After a hard day of hunting and gathering, Dimbulb returned to his cave to find a dinosaur in the front garden.
Dimbulb hadn’t had a good day of hunting and gathering. In fact he hadn’t managed to hunt anything at all. The very sight of him – or maybe the smell of him – had sent every bird or beast running for the wide blue yonder. And as for gathering, all he had was a root and a handful of grubs. Grubs probably couldn’t smell, and roots were too slow to run away. He’d had two handfuls of grubs, but had been hungry so he’d eaten one. And they’d been black-headed grubs, which weren’t very tasty, not like the yellow-headed grubs in the other handful. But he knew that his woman would murder him if she didn’t have yellow-headed grubs for supper, and he had no desire to be murdered.
So Dimbulb’s day had been fairly awful, and as the most awful part of it, there was the dinosaur in the front garden.
The dinosaur was large and brightly coloured, the black and white feathers on its body set off by the yellow wattles on its neck and the bright red crest on its head. It was rooting in the nearest flower bed when Dimbulb arrived, its stiff pointed tail held out behind to balance it so it didn’t fall on its face. The state of the flower garden showed that it had already been rooting around for some time.
The front garden was the invention, pride and joy of Dimbulb’s woman, the lady Uga, and she was out in it as well, swatting at the dinosaur with a broom made of leaves tied to a stick with vines.
The broom was also Uga’s invention, pride, and joy, and she was understandably wary of wrecking it by actually bringing it into contact with the dinosaur, which is why her swatting had no effect on it at all.
“What are you doing standing there?” the lady Uga shouted, seeing Dimbulb. “Come here and chase the dinosaur away!”
Dimbulb took a wary look at the dinosaur. It didn’t look like it was in any hurry to be chased away. It looked as though it wanted to settle down in the front garden for some time to come. And he thought that it would probably be a very good idea to let it do as it wanted. A safe idea, anyway.
On the other hand...
“Do something, you snivelling coward!” Uga shouted. “Or I’ll break this broom over your head and make another!”
Dimbulb took a look at her advancing threateningly towards him, and then at the dinosaur. There was little to choose between them. “Maybe,” he suggested, “I could club it over the head instead of chasing it off? Then we could eat it for dinner.”
“Do it, then,” Uga said, mollified. “Do it.”
The dinosaur had even less intention of being clubbed over the head and being eaten for dinner than it did of being chased away. It raised its head, the better to see them with, and opened its mouth, the better for them to see its teeth with. It swung its stiff long tail, and with one swipe knocked the club right out of Dimbulb’s hand. Then it went back to rooting in the front garden, with a self-satisfied air.
Dimbulb looked at Uga. Uga looked at Dimbulb. Together they looked at the dinosaur. Both of them swallowed painfully.
“I think,” Dimbulb said at last, “that we might as well let the dinosaur stay where it is, at least for now.”
“After all, it’s not like we can’t do without a front garden,” his woman agreed. “It’s not like it would ever catch on, anyway.”
The dinosaur was a she.
They discovered this the next morning when they found that she’d dug a nest in the remnants of the front garden, and deposited six large eggs inside it. She was standing proudly over it when Dimbulb and Uga emerged.
“Look, eggs,” Uga said. “I think I’ll invent omelettes. They’ll be my pride and joy.”
The dinosaur let her know what she thought of Uga’s new invention, pride and joy.
“You’d better invent hair styling,” Dimbulb suggested, looking at what remained of Uga’s flowing locks. “It can be your new pride and joy instead.”
The dinosaur looked inquisitively at Dimbulb, who promptly resolved to invent shaving if necessary, and make it his pride and joy. But apparently her appetite was temporarily sated with Uga’s hair, and she went back to arranging her eggs.
“No omelette, then,” Uga grumbled. “You go and hunt and gather. And bring back more yellow headed grubs, you hear?”
“There aren’t any yellow headed grubs to be had,” Dimbulb said, as he walked away. And all day, though he searched high and low, and found plenty of black headed grubs and even some tasty caterpillars, yellow headed grubs he gathered none at all. And, of course, he didn’t hunt anything either.
“Perhaps I should invent bathing,” he muttered to himself, as yet another animal raced away for the horizon as soon as he drew near. “It could be my pride and joy.” But the moment he thought that, he remembered that Uga would never forgive him for inventing something that wasn’t her pride and joy, so there wasn’t anything he could do. And anyway, getting food was more on his mind.
“We’re going to have to do something about that dinosaur,” Uga said, as they sat munching caterpillars that evening. “Things can’t just go on like this.”
“Maybe we should change caves?” Dimbulb suggested timidly. “People do change caves sometimes, you know. Grok from the next canyon even invented a moving company to help them do it. It’s his pride and joy.”
“I don’t want to change caves,” Uga said. “And anyway why should we move? We were here first. Let the dinosaur move!”
“There’s a very good cave two canyons over,” Dimbulb pointed out. “They say it even has access to a pool of water. If I could invent this bathing thing I’ve been thinking about...”
“I hate those stuck-up women who live two canyons over!” Uga screamed. “Just because they have flowers growing there they wear them in their hair and think they’re so superior. They even talk about inventing something called horticulture.” She looked so angry that if there weren’t still a few caterpillars to be eaten, Dimbulb would have retreated to the far corner of the cave. “Don’t you dare tell me to move there, ever again.”
