Ashes to ashes, dung to dung

cross-grave-cemetery-tombstone-161136.jpegI remember quite vividly having to bury a dead tomcat when I was 12.

I would not have minded terribly except he was not our cat.

We found him expired at our front-door and I swear I had never seen him around before.

My mother did not believe me though. ‘You’re always luring strange cats home and feeding them,’ she said.

‘Not this one,’ I said, starring down at the stiff black-and-white bundle on the mat. ‘I don’t know where he came from.’

‘Well, you will have to bury him,’ she said.

‘Me! Why me? He must have an owner somewhere. Can’t we put an advertisement in the paper? … you know, ‘Found: Dead Cat’.’

‘No, we cannot,’ my mother said, rolling her eyes. ‘And he can’t stay here. Not only is he in the way, it is summer and he will soon begin to smell. Take him away and bury him.’

I was reminded of this traumatic time in my life when I took Jack, aged four, to the local post office.

On the way down the footpath, he was taken by the sight of a huge pile of animal excrement at the base of a small tree.

‘Who did that poopsie?’ Jack wanted to know.

‘How do I know, Jack?’ I said, trying to move him on.

‘I think a kangaroo probably did it,’ he declared matter-of-factly.

‘I doubt it,’ I said. (I had seen an occasional ‘roo in suburbia, but never near the post office.) ‘I think a dog probably did it.’

‘Dirty doggie!’ said Jack, shaking his head in disgust.

Jack was like that then. I suppose my wife Katherine and I could take the credit. We had taught him to abhor filth and persuaded often to pick up empty drink cans, etc, and put them in a rubbish bin.

‘I think we should clean it up,’ he continued.

‘No way,’ I said, using my superior strength and superior position in the family to drag him towards the post office. ‘That business is none of our business, Jack.’

I got thinking later how different things might have been if we had found that same pile of doggie do-do on our front-door mat.

I would have had to clean it up, wouldn’t I?

‘But Katherine,’ I would have said. ‘Why should I have to clean it up? We haven’t even got a dog. Can’t we put an advertisement in the paper?’

At least with the dead cat all those years ago I was able to recruit some help.

A neighbourhood mate, about my age, was very enthusiastic about it too.

It was just about dusk when we finished digging the tomb for the unknown cat in the backyard.

‘I suppose we should say a few words,’ my mate said as we bundled the corpse into the hole.

‘What are we going to say?’ I replied. ‘I know nothing about this cat, do you?’

‘No, I’ve never seen him before. But it doesn’t seem right to just cover him up with dirt without saying something,’ he said.

‘Well, you say something.’

‘No, you should. He died at your front-door, not mine.’

I relented and said a few last words.

It is a long time ago and I do not remember exactly what I said, but since I had no previous experience at funerals then I think my eulogy was probably based heavily on giving thanks for food.

‘Thank you God for this poor homeless cat we are about to bury. Amen.’

I just know, too, that Jack would have also insisted on a prayer if he had got his way and we had cleaned up after the unknown dog or kangaroo near the post office.

I liked to set a good example, so I probably would have done the right thing and led the ceremony:

‘Please accept unto this rubbish bin, oh Lord, this thing here left behind on the footpath by one of your loved creatures,

‘Oh, and forgive the creature’s owner because he probably knew not what his animal did. Shit happens, God.’


Until a father can wipe his baby son’s piddle off his chin, he can’t call himself a man. At least, that’s what John Martin tells himself — and anyone else who enjoys this book of 51 funny stories.
They say confession is good for the soul — and has Martin got some things to confess!
Among other things, he was the getaway driver at the teddy bears’ picnic, and he knows where the bodies are buried the time the story of Jack and the Jellybean Stalk came about.
The collection, too, takes a light-hearted look at some serious issues, including childbirth, nappies, circumcision, pets, religion, Santa Claus and learning on occasions to cope without mummy.

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