It is not always true that three is a crowd. Every Friday for over twenty years three of us would meet at a city pub, down a few pints then move onto a restaurant in the city. We were close. We were great company. Then one of us had a terrible accident. He is now on life support. Very soon it will be turned off. I miss my friend very much. I cried last night. I had not cried for years. It is our loss I mourn as much as our friend’s imminent passing. We were all odd blokes. We got on famously. We looked forwards to Fridays so much. Now our friend is gone. It’s just the two of us. It’s a bit frightening.
We lost Rosco last night. We knew soon as we settled down to sleep and Rosco wasn’t there. Neither at the foot of the bed on top of the quilt nor on the window ledge gazing down our driveway for feline interlopers. Bev got me to look for him. “Where are you?” I called out. There was no answer. I looked in the usual places, under the bed, in the linen cupboard where he sometimes curls up for comfort. “Maybe, he’s outside,” Bev called out. “What would he be doing outside this time of night?” I called.
“I don’t know,” said Bev. “He just might be.”
It was after ten. We always make sure Rosco’s inside well before ten and we lock the door to make sure he doesn’t get out. But I had to look. I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I didn’t.
I got the flashlight and warily trod out to the porch taking care to dodge the chicken poo. It was then I heard a drumming at the toolshed door. “Get me the outa here,” it said. It was the unmistakable voice of Rosco, our irascible bilingual cat. I opened the door. “About bloody time,” he said. ‘Why don’t you look inside the shed and see who’s inside it before you blithely lock it?!” He had me there. It seemed he chased a mouse inside the shed before dinner, got a little sleepy and curled up alongside the bag of chicken chaff. “Get outa my way, Jackass” he said, pushing past me, “it’s past my bedtime,” and promptly curled up alongside Bev on my side!
I wrote a poem once called ‘How to Catch a Seagull’. It has been published a number of times. It was a funny poem about how my grandma told me in a mock serious tone I did not recognize at the time just how you could catch a seagull. It involved the strategic placement of salt. You may know the age-old myth. I will try to find the poem and post it on my blog. What made me think of it was the prize winning entry in the Margaret River Short Story Competition called ‘The Trouble with Flying’ which I thought would be about planes but was about seagulls. It is by a fledgling writer Ruth Wyer and is a ripper. If you get a chance, read it.
I have been involved over the last week in an altercation with my bilingual cat which accounts for my failure to post on my blog. Rosco, or Roz as he likes to be known, stubbornly asserts that Cat is a language.
“Nonsense,” I said, “it’s just a hodgepodge — a term Rosco took exception to — of hisses, meows and purrs.” This got his back up.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about”, he said. “It’s an inflected language like Chinese.”
I tried to point out the absurdity of the comparison, liking the paucity of Cat to the elaborate complexities of Chinese. “Why, you don’t even conjugate your verbs,” I said. “Cat has fewer words than a haiku.”
At this Rosco sprang at me but I was too quick. We have not been on speaking terms all week.
I had been staying at Bev’s too long. I was becoming part of the furniture. Even the animals were getting used to me. Their tone towards me changed, from initial wariness, to acceptance and lately to downright irreverence. I have had several run-ins with the cat, a stoush with the sparrows and a fracas with Francis, the tawny frogmouth. And just this morning, with no eggs five days in a row, I had to read the riot act to a rabble of recalcitrant chickens. It is getting all too much. Never mind. They have found their way into my new story collection, The Bilingual Cat and Other Tales.
Many of you are familiar with Clive James ‘The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered’ , perhaps his best known poem, in which he takes ravenous glee in the sad afterlife of his enemy’s once lauded book of poems. Now I have just read ‘Ballistics’, a poem by the normally genial Billy Collins about a book of verse by a poet, ‘someone of whom I was not fond’, which suffered a violent end. By extension the poet got his come-uppance. Both poets — James and Collins — revel in Schadenfreude, an emotion that is recognised but not applauded. Yet we all feel it. When a fellow writer who has lorded it over us suffers an ignominious professional setback we purr with contentment. It is a form, we conclude, of poetic justice.
Can you think of an instance amongst writers of Schadenfreude?
I cannot finish novels. It maybe because I have ADHD; maybe because as a poet I admire conciseness and find novels too ‘baggy’ or it maybe because I am time poor and cannot find ample lengths of time to devote to such undertakings.The only novels I finish reading nowadays are unfinished novels.
I am reading all the great ones. It won’t take long. According to one website, there are only 15 such works by prominent writers in the English language. Currently I am reading Kafka’s ‘The Castle’ and then Stephen King’s ‘The Plant’. King is an exemplar of the type of writer I admire: an author who does not finish his novel not because of death or serious illness but simply because he chooses not to.
Unfinished novels are also fun to read as you can make up endings to them.
Which unfinished novels have you read?