Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shit and Mothballs


Today at rehearsal I nearly fell down a very steep staircase and landed in a pile of very sharp objects.  It was a big fright.  My life flashed before my eyes and I couldn’t stop picturing what my body would have looked like if it had happened.  I still can’t.  It would not have been pretty.  All the grisly alternatives keep flashing past my eyes.  My mind loves to do that: torment and titillate - push me to the edge.  It’s deeply morbid.
Maybe it’s because of the accident.  (Read The Night I Nearly got my Head Chopped off by an Elevator.)
Maybe it’s just the way it’s always been.
Growing up, our household was always pretty open about death.  Mum saw her first dead body during nursing training at 19.  That, she told us, was the day she first tried a cigarette.  We all knew about it.  We all saw Gran that day without her teeth in, stretched out still on the made white bed.  Mum bought cakes afterwards and let us drink whisky.  

We all knew about death.  We all had images.

Baby Brother Bunny in particular.  He was always the one to find the dead.  He was a serious little boy with a cherub face who would chant this poem in his little jimjams with the aeroplanes on them:
    Whenever you see a hearse go by
    Remember one day you’ve got to die
    Ooh ah ooh ah how happy we shall be 

The first was Wuzzle the Guinea Pig.

BBB accidentally left Wuzzle’s cage open one day only to watch in silent horror as Meggs the Cat swept upon the furry ball and sunk his fangs straight into Wuzzle’s tender neck.  Mum was watering the garden.  BBB turned to her, a questioning look on his angel face.  Mum hissed and the cat ran off, leaving Wuzzle a limp-but-still-breathing pile of red and white and caramel.  Mum did what only a good country girl knew how, went inside, got a plastic bag, put Wuzzle in it, tied the bag to the car exhaust, got in with Baby Brother and started the engine. 
"How come we're not moving mum?" he asked.
She put her hand on his little shoulder.  
And he Knew. 

    They wrap you in a big white sheet 
    And drop your bones down ten feet deep
    Ooh ah ooh ah how happy we shall be

We had a funeral for Wuzzle in the backyard near the scene of the crime as Meggs prowled menacingly around the tomb.  Baby Brother said a few profound words:
“Goodbye Wuzzle. Love from Us.”  And we all stifled giggles and threw flower petals on the lump in the dirt and BBB solemnly stuck a cross made of ice-cream sticks in it.  Poor Baby Bunny. 

A few years later the solemn nod was back.  This time it was Meggsy.  He had been hit by a car and managed to haul his broken body to the squat fern in the front garden to go to the Big Sleep.   

    The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out
    The worms play ping pong on your snout
    Ooh ah ooh ah how happy we shall be.

It was the day of my 21st birthday and I was a Bimbo, so I was painting my nails bright pink or something when Baby Brother Bunny entered the bedroom and stood looking at me for a long time until I finally looked up.
There it was again.  The Nod of the wise old sage.
“Oh no,” I said.  “Who?”
“Meggsy,” he said. 
“Oh no,” I choked.
“He is passed,” continued BBB.
“Oh no!” I squealed, tears flowing.  Meggsy was ten, too young, too young.  He was our big fat ginger knee blanket.  “Did you find him?” I continued.
“Yep,” he sighed, like a 40-something bricklayer.
“What was it like?” I asked.
“Ants crawling in and out of his head, maggots crawling in and out of his eyes.”
“Oh,” I said.  Poor Baby Brother.  He’d seen too much.
“Stank,” he continued in his monotone.
“Ew,” I said.  “Like what?”
“Like death,” he said.
“Oh really?”  I said.  “What does death smell like Baby Brother?”
“Shit and mothballs.”
I paused.  “Shit and mothballs?” I asked.
“Shit,” he confirmed with absolute certainty.  “And mothballs.”
And off he padded down the hallway.

    Ooh ah ooh ah how happy we shall be.

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