“But what can we do about the dinosaur, then?” Dimbulb asked. “We can’t fight her, can we? She’s too big.”
A look of low cunning suffused Uga’s lovely features. “She goes off to look for food every day,” she said. “That’s the time when you should do it.”
“Do what?” Dimbulb asked, dimly.
“Why, you dim fool, can’t you invent intelligence for once? It might be your pride and joy. I mean you should go and take the eggs, of course. Bring them in here and we’ll have omelettes, after all.”
“But...” Dimbulb began.
“But nothing. You do that tomorrow, or I’ll be forced to invent treatments for the skull fracture I’m going to inflict on you.”
So the next day Dimbulb didn’t go to work at hunting and gathering. Instead, he stayed in the cave, watching the dinosaur, who stood looking around and occasionally preening her feathers proudly. A thought struck him.
“What happens when she finds her eggs gone?” he asked, inventing a whisper as he did so in order to not tip off the dinosaur. “Won’t she be out to find them and take revenge on whoever removed them?”
“We’ll just hide inside the cave until she gives up and goes away,” Uga whispered back, instantly infringing on the patent of Dimbulb’s invention. Dimbulb knew well enough not to mention it.
“What if she tries to come into the cave?” he asked instead. “She’s small enough to squeeze through the entrance.”
“That’s why I invented this.” Uga pointed at something in the shadows, and Dimbulb saw that it was a framework of pieces of wood lashed together with vines. “As soon as you get the eggs, I’ll pull it across the entrance. I call it a door, and it’s going to be another pride and joy.”
Dimbulb didn’t point out that the door was too frail to take a poke of the dinosaur’s bony crest, or a kick from one of her talons. “What if she doesn’t go away for days?” he asked.
“What if she doesn’t?” Uga replied, with a shrug. “Six dinosaur eggs should give enough omelettes to last us a while.”
So Dimbulb didn’t say anything more. Soon afterwards, the dinosaur took a final look around, shook her long stiff tail, and stalked away.
“She’ll be back soon,” Uga said, as soon as the dinosaur was out of sight. “Go and get the eggs, quickly!”
Taking a deep breath, Dimbulb came out of the cave and walked over to the eggs. Just as he was about to bend to take hold of the first one, there was a huge roar, and a dinosaur came charging through the bush.
It was a horrible dinosaur. It was all teeth and jaws and claws, and it tore up pieces of the ground as it charged, and it came straight for Dimbulb, far too quickly for him to get away.
There was only one thing to do, so he did it. He took the club from where it hung around his loincloth, and he began to swipe it at the dinosaur’s snout, trying hard to keep it at bay.
And it was at that very moment that his dinosaur, the mother of the eggs, attracted by the roars and Uga’s screams, returned.
She returned like vengeance made flesh and blood, legs pounding on the ground, jaws agape, feathers flying. She came so fast that the other dinosaur didn’t have a chance to turn and fight. With a squeak of fear it turned around and disappeared as quickly as it had come.
Dimbulb looked up at his dinosaur. His dinosaur looked down at him.
Then she bent down and rubbed him gently with her crest, whuffed companionably in his ear, and then she licked him.
“She thought I was protecting her eggs from the other dinosaur,” Dimbulb said.
Uga nodded shakily. “What shall we do now?” she asked. “I no longer have a front garden, and I can’t invent omelettes.”
“Maybe she’ll go away when the babies are hatched,” Dimbulb suggested.
“Not a chance.” Uga pointed outside, where the dinosaur was scraping together earth and stone. “She’s inventing a house. She’s here to stay.”
And so it proved. The house was the dinosaur’s pride and joy. And her babies took to wandering into Uga’s cave to play with her whenever they got bored, and Uga had to feed them any spare caterpillars and grubs lying around.
Meanwhile the hunting was impossible, because Dimbulb had still not got around to inventing a bath. And Uga had her own problems.
“Those women from two canyons over were jeering at me because I didn’t have any flowers in my hair,” she whined. “How can I have flowers without a front garden, and how can I have a front garden with the dinosaurs out there?”
“Flowers in your hair are so sixty six million BC,” Dimbulb tried to console her. “We’re now in modern times.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” his woman snapped. “Dates haven’t been invented yet, and when they are, they’ll be nobody’s pride and joy.” She wandered disconsolately to the cave entrance. “It’s almost winter,” she said. “The dinosaurs are moulting their feathers. Even they have...” she stopped suddenly. Dimbulb might have thought she’d been shot, if only anyone had seen fit to invent a gun.
“What is it?” he asked finally.
“Feathers!” Uga gasped. “Come quickly, and help me gather all the feathers you can!”
“Why?” Dimbulb asked, but conditioned reflex made him spring to obey. Soon they were back in the cave with armfuls of shed feathers. “What do you want these for?”
“You’ll see,” Uga said, and began sticking feathers in her hair and in her tree-bark bikini. “You’ll see!”
The women of two canyons away saw Uga parading by in her feathers, and got to work on their men. They in their turn came to Dimbulb offering half their kills, in return for feathers. And the dinosaurs grew more all the time, so they never ran out.
Uga is very happy with what she invented. She calls it High Fashion. It’s her pride and joy.
Dimbulb thinks it might last a year or two, if they’re lucky.
Maybe not even that long.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2017