June 11, 2012

I live in a sleepy village

Some have visions of a bright white light at the end of a long tunnel. Others report of heavenly choirs: angelic voices guiding them to whatever lies beyond. More tell of crackling fires, the smell of brimstone, and a guy called Nick. Near-death experiences come in different shapes and sizes. Mine was of a big brown bottle, foaming ever so lightly at its top, icy droplets collecting on its sides over a big, bold inscription... B E E R

None of that “life-flashed-in-front-of-my-eyes” type thing for me (which would've at least offered a few precious minutes to strap myself to the kitchen sink, making it a bit of a challenge for whosoever had it on his/her agenda to come and pick me up!). No-no, I just get the celestial beer bottle.

If you’re a spiritual person, you’ve probably got a few opinions, theories, arguments, and thoughts on the matter. If you’re not a spiritual person, you’ve probably got a few opinions, theories, arguments, and thoughts on the matter, but different ones..… Whatever your take on the Big Man or the Big Bang, you’ve thought about it and you’re probably in a position to argue, debate, hypothesise, and postulate.

Me? At that point? I didn’t have the time to care – I was trying to hang on to dear life!*

* Yes, TO. If I was hanging on FOR dear life, it would've been a quirky play on words drawing a picture for comical effect. Nothing comical when you're trying to hang on TO dear life, which I was.

Since then, new approach: I get to the nitty-gritty quickly. That's why I started this letter at the end – one never knows - and will now take whatever time I have left to fill in the gaps. Have a nice life (just in case):

I live in a sleepy sea-side village. It’s beautiful, peaceful and quaint. The air is fresh, the scenery spectacular, the people are friendly and everyone knows way too much about everyone else. It’s such a special place that even the whales come down from the South Pole...... the whales come up from the South Pole...... it’s so quaint and wonderful that even the whales come here for their holidays.

It’s the idyllic little sea-side village where time seems to have stayed, where heaven meets earth, where old townsfolk smile sweetly and waive as they stroll along the tree-lined streets and manicured walkways, and where fishermen still harvest the sea… that's the movie version. In reality a lot of the fishermen here are actually perlemoen poachers and the old townsfolk are mostly uber-wealthy retirees whiling away the time by spying on their neighbours and complaining about everything else while flashing their whitened dentures. And yes, as in all those movies, the teenagers here turn to vampires when the sun sets.

For some or other reason today, the kids kept us busier than usual – which is unusual because they usually keep us pretty darn busy, but today was different. So MacGregor’s afternoon romp around the neighbourhood was slightly delayed. Well, “slightly” is exaggerating a tad: by the time we eventually went for his walk, he was jittering like a popcorn kernel in a hot pot, his flappy jowls nervously contorted, beads of sweat gathering around his nose, his eyes watering from the effort of holding it all in, squeaky little puppy-farts escaping from under his clenched tail... This dog is so cool: he will NOT go in his own yard (gotta love that dog)!

And because it was later than usual, naturally it was darker than usual, which meant the usual laborious afternoon criss-cross neighbourhood romp had to be condensed into a concise, focused whip-zip-sniff and download affair close to home. That was the plan. My plan.
MacGregor had a different plan though: he knew he was on the clock, sensed an opportunity and grabbed it with all paws. Like lightning, of canine persuasion, he bolted straight for a rocky hillock smack-bang in the middle of town and turned my customary saunter into an involuntary run.

A little reminder: I do not run. I don't even jog. I haven’t jogged in years. Come to think of it, I have avoided any impulse relating to anything resembling jogging or running for decades.

But I’m young, lean, fairly athletic, fit – I can run if I have to... I had to.

I had my 39th birthday a while ago. Upon reaching that hill I felt every day of each of those 39 years biting into my knees, gnawing at my calves, creaking my spine, dragging its weight behind me while molten lava gently wafted into my lungs. What once accommodated a washboard abdominal area gently wobbled.

The dog was already there, bouncing up and down, sniffing and snorting, whiffing and woofing, wagging his tail, and chasing dassies, only pausing to pooh – on top of a rock or small bush, never on the ground (it would be really fascinating to know more about that mutt’s previous life...)

Feeling the way I did, clutching my back, gasping for air, valiantly fighting off rigour mortis, the option of turning around and going home, downhill, for a rest and a beer was the obvious choice. Of course, being me, fate (just like that dog) had other plans. Out of the deepening gloom two vampire vixens appeared as if from nowhere, floating down from the hill. I could almost swear their feet were an inch off the ground... In daytime, they were the lovely teenage daughters of a friendly neighbour down the street of whom we know way too much.

Visions of my cold bruskie vanished like luggage in Hillbrow.

Not wanting to fall prey to their evil ways I sucked in my gut (but probable suffocation put a very abrupt end to that endeavour) and tried to seem nonchalant – cool, if at all possible (although the asthmatic wheeze and obvious tremor made it difficult). I was ready to fight them off, to the death if I had to…., using wit and boyish charm (my arms and legs were obviously of no use – incapacitated by cramp and lactic build-up).

