Rain

I’m living on the second largest sand island in the world. As far as I can tell, the only thing stopping it from washing back into the sea is a dense matrix of vegetation roots. I was thinking about this at 04:00 this morning, as I sat and watched the most spectacular show of lightning I’ve seen since I left the Kimberley.

I think that may have been the heaviest rainfall since I moved here. Now that I’m going nautical again I’ve started taking an interest in the weather, so I have subscribed to a few apps that keep me up to date with wind rain and tides. Watching the rain on radar, it was pleasing to see it was heading southwest to where it will no doubt be welcome in the Burning Lands.

The storm reminded me of the rain that fell while I was camped at Inskip Point, which resulted in the flood that damaged the caravan undercarriage. Also causing a huge sinkhole. This time, fortunately it hasn’t lasted as long and did not result in a flood.

I went through the archives to see exactly when that was, and could not find it. For months I did not write in my blog. Everything was posted on Facebook. Now lost.

What kind of journal keeper forgets to keep his journal – and worse – deletes all his notes?

How cool is modern technology? When I gained my navigation certificate, GPS tech was a closely guarded military secret. Now, not just a GPS, but my phone and my iPad can tell me where I am and can carry the tide tables and Marine Charts of all the world. When I had a set of charts for New Zealand alone they filled a cabinet. Now a full set of charts covering Australia and New Zealand occupy an imaginary space in a piece of plastic and rare earth metals smaller than my little fingernail.

Seer

He sits in the dark cave of his cabin, with curtained windows. He is surround by artefacts and nick-nacks collected over eighty nine years.

The only light in the room comes through the doorway where I am standing. It is late afternoon and the sky outside is heavily overcast. I can barely see him, seated in an ancient Lazyboy chair behind a coffee table piled with the detritus of a man who does not move about much.

I knocked twice on his open door. “How are doing mate?” I asked.

He has suffered several strokes. His speech is slow and slurred from myotonic dystrophy. But I could understand him clearly.

He looked at me with clouded eyes, as if he did not recognise me.

“I know why you have come” he said. “You are seeking something you can never regain”.

I sat down on a rickety chair. It creaked under my weight.

“You cannot put the smoke back into the cigarette” he said. As if to accentuate his point, he drew a long drag on a thin, hand rolled cigarette and blew a cloud of smoke into the air. He coughed for a few moments then continued.

“Every experience is a new one. Even if you are doing the same thing again. The Laws of Entropy and Enthalpy will ensure that nothing will ever be the same. If you go back, you will be disappointed until you accept that you must go forward. If you buy a boat, you may enjoy the pleasant experiences it will provide you, but you must understand these are not the experiences of your youthful memory. Those have been guilded by time and fondness until in your mind they are no longer anything like what you really experienced. Go forward. Enjoy new sensations.

The molecules of air the breeze blows to touch your face are all new to you, and you will probably never encounter any one of them again. They will go on to touch other faces, to combust in a cigarette or a bushfire, or perhaps to combine with metal as rust, or be inhaled by someone and incorporated in their body, to be released as something new in the crematorium. They carry no memory of you. You, however, can carry a memory of them. That is your task. To experience, enjoy, and remember.”

He took another drag on his fag and had another coughing fit.

His eyes cleared. He looked at me with surprise as I proffered him my offering.

“G’day! How’re ya doin’?”

“G’day to you, O wise one. I thought you might like some of this spaghetti Bolognese I made. It’s low salt. You may want to add some. ”.

I handed him a fork. He started to eat.

“But I’ve been thinking, I live on an island and I should buy a boat”.

“Nah, he said, a strand of spaghetti suspended from the corner of his mouth. “Don’t like boats, rocking and splashing. Don’t even like fishing. Can’t stand the smell. Until they are cooked, with chips”.

He sucked on his cigarette while still chewing Bolognese. When he coughed, a bit shot on to the coffee table. He wiped it up with his handkerchief.

The Seer had retired. The old man was dining.

The old man turned on his television with the remote, and leaned back to watch the football. He had forgotten I was there. He burped contentedly, drew on his smoke and coughed.

I left quietly. As I did, “Buy the boat” he said.

I don’t know which of him said that.

