hands, but such was the grief that invariably surrounded death that nobody actually noticed this element of their deception. In such a way, over millennia, did mighty churches grow!

Mirumda returned. Her face was grey, and she coughed sadly.

“Medicine man has the sickness and is dead,” she said briefly. “Poor Owongo – he die too!”

“No I won’t!” whispered Owongo, girding his loins with every ounce of strength that he possessed. He stood up and wobbled as his enfeebled legs struggled to bear his weight, and finally succeeded. “I will eat that tree!” he yelped, pointing to a sapling that grew tall and proud close to their cave entrance. And such was his delirium that he actually believed he could consume a whole tree in his search for an unknown cure

“Now that’s silly!” pronounced Mirumda.

But Owongo, though feeble and delirious, would have none of it. He staggered like a drunken man to the growing tree and grasped the silvery bark of its immature trunk between his teeth. And he sucked. You never saw a weak and feeble caveman suck so hard! He sucked as if his life depended on it.

Which in a way it did, for the tree was an immature willow and the juices he drew from it were filled to overflowing with salicylic acid, which in years to come would be processed into little white pills called aspirin.

So Owongo, unwittingly, had discovered a wonder-drug and Mirumda had a double reason to celebrate when she saw the light in his eyes.

“See!” she crowed, pointing at his crotch, “dead turkey has come back to life!”

© Peter Rogerson 04.06.15


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