I don’t know why I keep returning to my childhood in my posts.
Maybe its cathartic I ponder, as I look up at a huge full moon tonight with my Rescue dog “Mr Lee” tugging at the end of his leash to edge closer to the neighbour’s letterbox and rubbish bin so he can piss over them.
I guess I have a gob full of mortality in my mouth and feel the need to leave something behind, however inane.
Many moons ago as young kids we moved countries and went to live in South East Asia on the outskirts of a city on an abandoned Dutchman’s orchard surrounded by jungle. My memories are of hot summer nights and days spent knocking ‘Black Doris’ variety plums out of mature trees with bamboo poles and subsisting on plums for days on end.
There were new creatures to discover in this strange new land, including snakes.
A vivid memory I have is of my brother finding an eel in the creek that had died and him wearing it like a belt around his waist for weeks until the smell got too much.
Also of me finding a dead Stag Beetle (Dorcus species). A truly impressive creature it seemed to me. So much so that rather than letting the ants carry it off to their ‘All You Can Eat Buffet’, I felt it deserved to be exhibited.
So I took it inside and put it all the way down the bottom of my parents’ bed.
Pack as many critters in there, I thought at the time. I couldn’t help laughing to myself as I thought about their shock at encountering this primordial whopper.
Nothing happened though after 3 days or so, and I actually forgot about the Stag.
However I awoke one morning to find my dad prostrate on the couch applying some sort of salve to an elevated leg.
Apparently the barbed bits of the Stag Beetle’s legs had somehow gotten caught on the skin or hair of Dad’s leg on the 3rd night of sharing his bed with this bedfellow. He’d woken up with a start, couldn’t shake it free and assumed it was alive.
According to Dad it had gotten such a hold and bitten so deeply in the middle of the night that if he ripped it off his leg it would, “open him up”, he’d “bleed out” and, “require a multitude of stitches.” So he’d pleaded with my Mum to get it the “hell off him !” and she’d grabbed the first thing to hand, that happened to be a can of fly spray.
As Dad said, “I don’t know if it said it killed Stag Beetles on the little illustrations on the side of the can, but that bastard was so big it made no difference whatsoever. If anything it made it madder and it bit down harder.”
“Your Mother”, he said, “Unloaded half a can of that stuff into him and it did nothing. Didn’t even touch the sides.” In the end Dad said he wielded Webster’s Illustrated Dictionary like a brick and crushed the thing and his leg in the process, before it would let go.
By this time of the night apparently my Dad was starting to feel dizzy and wondered, “If this tropical devil had injected him with a paralysing neurotoxin” and it was starting to kick in.
Meanwhile I was suppressing my laughter and feigning deep concern as he related the night’s events. Trying to throw him off, I asked him why we’d moved to this godforsaken place where such things existed.
“I’m sorry”, he said, “But we just have to get on with things.”
I couldn’t let on that the Stag had been dead for about a week.
Dad had taken up drumming in a band and had developed a penchant for using drumsticks on the backs of our legs when we kids played up. So I stayed shtum.
Dad put salve on his leg for weeks afterwards to stop, “Necrosis of the skin, the flesh eating bug thing”, he reckoned.
Still makes me laugh.