The Second Tuesday in November
Our neighbor Kev sets off on his Kawasaki at this time every weekday morning. He putt-putts softly, a vast contrast to the full throttle rubber burning take offs further down. Fleetingly his headlight slashes our venetian blinds striating the wall then ceiling as he turns into the street. I wake up briefly, turnover and return to sleep.
BANG, WHACK, WALLOP.
Scalding throbbing pain clamps my chest, tight as a workshop vice. Heart thumps like never before and I’m panting for air, choking and paralysed, unable to move my fingers, sit up or cry out. Peripheral vision is brightly coloured zigzag patterns moving upwards in a continuous stream. A sensation of bound arms and legs and gagged mouth renders total immobility. All the time distressed animal sounds, evocative of the screeching violins in Psycho, blast my eardrums.
I see a dimly lit corridor with a trolley anchored hard up against a grimy cream wall. On the trolley I lie motionless covered under a white sheet along the top of which a rat is heading towards my upturned toes.
“What’s wrong? Stop gritting your teeth and whimpering like a puppy”, she scolds, “go back to sleep”.
Tremors subside gradually then let go. Oblivion returns but only lasts briefly.
I wake up in stages and remember the chaos. The grisly scene of the trolley in a cold dim hospital corridor overshadows my cataclysmic implosion.
Awake, more awake, wide-awake
The pounding heart gone, the breathing rhythm smooth, everything is normal. Stunned - what was it all about? What brought it on? Just a dream. Puzzlingly I was part of the action at the same time away from it watching from a distance. Weird.
Reminds me of that time I was inhaling nitrous oxide undergoing root canal therapy. I watched under-water life on a ceiling TV while the dentist bored into a lower left molar. I sometimes think of prison executions and fantasise I am the bound criminal left to die watched by state appointed ghouls.
Was it something I ate? Will it happen again? I rummage through recent then earlier scenarios at home, at work, on the bus and more. Leaving no stone upturned I soon run out of stones and cave in. That pun is unintentional.
I resort to Shakespeare.
‘Out damned spot - out I say’.
Then from nowhere comes Kev’s story.
It was last Thursday about 7.30 pm. We were near his driveway putting out wheelie bins.
‘G’day mate. S’pose ya heard about what happened to me.’
God I hope he doesn’t go on for too long. One wheelie bin encounter bored me to death, which was the last thing I wanted to hear about.
Delivered in his colourful style the Kawasaki kid had ‘ carked it’ for a while then ‘came good’. About a fortnight ago on his way to work just near the lake he had ‘clobbered’ a wallaby in the early morning light.
“Mate it could only have been minutes but I was dead as canned corned beef and next stop was the Rookwood ‘cinerator. I could see a bloody great line of bikie mates following me in the hearse with me helmet on the bonnet. The Harleys were the loudest and their riders had bigger guts, more tats and the best lookin’ sheilas.
Next thing a copper is asking me had I been drinking. Starting to come round I asked ‘have you?’
‘Sir, have you been drinking?’ He wasn’t joking.
‘Sorry mate. I could do with one now. I wish to report a drunk wallaby – looked like Skippy – have you seen it?’
‘Its dead mate but for a while was hopping mad about the dude on the Kawasaki before it keeled over. Could have been you but it bounced about a bit more before crashing so I knew it wasn’t even though you have a face like road kill. By the way Skippy was a ‘roo’.
Smart cop. Clever dick.
Right then I knew I had a bit more mileage and a few revs left. Gas in me tanks if you what I mean. No sweat. No worries’.
Apart being run over or caught in a surf rip I will die in hospital or a nursing home. Most people do, these days. Not the ‘good death at home’ of Victorian stories and old black and white movies with the silent family of stoic men and weeping women arranged around the bed, the knowing dog - chin on paws, ears flopped. The music reaches its emotional highpoint and the credits slowly ascend the screen as the wet eyed audience moves towards the white on green EXIT. Some of the blokes disappear to the loo not wanting to show their feminine side by blubbing in public.
More likely the TV hi-tech death - the soon to die patient in white button-less gown with ties at the back linked to a monitor its screen displaying jagged orange waves moving left to right accompanied by repetitive beeps then the waves straighten and the beeps segue to the grating sound a reversing truck makes. Flatlining they call it.
Wide Awake. I’m up. Showered, shaved, peed, tea’ed, toasted, transformed and
O Law’d I’m on my way
I’m on my way to a heav’nly land
Thank you Porgy.