I’m off work sick today. My throat is sore and every joint in my body aches; making it hard to walk, sit, lie and type. My tongue seems suddenly too big for my mouth, or perhaps my mouth has turned in on itself. You can never tell.
I feel, as they say, like death. (By the way, the title is a lyric from a song we used to sing at school when I was about 11.)
I felt it coming on yesterday, but at about 5 last night felt much better. Perhaps it was an afternoon tea spent with other playwrights (expect there was one woman who claimed that we don’t have political theatre in Aotearoa. Exsqueeze me? Baking Powder?) and the unexpected arrival Sonal. Or perhaps it was the pilsner and the curly fries. Whatever it was, I felt fine enough to go to a Readers’ and Writers’ week gig called Once Upon a Deadline. 6 writers went to different locations around the city to write a short story in a day. Then they read them out to a very full (standing room only) audience. My favourites were the offerings from the playwrights; but I’m a plot whore. I am bored easily by very pretty language that is as insubstantial as a kiss from a dandelion clock that measures the length of my existence…do you get my drift (ha!). Lovely language is all well and good, BUT WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS THE STORY!?
What struck me the most was that every story (maybe not Jo Randerson’s come to think of it…) had death in it in some way – a family coping with the death of a mother, the long overdue Wellington earthquake that will kill us all, the actual dead leaving Wellington. Are we all that morose? Are we death obsessed?
I said that if it were me then I’d write about sex, not death. Although in a way that is writing about death (at least a little one) if the French are to be believed. Then I thought about my writing, in particular my novel, and there is death. Everywhere. January is obsessed with mortality, Mae is dying and only a few posts ago, I got all excited about January’s new career as a death clerk.
This troubled me not as a sat down to watch my new favourite show Pushing Daisies (yep, more death) until a little death of my own came knocking at my door.
A random guy knocked at our door, apologised for waking me (at 9.30! Did I look sick already? Or very, very old?) and said he had found a cat who had been run over. Immediately I thought of Mog, who I had not seen since she gave up on trying to convince me that she had never, ever been fed. I rushed outside, and thankfully it was not her, but another cat whom I loved.
I called him “the little brown fulla”. He lived next door and would often help me hang out the washing. He was a mere kitten. A couple of months ago he made the great escape from his yard to ours by digging under the fence. Mog would hit him on the head as he tried to sneak through. Once he leapt from his bathroom window to follow me inside. He was a friendly little cat and I would spend time patting him if he came across my path.
Now it was my turn to knock on a door. It seemed to take forever to be opened, enugh time for me to think about the children that would have to be told, the other cat in that house that had suddenly lost his litter mate and that I had run outside in my bare feet.
Then there were three of us; looking at the cat. Not wanting to touch him, knowing that would confirm what his eyes already did. As his owner lifted his limp body, blood spilled from his mouth and nose and we all knew. The owner, the random guy and me.
Mog has been showered with affection since.
I guess if you want to be philosophical about it (and who can’t help but be philosophical in the face of death?) we are surrounded by death as we are life; because the two are intertwined like the strands of our own DNA that begins to decay the moment it is created.
(Whew! That’s a pretty good simile. Maybe I should become a writer or something…)