Sunday, September 11, 2005

Animal Heaven

Sunset, still that time of the year where it's cold when the sky is clear. If I look towards where the Indian Ocean should be, I see Venus, Jupiter and the Moon in conjunction, plus a star I used to know the name of. Outside, the silky chickens my wife has bought are murmuring in their pen, they have already laid two eggs, as if eager to demonstrate their co-operativeness. They do not yet know they have landed in animal heaven.

My wife loves animals. When I first met her she rode horses in what's called cross country. Horseriding over here has something of the air of a dalliance of the upper classes, but by God it's tough. She used to travel hundreds of miles, through droughts and flooding rains, to fling her tiny, arthritis-damaged body (she's got some kind of early onset psoriatic thing, takes a small meal of immunomodulating meds every night and morning) onto a vast, semi-feral animal, and then cling like a burr as it galloped around in the bush, trying to hurl her aside. I was given the apparently low-stress job of "watching", and I would crouch, heart in mouth, as she hurtled down a cliff and wrenched the horse over some contraption of jarrah logs and steel.

Back then we used to go to lost of horse shows. That meant rise at five (on the weekend), load up the animals, saddles, bridles, special brushes for brushing manes, special hoof cleaning thingys, all that stuff, and drive out to the mud. It always rained at horse shows, whether in Perth or in Adelaide, in fact, half the droughts in this country could have been stopped by holding a horse-show. Then arrive in some guy's paddock on the side of a mountain, or some blasted heath, or in some fetid marsh, set up all the stuff and watch my wife try to throw her life away.

Sarah tried to explain horse colours to me once. I said if we were going to be in this together, I might as well learn something basic, like the colours. I pointed to a group of horses that looked, to the untrained eye, to be a sort of browny colour.

"So" I said. "Those three horses are brown, right?"

"God, no" she admonished, looking left and right to see if anyone had heard. "They only look brown. Those two are bay, that one's chestnut. Horses that look brown aren't called brown."

"What colour are they called then?"

"Chestnut, roan, liver... pretty much anything. But never brown."

"What colour horse is called brown then?" I asked.

"That one" she said, pointing at a coal-black animal with a vicious grin. Black hooves, black hair, big black heart.

"It looks black." I pointed out.

She looked at me as if I was a child.

"What about that one? The white one?" I pointed at a seventeen hand monster with flashing eyes, busily trampling a small child underfoot.

"No way. It only looks white. It's really grey."

"It's grey? Well, if you call a grey horse that looks white grey, what do you call a grey horse that actually looks grey?"

"Grullo" said Sarah. "Or sometimes blue."

That was pretty much it for me learning about horse colours.

Anyway. Last night. How did it go?

It went relatively well. One remarkable event, perhaps more about that later. But basically a succession of solvable problems, dealt with by myself, Dr Sock (slim, Malaysian, glasses, good at emerge stuff, not one hundred percent good with people), Dr Hassan, (earnest, perspiring, constantly cheerful as long as conversation stays away from world events and current American Presidency), and Dr Pi (intern, saw almost nobody, did exactly what I wanted him to do).

And what did we learn last night?

We learnt that people who don't want to bother the doctor with their chest pain probably should.

We learnt that almost any chronic disease plus depression plus being young plus being male makes things difficult to manage.

We learnt that alcohol is one hell of a drug: an anaesthetic, a calmative, a muscle relaxant, and something that allows you to gaze around the cubicle with a bloody great laceration across your eyelid and a bit of stick stuck in your eyelid stopping you opening your eye and still chat with the nurses.

We learnt that conversion disorder (a non-fatal psychiatric condition) looks a hell of a lot like Guillain Barre Syndrome (a possibly fatal neurological condition). Or maybe we didn't learn that GBS looks a hell of a lot like concersion disorder, and there's been a hideous fuckup. No, I'm sure of that one.

And we at the end of the night I looked back and thought "Penetrating eye injury in drunk. Diabetic ketoacidosis in a man whose blood was turning to treacle. Weird psycho-neuro stuff. Would have terrified the pants off me two years ago."

Anyway, an hour to go.

Thanks for listening,
John

2 Comments:

Blogger Foilwoman said...

Dr. Pi? Please say that's a reference to Piscine Molitor Patel? More comments later. As always, love your posts. Innana's Mom is like your Sarah. If I believed in reincarnation I would return as a cat of hers. Handcooked little hamburgers. Your own donut hole from Dunkin donuts, sliced just the way you like it. Yup. People like that must be treasured. I don't believe in reincarnation, but if it's the way the world works, I want a chance of being one of their companion animals. Preferably a furry one that purrs.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Camilla said...

Loved it. I could *hear* that conversation about horse colours.

11:21 PM  

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