The First Hairbrushing

by Paulus the Woodgnome

Author’s note: Yes, this is a shameless parody of a great author. (Would you have expected anything other than shameless ?) Yet I like to think he wouldn’t have minded too much. After all, there is plenty of spanking in the real thing - think of the Elephant’s Child, let alone Stalky and Co. . . .

THE FIRST HAIRBRUSHING or How the Baboon Got a Red Bottom

from Almost So Stories, by Rudyard Woodgnome

Once upon a time, Oh Best Beloved, before trees changed their leaves every year and when all the animals knew how to talk, there was a Chevious Baboon who dwelled by the great grey-green greasy Limpopo river, together with her mother and her father and all her sisters, cousins, and aunts.

Now, as her name suggests, Miss Chevious Baboon was forever getting herself into trouble. Who was it that dropped nuts on Mbogo the Leopard as he snoozed in the shade ? Who was it that ate all the fruit from the orchard of Wasi Ngungi the Elephant ? Who was it that called rude names in the ear of Kohungo the Rhinoceros and ran away before that short-sighted beast could identify her ? If you looked in the direction of Miss Baboon, Oh Best Beloved, you would not have far to look.

Everyone complained to her mother and her father, and they spoke to her quite severely, but the severest scolding had no effect. Tears of remorse would glisten in her big brown eyes as they pleaded with her to improve her behaviour, but as soon as they were done - off she would go to do some further mischief. And all the other baboons would shrug and say: "What is to be done ? Chevious will surely come to a bad end."

One night when all the other baboons were sleeping, Chevious Baboon woke and took it into her head to go for a walk. She knew that she should not, for her mother and father would fret terribly if they woke and found her gone, but she decided to go anyway. So she set off over the hill, and along the banks of the great grey-green greasy Limpopo as it glittered in the moonlight, looking for mischief. And after a while she saw a glow from behind a termite hill, as if someone had lit a fire there. So she crept up to see who it was, and to see if she could frighten them by coughing in the darkness like Bwana Asadu the Lion.

When she came close she saw that behind the termite hill was sitting a beautiful woman, all surrounded by a bright golden light, as bright as day. And Chevious Baboon saw that the light was streaming from the long shining hair of the beautiful woman as she sat and brushed it. Chevious Baboon thought that she had never seen anything as beautiful as the woman's shining hair. She wished that she had shining hair like that, instead of dull brown fur all over.

After a while the woman finished brushing her hair and singing to herself, and she put down the brush and went down to the river as if to bathe. Some of the light glimmered like pollen on the brush. And Chevious Baboon thought: perhaps the brush is what makes the woman's hair shine. I shall take it, and brush my fur with it, so that I too shine in the dark, and all the other baboons will admire me and be madly jealous.

And this plan so enthused her that before the thought had gone any further she had darted out, spinkum spankalorum, and seized the hairbrush and made off with it. Now you and I, oh Best Beloved, know that this is Grand Theft Hairbrush, and a Crime, but poor Chevious had not had the benefit of an Education.

Presently she heard behind her a terrible screech of anger. And she laughed to herself, thinking of the shining woman looking for her stolen hairbrush, but she carried on running, lickety-spit, until she was back among the baboon troop, where she curled up and pretended to have been sleeping the whole time.

Now when the morning came, or what should have been the morning, all the animals of the daytime got up to greet the sun, in the usual way, but the sun did not rise. They waited around in the grey dimness for what seemed like hours, until Chokchaki the Hornbill, wisest of the birds, said:

"Something is dreadfully wrong. I will fly up to the House of the Sun in heaven and find out what is happening." And off he flew, and it was not long before he was back looking terribly alarmed.

"What has happened ?" asked all the animals.

"The Woman in the Sun," (for of course you know, Oh Best Beloved, that just as there is a Man in the Moon, there is a Woman in the Sun) "says that someone has stolen the hairbrush that the Man in the Moon gave her. Now she is sulking, and until the thief is caught she refuses to let the sun out to shine upon the day."

Well the animals of the day were most alarmed by this, for how were they to go about their business without sunlight ? And they determined that they must catch the thief themselves. And Chevious Baboon, hearing this, ran all the way home and found the hairbrush she had taken, and went off to hide in a cave by the great grey-green greasy Limpopo river.

And while she was hiding, she thought that she might as well try out the hairbrush. Sure enough, as she began to brush her fur, it began to shine, first with a little glimmer like a firefly, but when she kept on brushing it soon took on a lovely golden glow, and all the dark little cave was lit up as if by a fire. So excited was she that Chevious Baboon quite forgot why she was hiding in the cave and ran out to show everybody, so that they could admire her.

Of course, as soon as they saw her, all the animals guessed who the culprit was, and Mbala the Antelope, who was the fastest among them, ran after her and caught her, and Wasi Ngungi held her fast in his strong, strong trunk so that she could not run away any more, and Chokchaki the Hornbill flew up to heaven to tell the Woman in the Sun that the thief who took her hairbrush had been found.

And presently the Woman in the Sun appeared, her face very stern, and her hair not shining quite as brightly as before. And she said that she was glad to have her hairbrush back, but that she would never let the sun shine on any land that had thieves like Chevious in it.

And all the animals muttered together until Mad Wizichi the Hyena said:

"Then let us kill her."

And all the baboons were terribly upset by this, not least Miss Chevious, and they hurriedly pushed forward Asnan the Crocodile, who, like all the crocodiles before and since, was a lawyer, to plead their case. And Asnan, with many tears, painted a picture of Chevious as a young baboon as good-hearted as any you could hope to meet, a support and prop to her parents in their old age, a pillar of her church, but prone to an excess of high spirits. And all present were much taken with the artistry of Asnan, and the Woman in the Sun agreed that perhaps death was a little excessive.

"For youthful high spirits," she said, "there is a better solution."

And grasping Chevious firmly by the scruff of her neck the Woman in the Sun threw her across her glimmering lap and began to spank her with the hairbrush in front of all the assembled animals.

Whackety-splat the hairbrush came down, pounding the helpless bottom of poor young Chevious. Time and again, despite pleadings, despite some unsuitable words that she must have learned from the warthogs, that stinging implement descended upon her struggling buttocks. How she yelled, Oh Best Beloved, oh how she screamed and hollered and carried on. But did it do any good ? Not one bit. The hairbrush kept coming down, and the fire in her bottom grew and grew, but her struggles dusted off all the shining golden light from the rest of her.

And all the laughing animals watched the spectacle of Chevious' downfall with great pleasure (for there is nothing so enjoyable as someone else's punishment), and even the stars in the sky above crowded round to see, so much so that some of them lost their places and fell.

And at last when Chevious was beyond yelling and beyond screaming and beyond sobbing, the Woman in the Sun released her, and said:

"Let that be a lesson to you. And as a reminder, in case you should be tempted to forget my lesson as quickly as you do your father's scoldings, look behind you."

And she flew back up into the sky, hairbrush in hand, and the sun came out.

And Chevious ran away in shame and hid for a day. And when she looked behind her she could see only her sore red swollen bottom. But thanks to the power of the hairbrush, it did not fade, but remained red for the rest of her life. And since that day, Oh Best Beloved, all her descendants also have red bottoms, to remind them of the Consequences of Crime.

And if you are not in bed very shortly, Oh Best Beloved, then somebody else around here will be getting a red bottom too . . .

Copyright © 2001

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