Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Closed Book - Friday Flash




Prior to birth, my parents' friends speculated on my likely sex with their homespun portents. How low my mother carried me. How high beyond the navel the black line running up her stomach extended. The significance of which breast was larger than the other. They even suspended a gold ring on a thread and dangled it over her bump. There were drinks won on the back of some of these calls. My parents could have simply asked the ultrasound technician to reveal my sex, but they preferred to bate their own breath. Even as I was struggling towards taking my own.

And in that same overwrought anticipation, they bought a Baby Book to record my development. They could have just read Piaget instead. And on their deaths, it passed to me along with all the other sentimental bric-a-brac that cluttered up first my family home and then the retirement place they both inhabited until the end of their days. God preserve me from such a vitiating march headlong into death.

I'm holding it now, this baby book. I've never opened it before. Still can't see the point of it. Wonder if it was something my parents went back to gaze upon and delve inside, in their quest to extract my essence? That which they dejectedly referred to as the 'closed book' of me. It's hard to judge how well-thumbed the book is. Its venerable age alone has left it careworn. God knows what the state of the organic contents will be like. The forensic clippings attesting to me, but never being brought before any jury.

The leaf of the inside cover, my mother's florid script in an unfurled scroll borne by cartoon cherubs. My name, date of birth, weight, eye colour, the usual biometrics of the passport entry into life. Smudges that presumably were my neonate fingerprints, though could have conceivably been unfortunate bugs trapped by the wax paper and executed with the snapping closed of the covers. My ultrasound scan picture. Too undercooked to determine organs of sex, thus preserving their fussy ignorance. Seeing how I was hatched from a conspiracy of self-delusion, was it surprising that I became their lifelong rebus?

The coming home photo. Wrapped in a shawl that probably was never used again. Red eyed me on the red eye express family car no doubt driving at 3mph all the way home from hospital. The colours have faded on the snap, save for the demonic eyes of course. Behind my Zimmer frame I reckon I can hit 2mph.

And to the guts of the book inside. A lock of my hair preserved under selloptape. Patently a more durable adhesive than the glue for my toupee. The baby tress is blond. The hue before they quickly darkened to the mouse brown tone I inherited from my mousy father. But even that seems light years away from the dirty snow grey of the few remaining follicles that crazypave my sideburns. And sprout from my knuckles, my nostrils, my ears and every flaming orifice. So what do these blond hairs commemorate, other than a fleeting period of another me from a time before consciousness? So a non-me really.

A small swollen, sweated envelope holding a slither of nail cuticles. Desiccated like some voodoo magic. And it's worked too, to judge by how hard and thick my nails are now. The clippers can't cut them and that's before the arthritis contorted my fingers so that I couldn't even grip them. They're twisted and curled over like talons. Biting into the circulation there so I no longer have any feeling in my digits.

First age of crawling, which I have reverted every time I try and rise from my bed. Age of teething, well now my gums have shrunk and persecute me all over again. Reduces me to eating rusks and baby solids, oh the indignity. First slept through the night, well that one didn't take for very long. Burning the candle at both ends might have shaved seconds off my life span, but it did screw up my body clock for good. Drank from a cup for the first time. Ha, I was precocious on that particular skill. Of course hailing from a family of lushes I would have been. First smile, just left blank! And look here, my first word. A babbling single syllable. An unremarkable lexeme. Modelled for me by my mother's deferential idiom no doubt. These first words of countless ones. Words adorning books. Words splattered across theatre stages by actors. That cheap and nasty Polaroid of me emerging into the light, when thirty-five years later I was being photographed by three-thousand pound a session photographers for my inner sleeve picture. And all from the humble beginnings of the first word "ta-ta". Goodbye and good riddance.

Yet now I have no more words. All my books are written. There is nothing left to say. Me and Roth both. Just as well with these numb fingers unable to palpate the keys. I have turned the closing page and embraced the final dust sheet on my oeuvre, the same as on the spare chairs in redundant rooms in my house. And yet I see there are blank pages aplenty at the end of this Baby Book. Guess my parents fell out of love with the task of chronicling my development. Or maybe just fell out of love with me. Why shouldn't indifference be mutual?

And then it struck me. The ending of this book. The ending of endings. This book which is supposedly all about the burgeoning of life, needs also to mark the pathway to death and cessation. Of course I'll reach a state eventually when I won't be able to record the final part of the journey. And there is no one around to do it on my behalf, since I forbade all biographies, while the writer's life is irredeemably solitary. But why shouldn't people speculate, wager and the few successful ones celebrate with drink once again? Bookending my entry and exit from this world. What with the internet and everything, I can offer this to anyone and everyone. My final book, one I omitted to recognise I still had left in me. I can't collect any winnings on this one either.

Book on my Death:
Heart failure 2-1
Cancer 5-2
Pneumonia 100-30
Kidney/Liver 5-1
Thrombosis 7-1
Lower-respiratory/infections 8-1
Alzheimers/dementias  10-1
Bile/Gallstones 12-1


11 comments:

Adam B said...

I read in this a very personal Jacques'"Seven Ages of Man" speech from As You Like It. Book-ended nicely.
Adam B @revhappiness

QuHarrison Terry said...

I liked the concept, it was a little different but you executed it nicely. - @QuHarrison > http://bit.ly/XAIrBL

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

Very much enjoyed the book wordplay.
This resonated with me - during my childhood...well, that wasn't really me.

Larry Kollar said...

I remember looking at my own baby book as a young child. This has a morbid ending, but at the same time a risible one. The Great Writer still has one more book in him, it seems.

I'm reminded of a coffee cup my mom has. On it is writ:

First you crawl and then you walk,
Pretty soon you start to talk.
Later on you start to stoop—
Getting old is pigeon poop.

ganymeder said...

So cynical, and now I'm wondering how I can go back and update my son's baby books! Eek.

Hawksword said...

More humour here than I was quite expecting, Mr Nash. Still a fine contender for the Grumpy Old Men... ;-)

Steve Green said...

And so turns the cycle of life and death.

I could read the humour woven into this Marc, some sadness too, but I tend to find humour if it is there.

I wouldn't want to place a bet on his list though. :)

Helen said...

I have a baby book of sorts on my own son ^_^ I like to look at it every now and then.

I wonder how he'll feel when he finally gets it.

A nice mix here of humour and sadness.

Virginia Moffatt said...

Really great the way you played with the baby book, the book of death and bookies...I love that similarity between birth and death. Great stuff.

Icy Sedgwick said...

The most I have is a book to record what injections I have, and when I lost my baby teeth. You've written this with your usual lyricism.

Katherine Hajer said...

Love the odds at the end. It beats playing bingo...

This made me think: all this major scrutiny over a living being at an age when controlling when they do and don't urinate is a major accomplishment, and then by the time they are a functioning, creative adult, it's difficult to get proper amounts of attention. There's something deeply wrong with that.