Frozen Ferrets and Pentagonal Elephants


Hanging out with teenagers or young adults can be a surreal experience, moving seamlessly from reality to the dreamlike or bizarre, via their persistently empty stomachs. They claim that hypoglycaemia causes brain fuzzing; I know it leads to wallet depletion. However, as soon as I say ‘you what?’ or ‘uh?’ in response to my losing the thread (you mean there was one?), one of my children will point out that this surrealistic tendency is probably genetic. Mea culpa. 

We (me, husband, kids and credit card) recently went to a fabulous stage performance of the Lion King. In the opening number, The Circle of Life, there was an enormous elephant. In the closing song they only had a baby elephant, so presumably Pachyderm Minor was only the semicircle of life. My son, who clearly has more graphic dreams than me, said that elephants could be any shape, not only circles, possibly even being squares or pentagons. A rousing chorus of The Dodecahedron of Life rapidly taught us why they’d used circle in the first place. 

While there, chatting to the kids in the bars about cadavers, I recounted seeing a body some months previously to confirm that death had been of natural causes. This particular tour de morgue was fairly simple, as there was neither a knife sticking out of the chest, nor a club mark on her forehead and she didn’t smell of bitter almonds. The funeral director then told me of a woman who had put her husband’s dead ferret with him in the coffin for cremation. Apparently, she had been keeping the ferret on ice for some time, which I felt was a remarkable piece of forward thinking. 

In the theatre bar, the reality of the situation kicked in. Group discussion, guys. What if the husband had died first? Clearly she would have had to freeze him instead. We decided that she’d probably have tried to get him into a chest freezer, as long as she folded him twice. Heels to bum, then in. The ferret dying first was serendipitous, saving her cost of chest freezer. 

The kids then launched into their like and dislike lists:

‘I dislike the letter a in the lphbet.’

‘I dislike aerobatics, bungee jumping, condors, dungarees, sarcasm and anything alphabetical. Yeah, right.’ 

‘I dislike pompositysproutspaintingpianosarmadillos and lists.’ 

Via wondering if the Apple version of I Frankenstein would be ifrankenstein, they moved onto how to describe oneself in four words. Sophie went for cat crossed with elephant. Attempting to bring a little reality into this slightly surreal picture, I had to agree she does have the same number of limbs, the pachyderm memory and feline independence, but on the other hand I’ve never seen her pick up a bun with her nose. One point to the Motherparent. Alex asked where adequate things are made. Apparently, a satisfactory.

I begin to despair of their futures. Alex is clearly cut out only to write jokes for Christmas crackers or greeting cards and Sophie is either wildly deluded or deeply immersed in Surrealism. I don’t think you can make a living out of Surrealism. Or did I dream that you could? Does that make it reality? Is this circular reasoning all balls or the full circle of Philosophy, or the Circle of Life? If so, I prefer the version with elephants. Cue another round. Waiter!


About alisongardiner1

Writer of YA series of books. Broadcaster/podcaster Litopia After Dark.
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