Curiosity

The first movie I saw as a child was Disney’s Fantasia. I liked it. The Night on Bald Mountain segment scared the Willy out of me. I must have been about four years old. The second movie I ever saw was The Wizard of Oz. Probably in the same year, late 1956 or early 1957. My Dad had told me that he had seen The Wizard of Oz when he was a child, and the flying monkeys scene had frightened him. I was prepared to be scared by the monkeys, but I wasn’t. The bit that scared me was the floating green head.

A memory associated with one of those films, though I can’t recall which, was my amazement at learning one could get an orange drink in a cardboard box and you drink it through a straw inserted through a hole in the top.

It was the first time I remember setting my brain to work at a scientific question. I tried to figure out how liquid could be in a cardboard box without making it soggy.

I’m proud to say my budding intellect solved the conundrum. Wax. The paper was waxed. I realised that wax had the property of repelling water.

My first intellectual foray into Curiosity. My first hypothesis that I can remember.

I have always since had a fondness for tetrapaks. A clever invention.

Tiddles, The Remarkable Cat

I got him when he was a tiny black kitten with faint watermarks in his fur, a white patch on his chest, and white paws. I was living in a bach at Whangaparaoa with my friend David. I don’t recall where Tiddles came from. As he grew, he turned into a Tabby. I didn’t really notice the change it was so gradual. Until one day I realised he wasn’t black any more. He was Tiddles the Tabby.

He was the latest in a long succession of Tiddleses stretching back to when I was eight, living in Bunnythorpe. I had tried to name that first one Ned Kelly, but my grandmother gave him the appellation Tiddles. There was nothing I could do about it. It was the name he answered to. The name stuck for all my cats in the following years; cat after cat.

None of my previous cats were as memorable as this Tiddles was. They were a succession of furry companions indistinguishable from each other except by colour. Tiddles was different.

From the start, he slept with me in my bed. As a tiny kitten he would curl up in the small of my back, or under my chin. Anywhere awkward. He never once, to my recollection, needed any toilet training.

I had a succession of jobs after I left university. My speech impediment prevented me being accepted into the careers I thought I wanted. I lacked confidence, direction and motivation for a time. In 1972 I switched from hospital orderly to dairy farmhand, and moved, with Tiddles, to a farm in Matamata.

Young McDonald, my employer, 1971 Young Farmer of the Year, and Total Dick, allowed me to bring my cat with me, but would not let him inside the house. Cats belonged outside, catching mice. I just opened my bedroom window for Tiddles. He joined me when I went to bed, which was early, and left in the morning at four, when I got up for breakfast before milking.

I loved the farming life, and worked at it hard and diligently, but did not get on well with my employer, who had no social skills at all. But that’s another story.

I returned home to my parents’ after I failed as a farmer, and lived in a room in the back of the garage for a time, with a large saltwater aquarium, and with Tiddles.

Tiddles was a hunter, and always shared his kills with me. Always the back half, neatly beheaded and gutted. A mouse, a rat. Whatever. Left neatly at the foot of my bed ready to eat. Then, for a few weeks one year, the haunches of a guinea pig would appear periodically. I have no idea where he obtained them. I didn’t ask. One day, a very different looking haunch was proudly left for my delectation. I puzzled over it for a time until I realised it was the back end of a chihuahua. My cat had killed, and half eaten, a dog.

I guiltily buried my share in the garden, with the guinea pigs and rats. I thought no more about it until about a week later a woman and her young daughter came knocking door to door with a picture of a chihuahua pup, asking if anyone had seen it. They had only just got it to replace some guinea pigs that had escaped, and now it had run away too. It had cost them three hundred dollars. A lot of money back then.

I was not aware of my legal liability as the owner of the canicidal cat, so of course I did not enlighten them as to the end of their lost pup.

Shortly after that I moved into a rented house down by the railway lines. At the rear were acres of vineyard, and next door was a poultry processing plant. Chickens that escaped often came to my place. Most never left. Now I could share in his kills.

Tiddles used to ride with me in my car. He happily sat on the back of the seat with his paws on my shoulder. I could take him for a walk and he’d follow like a dog. He would stalk me, and ambush me. He was always head-bumpingly friendly.

Until the first time he found me sharing my bed with someone else. Then he was out of sorts for a week. But he settled into married life, too.

