|Table of Contents for Caveman Chemistry: 28 Projects, from the Creation of Fire to the Production of Plastics|
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Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself to the Lord. And the Lord said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although, thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.
And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath he will give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face
And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.
So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.
And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.
You are probably wondering why I am sitting here in the fireplace, covered in ashes, and scraping myself with a piece of broken crockery. I will tell you. First of all, you must know that Satan, having nothing better to do, convinced God to let him take away my oxen, my sheep, and my camels. Not satisfied, he also insisted on knocking down my oldest son's house with all my sons and daughters inside. And now he has given me a rash that itches like the dickens. You must also know that my wife, who urged me to curse God and die, has not so much as a zit. Anyway, I am scratching myself with a broken pot because the itching is unbearable. And to avoid infecting my open, running sores, I cover myself in ashes. These ashes, of course, are rich in potassium carbonate, which hydrolyze the cell walls of any bacteria which may happen to drop by. But I am getting ahead of myself.
I will not, of course, know about either potassium carbonate or bacteria for another six thousand years. But my mother, who was something of a clean freak, taught me all about potash, which comes, of course, from soaking ashes in a pot. "Potash," she would say, "can wash the stink off a Chaldean, the dirt off a Sabean, and the smirk off any son of mine." A strict woman, my mother, but she knew her cleaning supplies. Actually potash was her only cleaning supply. She used it for washing clothes and dishes, for scrubbing furniture and children. And since disease comes from being unclean, she would make us cover ourselves in ashes at the first sign of trouble. It was, for her, Chlorox, Comet, and Bactine all rolled into one.