‘Grandpa,’ said Khoza, ‘Every day I am reading about unnatural behaviour on facebook. What are they talking about?’
‘What seems natural to one person may seem quite unnatural to another.’ I laughed. ‘So some people are naturally becoming quite unnaturally excited about it.’
‘All this confusion between natural and unnatural, when did it start?’
‘It didn’t start on facebook,’ I said, ‘It all started about two hundred years ago, when the first white man arrived in the ancient kingdom of Zambeziland, having crossed the Zambezi in a steamboat. The local people fled when they saw his white skin, thinking he must be a ghost.’
‘They thought he was unnatural?’
‘Of course. To them he was very unnatural.’
‘What was his name?’
‘The people called him Living Stone, meaning part living but part stone. On the one hand he could walk and talk. But on the other hand he couldn’t sing or dance, and he refused to take a wife, even when the paramount chief offered him a beautiful girl who was almost a virgin. This behaviour was unnatural, and also very rude. Even more peculiar and unnatural, his body was almost entirely covered with layers of black cloth.’
‘Was he just passing through?’ Khoza asked, ‘Or had he come to stay?’
‘That was the problem,’ I said grimly. ‘He decided to stay.’
‘His reason was very strange.’
‘You could say so,’ I admitted. ‘You see, whereas the people of Zambeziland regarded Stone as unnatural, he equally regarded them as unnatural. Where he came from, in faraway Northland, it was unnatural to walk around naked.’
‘I should have thought,’ laughed Khoza, ‘that being naked is more natural.’
‘The Stone,’ I explained, ‘was a man of limited experience. He thought that everything found in his country was natural, and everything different was unnatural. So he decided that he would make all the people dress properly and change their unnatural behaviour.’
‘Yes. Poor old Stone couldn’t stand all their suggestive dancing and joyful copulation. Whereas the people of Zambeziland were following their own customs, according to the wisdom of the elders and the guidance of the ancestors, poor old Stone couldn’t understand any of that. In his native Northland people only took off their clothes on special occasions, in the dark, and after having been given permission by a priest. Living Stone was so inexperienced that he blushed if he ever accidently saw his own genitals.’
‘And yet he considered himself wiser than all the elders in Zambeziland?’
‘His conceit was rather peculiar, because he himself didn’t actually know anything. All this knowledge was in his big black bible book. Every time he was asked a question he would look in his black book for the answer.’
‘And did he always find the answer?’
‘The answer always began with the same three words, Thou Shalt Not!’
‘So did they chase away this man who was trying to make their lives a misery?’
‘On the contrary, they were very impressed with the very unnatural technology of his steamboat and his murderous gun, and that they wanted to learn from him.’
‘I suppose that was only natural.’
‘Soon Stone had brought thousands of his fellow priests from Northland to show the people of Zambeziland how to behave like Stones. Within fifty years Zambeziland had become a province of Northland, and had all the people had become Stones. They covered themselves with heavy suits and dresses, despite being very uncomfortable in the hot weather. They painted their faced white and only had sex with the permission of a priest. All previous forms of sex, especially the most enjoyable, were declared illegal.’
‘How terrible,’ said Khoza.
‘Many years passed, and they had mostly forgotten their earlier customs, or otherwise regarded their own grandparents as savages.’
‘How unnatural,’ said Khoza.
‘They had become more like Northlanders than the Northlanders themselves. Then finally the day came when the Paramount Chief of Northland made an official announcement, saying Now that you people of the far province of Northland have painted your faces white and learnt from the black book, and covered your bottoms decently, I hereby, with this royal command, declare you to be the independent Republic of Zambeziland.’
‘But it was too late to recover the joyful culture of Zambeziland?’ suggested Khoza.
‘I’m afraid you’re right,’ I said sadly. ‘The people had all turned to Stone. They had even put up a stone statue of Living Stone, and worshipped it with dead prayers and dead songs, thinking him to be their new God.’
‘So is that the end of the story?’ asked Khoza.
‘The end is even more terrible,’ I replied. ‘Another fifty years passed, during which time the strange white people of Northland had dropped their belief in the black book, took off their clothes, and had begun to enjoy themselves. They changed from Living Stones to Living People. Then one day the new Paramount Chief of Northland arrived in Zambeziland for an official visit. His name was Bum Ki-Moon.’
‘Naked Bottom. Because he never wore any trousers. And when the people saw his nakedness they chased him back into his aeroplane shouting at him You can’t come here dressed like that! It is against our tradition! It is abominable! It is unnatural!’
‘Northland had become Zambeziland,’ said Khoza, ‘but Zambeziland had become Northland!’
‘Exactly!’ I said. ‘No such thing had ever happened before in the entire history of the world!’
‘It was unnatural!’ exclaimed Khoza.