"Hiya waynnesworld!" (pianissimo dolce voce)
"Hiya ladies," (sotto voce) “what ya doin’?” (1990’s cool sounded so flat in 2012… 39… sjeesh, time flies!)
They beamed their broad, dashing smiles (taking heed not to bare their fangs, yet).
“Oh, we're just running up and down the hill a few times” (...because I suppose that’s what vampires do right before they turn to real vampiring stuff).
A few times… no sweat, no heavy breathing – classic vampire! Their super-senses were scanning for weakness (their super-senses were wasted – Helen Keller could tell I was half dead by the time they arrived) and they zoomed in for the kill: “Why don’t you join us?” (mezzo piano)

Personal note: If I were in a swanky cocktail bar… allow me to rephrase: if I wasn’t married and in a swanky cocktail bar… (I’m getting into *&#$ here). If this was 1990, many years ago before judogirl and I even knew of each other’s existence (phew, close one) and I were in a swanky cocktail bar, and two lovely ladies walked up to me with that proposal, I’d know exactly what to do: “barman, where’s my hat?”

However, I wasn’t, this wasn’t, and judogirl was nowhere in sight to save my bacon. These girls didn’t mess around - they went straight for the jugular!!!

Primal instinct kicked in: my mind became razor sharp, my muscles tensed, my heart pumped rapidly (although quietly so as not to raise their awareness), adrenalin was coursing through my veins like... something that courses – a plan was taking shape…
“Allrighty then, but I’ve actually just come for the view," I said calmly "and I’ll have to go slow for the dog’s sake – he’s slightly arthritic” (nice save waynnesworld!)

I sucked in (I stealthily wheezed in) my slightly wobbly gut, tensed my athletic curves into classic Ace Ventura / Wile E Coyote pull-away mode, readying my honed body for an escape, when that stupid dog bolted straight up those steps like no arthritic bolt of lightning has ever bolted before! I’m still in two minds whether being attached to the other end of his leash was a good or bad idea... although it offered an immediate escape, dislocating my good shoulder in the process wasn’t really part of the plan… my plan, that is. My plan was to vanish into the gloom; stealthily blending into the night… like a shadow… the masked avenger… circumventing an unfortunate and unhealthy encounter with those overdeveloped bats.

But no, the dog just ran! And I was catapulted after him suffering whiplash and groin-strain in the process, immediately stumbling over the first step as my useless legs hadn’t completely recovered from their initial romp-stomping pilgrimage from the front gate. At first I thought he’d noticed my impending doom and did his utmost to save his master, but with limbs floundering in an uncoordinated circus of chaos, I spotted from the corner of my watery eye the cause of the dog's impromptu dart - a dassie hurtling up the stairs to freedom. I too therefore had to, involuntarily and totally against my will, hurtle at breakneck speed taking those stairs two at a time – classic mistake.

What followed remains vague, but I’m sure it wasn’t pretty. The slight asthmatic wheeze had turned to a horrid rasping, gasping battle for air – my nose, mouth, ears and every other orifice in my body open in a hopeless effort to suck in more of the sweet stuff to get me up those stairs. If only I could fall and break a leg or something – anything to spare me the agony of having to reach the top. As quickly as that dog sped off, he came to an abrupt halt, his head whipping left and right, scanning frantically for that dassie – which was gone. My momentum was greater than my ability and I too abruptly ended my charge. Slightly more undignified though – in a crumpled heap of dust and stones, grass in my mouth and the dog neatly propped on my head in such a manner that I wore his tail as a moustache. He has a very short tail…

And just when I thought it was all over, physiology caught up with me. Now I don’t know too much about physiology, but I know the universe is balanced and if you borrow something you don’t have (like energy, oxygen, or dignity) you’re going to have to pay it back – somehow. And apparently physiology’s way is with cramp, pain, rigour mortis, and foam at the mouth – very dignified. However, that was not enough. Physiology felt that I had borrowed beyond my means and I was going to have to claim insolvency, so my asthma spiked and my blood pressure fell to my ankles. Night veiled its cold clammy hands over my eyes… and I’m pretty sure this is where the celestial beer bottle slowly appeared out of nothingness.

I was at peace, floating in oblivion... or in bolivia... don't know, don't care, pain away, beer bottle circling my head, droplets running down the bottle's sides.... mmmmm. Droplets falling on my face - soft and warm at first - then more and more. Warm.... And more. Warm...? The droplets became a wash, the wash a torrent and the torrent became a swoosh. From somewhere, sounds were returning. It went something like shclugga-schlops-shlughetepah-schlopsi-ntha and synchronised, strangely enough, with the raging torrent of warm droplets now enveloping my face - covering it, drenching it. Warmly...

The mist lifted and the beer bottle transformed into a twirl of creamy, warm, buttery toffee which rushed at my face, hitting me with a raspy lick not normally associated with creamy, buttery, warm toffee and immediately vanished into a vision only reserved for veterinary dentists (up to this point) and me. I am happy to report though that MacGregor's molars, gums and tonsils are in mint condition... (although nothing resembling mint or anything of that phenotype had recently visited there...)

I was back! My head was covered in dog slobber, but I was back!! The dog was beaming - long droplets of goo still dripping off his mouth.

I thanked my lucky stars - this night could yet be saved... was it not for the dislocated shoulder, the lava lungs, the cramp, the blood pressure and the fact that two vampires had to carry me back home.

I'll get over it. I'll have a beer. It was in my vision... gotta mean something.

At least I learned something from this event (can't say I didn't always suspect the fact though): running bad, running bad, running really baaad...!

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