[lit-ideas] Re: Sunday Something

  • From: Paul Stone <pastone@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 14 Sep 2014 16:53:56 -0400

Please...can you describe the subtle difference between "something" and
"wotsit"; Because my father once remarked after I came in from shoveling
snow with my fly down: "you better be careful or you'll get a frostbitten
wotsit" and I'd like to thing that my wotsit is close to "something" -
philosophically speaking, of course.
On Sep 14, 2014 2:35 PM, "David Ritchie" <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> My rule is to base the week's tales on real events, which is awkward,
> because Wensleydale died this week.  She died in the bathtub, but not like
> Marat.  Something that evaded the antibiotic's reach got her.  Maybe she
> was too far gone before we started treatment; maybe she didn't drink enough
> of the solution.  It was a relatively peaceful end, especially by chicken
> standards.
> When a great soul leaves there's naturally some discussion about what to
> do next.  The proposal to use her as crab bait was quickly nolle
> prosequied.  It being garbage day, another possibility would have been a
> quick trip to the bin before the truck arrived, saving much decay and
> stink.  One third possibility, a viking funeral pyre, was also mooted but
> we thought it might revive flock memories of roasting chicken and, as the
> fire danger is high, the sensible thing seemed to be to try to dig a hole
> in the hard clay.  With pick and shovel I went to work in the wooded part
> of the garden.  While digging I could see why this ritual had taken hold
> among humans.  Mordant wit will help with grief, but a good hard sweat is
> also helpful.  It's a mistake, I believe, to hire this task out.
> Mimo came up, "Not a lot of point digging there; ground's hard and there's
> nor worm nor bug to be had."
> "I'm not digging for food."
> "Looking for particles?"
> "Nope."
> "Waves?"
> "Nope.  Nothing light about this."
> Appenzeller arrived, "Whaaaaat's he doing?"
> "He's digging."
> "That I can see, but why?"
> "Dunno.  He says it's not light he's after."
> "Very heavy that clay.  Bugger of a thing to turn."
> I leaned on the shovel, "Wensleydale died."
> "Oh yes?  We assumed she'd gone for a long walk."
> I explained, "We're going to put Wensleydale in the ground here."
> "For a dust bath?"
> "Bit deep for a dust bath."
> It was like talking to children.  "Yes," I said, "she's going to take a
> long, heavenly bath."
> "Hardly seems fair," said Mimo.  "I mean, we have to dig our own baths."
> "Rank favoritism," pronounced Appenzeller.
> Rocky arrived, "What ho!"
> I'd never before noted a chicken using a PG Wodehouse's aristocrats'
> favorite greeting.  I asked reflexively, "Have you been reading Jeeves and
> Wooster?"
> "Reading?"
> I looked up, "What caused you to say, 'what ho'?"
> "It's what *you* say...  to the other god.  Do I blaspheme?  Am I to be
> cast out...like Wensleydale?"
> "You noticed she's gone, then?"
> "We assumed that she'd blasphemed and been cast out...all that stuff about
> worshipping nature..."
> Peccorino joined us, "Where's Wensleydale?"
> At this point I expected Cheddar to come hurrying up and echo,
> "Wensleydale."
> "Where's Cheddar?"
> Mimo, "Lost in her own little world.  She's been funny since Wensleydale
> went walkabout."
> Rocky, "Walkabout?  She blasphemed.  We agreed."
> "You, yourself and I agreed, you mean.  I never!"
> Whether accidentally or on purpose wasn't clear, but Rocky successfully
> diverted them from what could have become another serious difference of
> opinion. "Is that a bug?"
> E. arrived with Wensleydale's remains and tried to show them to all
> present.  Busy with their scratching and bug hunting, they showed little
> interest initially but slowly,
> one by one, they stopped and stared.  Mimo cleared her throat, "Funny
> position for sleep, that."
> Rocky, "Awkward."
> Peccorino, "We can't eat that, if that's what you're thinking."
> Appenzeller agreed, "We're not cannibals you know.  If it's chicken."
> There was considerable tut-tutting, Mimo, "No, no, we're definitely not
> cannibals.  If it's chicken, that."
> Rocky wasn't entirely sure, "We're usually not cannibals.  Probably."
> I asked, "Do you see that this is Wensleydale?"
> Instead of answering, they wandered around, muttering to one other.  I'm
> not convinced they understood.
> We put rocks on top of the hole, a good big pile, said a goodbye suitable
> for a pagan, and then I put the pick and shovel away and got on with
> hanging out laundry.  Cheddar missed the event.  We noticed when we saw her
> later that's she's very few feathers on her chest.  Having lost her
> political ally, she's probably dropped lower in the pecking order.
> Down below our yard, in the valley they were resurfacing a road, which
> created an almighty great din.  The chickens seemed more bothered by this
> than by the funeral.  As I hung the last item of laundry, they came up,
> looking for all the world like a union delegation.
> "We were wondering, this heavenly bath you mentioned...does it have music?"
> "We quite like music."
> "The wind in the firs, particularly."
> "Very nice, the wind in the trees."
> "Unless it's hawks."
> "The wind's never hawks.  Hawks are quite different."
> "Yes but they can be mistaken for an arpeggio."
> "Can not."
> "Can too."
> "Not so...an arpeggio's...well I'm not sure exactly."
> "Where's Wensleydale when we need her?  She'd know."
> "Haven't seen her in a while."
> I tried to reinforce the message.  "Wensleydale's dead.  That's how the
> subject of heaven came up.  Remember?"
> They nodded.  "Our question is, will there be harps?"
> "In the bath?"
> I felt a bit like Cheddar, "Harps?"
> "Yes."
> "In heaven?"
> You could see they thought we were finally getting somewhere, "Yeeeees."
> "Why do you ask?"
> "Well it's just that our feet seem well-suited to playing this particular
> instrument."
> "Instrument," Cheddar emerged from the himalayan berry bushes to join us.
> "We couldn't be much help with a wind section."
> "Unless, by wind, you mean 'ululating.'"
> General agreement, "We're quite good at that."
> I smiled, "But not a chance with the trombones?"
> Like a union official, Mimo had a firm idea in her head about what was
> non-negotiable, "Trombones are right out."
> The last animal to see Wensleydale alive was Sonsie, our Maine Coon mix.
> If there had been detectives involved in the aftermath of the death, and
> crime scene tape, since he's a big cat you'd think he would have been the
> first to be interviewed, but he's actually very chicken in regard to
> chickens.  E. was checking on her patient.  Sonsie spied a half-closed
> door, which of course is catnip to the curious.  E told him there was a
> chicken in the bathtub.  Somehow he failed to understand, or didn't believe
> her, so he put his front paws on the edge and peered over.  Bad move.  Even
> in her reduced state, there was not a hint of cower about Wensleydale.
> Sonsie backed slowly away from the tub and then set about licking himself
> to demonstrate he wasn't scared and all was cool.  Unfortunately for his
> dignity, one of Wensleydale's last acts on earth was to imitate E.T.,
> stretching her neck way, way high.  Her beak and eye appeared over the rim
> of the tub.  She fixed Sonsie with what in many senses was a deathly
> stare.  He immediately remembered something very urgent he had to do
> elsewhere.
> David Ritchie,
> Portland, Oregon
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