Missing: One Link

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The search for an ancestor that might link the human to the inhuman goes on, like the search for Jimmy Hoffa (some experts feel that when we have found the one we will have found the other). What did our remote predecessors look like? No one knows, but all the indications are that in a family portrait, you’d want them to be holding the camera.

The hominid fossil record is scant — mostly jaws and teeth — and even this slim evidence was compromised by the recent discovery that these fossils are actually false teeth which the early men took out at bedtime and forgot to put back in. How and why they also took out their jaws is still a mystery.

What we do know about ancient man we have gleaned by picking through his garbage and going over his quarterly financial statements, and by talking to a woman named Maggie who knew him well. Maggie was a charwoman who became a slightly charred woman during the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino fire in Las Vegas in 1980.

“Not only were his teeth false, but his beard, too,” she said to us as she beat a still-smoldering Persian rug with a bullwhip. “I met him here in Vegas during Reagan’s first presidential campaign, sure. He was a little guy, about five-feet-two, eyes of blue — both on one side of his head, unfortunately. He was old, real old…about two million years, tops. No wonder he always insisted on the senior discount. I think it was him that started the fire. He cried on my shoulder one time and told me he was sore as all get out because he had invented fire way back when and never saw a penny of the royalties.”

Maggie paused thoughtfully. “One morning he took the blueberries off his cereal, stomped the juice out of ’em and painted the walls of his room with a dead branch — pictures of bison and ritual sacrifice, you know, but cute, like a little boy would do. He was just like a kid sometimes, always sulking because he knew his cranial capacity was about half the modern average and he couldn’t wear a hat without it falling over his ears. Also, he walked like Walter Brennan, but I told him it would never change the way I felt about him — I still hated him.”

Did this early man possess a brow only a bit higher than that of a teamster, or did he approach the human norm? Well, I don’t want to imply that his skull was pointed, but if you threw him headfirst into a dartboard he’d probably stick.

He used no “tools” as we know them today, although he was apparently able to crack nuts with his forehead and saw down trees with his eyebrow ridges. In short, he closely resembled a Chicago alderman, except that he lacked the power of speech, as did his wife — which is about the only good thing we can say about either of them, bless their hearts.

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