When I brought home Mach the Dog Tiddles was out of sorts even longer, but the two of them finally settled into mutual acceptance. Tiddles would stalk and ambush Mach, who would run away. He could have killed Tiddles easily. I saw him snap the neck of a possum once. The possum is the most viciously frightening creature in New Zealand apart from the wild boar. Any dog that can deal with one of those could easily despatch a cat. Mach knew his place.

Many years and three houses later they were still chasing each other around. One day I was dropped off at home in Ranui after work by a friend because my car was in for servicing. The pets had not recognised the sound of the car, so were not aware I had arrived home. I looked over the front gate to see them both curled up together on the lawn, grooming each other with their tongues. As friendly as can be. An unusual and touching sight. The moment they saw me, Tiddles jumped away from Mach and started his harassment routine again. They really were playing.

They died about a year apart, Tiddles at about eighteen years of age and Mach at eleven. I’ve never had any other pets like them.

.38 Special

In the very early 70s when I was working as a leading hand at the Ceracrete Panel co. In Keeling Ave. one of my workmates invited me to his home for a meal one weekend. He got me terribly drunk, and I think he slipped me a Mickey in my drinks, because I don’t remember much after dinner. Apparently he drove me home. I assume his wife drove my car. My dad says I was really rude when they brought me home, and I went straight to bed, I remember nothing of the event after dinner.

However, I discovered next day I was the owner of a Smith & Wesson model 14 .38 Police Special with a four inch barrel, that I had apparently bought for $50. I knew nothing of its provenance, or how it came to be in the possession of the person from whom I apparently bought it. I don’t know how it was smuggled into New Zealand or whether it had been used in a crime.

All I know is I had in my hands a very illegal double action revolver with eight rounds of ammunition. I recall now that as a person in his early twenties, I thought, at first, this was pretty cool, though I did not ever carry it round tucked into the back of my pants. Not that cool, not that stupid. Even then.

Yes. I thought it was cool. Until the day I took it to the pine forest at Muriwai and tried it out, firing it at a tree. One shot. It scared the shit out of me. It was accurate, it was powerful, and it was fucking loud. The noise astounded me. The recoil shocked me. This was before I bought my (legal) .303 rifle. Until then I had only ever fired an air gun.

I did not know what to do. The enormity if what I had in my hand suddenly dawned on me. An illegal, lethal weapon that could send me to jail. And I had just discharged it for anyone to hear. I quickly skedaddled.

I took it home and hid it. Sorry Dad.

Fortunately, I had a friend who had a friend who was a legitimate gun collector. He took me to meet him, and that person agreed to take the revolver off my hands for the price I’d paid for it. Apparently it’s a classic. Collectible. How he accounted for it in his collection I know not, and care not. It was off my hands. That was all I cared about.

That is my pistol story. I’m drunk right now, or I wouldn’t be telling it.

Non-Existential Angst

A foray into a new genre. I don’t know what it is.

Sometimes, when you are dead, you just don’t know it. Your mind continues to believe in your life, despite the irrefutable proof lying in a wreck on the roadside. You ignore the clues, carry on in a dazed trance, doing work that does not need doing, and which is never noticed. You raise imaginary dahlias and runner beans and children. You still believe in Love, Family, Friends. Hope. You believe in Truth and Balance and Justice. They are ideal, because they are not real. You take foolish risks for their sake, not realising it matters nought. For you have nothing to lose that is not already lost.

You edge sometimes towards an unwilling awareness of your sad condition, this seemingly human condition. When you do, you seek diversion. You lose yourself in fiction, for deep inside you know that only in the imagination is found the Happy Ending. Every book you think you read, is one you write yourself. Every movie you watch is no more than your own reimagining of all you missed while you were still alive. Your own mind sometimes produces that rare masterpiece, a dream so moving, so sweeping, with such an epic, tragic, sad or bitter-sweet finale, that you weep. You weep. You feel. Because despite being dead, on some unconscious level of your non-existential soul you are aware you have just realised the Truth.

Entropy rules. Decay. That is how you should know you are dead. There is no other condition.

And the only question for you, Zombie, is “When was it that you died?”

There, perversely, paradoxically, is your true immortality.

You were, you are, you shall be – always – nothing more – and nothing less – than a skin cell shed from the Universe as it searches for meaning.

© S.P. Nov, 2019
Another skin cell, shed from the Universe