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February 24, 2003
La Chica and the emu
Moving house, for many people, is a tiring, cumbersome operation. Not for La Chica, though. Six months ago she arrived from Spain and moved into the house in a record-breaking time of three seconds. She arrived with a suitcase and a stuffed emu. She put the emu on the mantelpiece and announced that she'd settled in.
What seemed peculiar was that she'd arrived in Australia already armed with an Australian souvenir. This seemed the opposite of the normal arrangement of going somewhere first, and acquiring a souvenir while there. I made enquiries about this, and she said that the emu was a going-away present from her friends in Majorca. "And for my friends," she said, "logic is not important."
So for the last six months La Chica lived in the front room with her emu. She was a very easy person to share a house with, partly because she remained, at all times, outrageously Spanish.
At one point late last year she told me about her family's custom of eating twelve grapes in the last twelve seconds of New Year's Eve. On December 31, as a result, I attempted to eat twelve grapes in twelve seconds. I failed. I didn't realise you could prepare the grapes in advance, so I lost a few valuable seconds picking the stalks off them. I also didn't realise that you could use small grapes.
I was also foolishly trying to combine customs. My grand-aunt, who came from Glasgow, had a habit of opening the front door on the stroke of midnight, to let the old year out and the new year in. Ever since childhood, I've been doing the same thing, but then I met La Chica. This time I opened the front door while chewing a mouthful of grapes. The combination proved tricky, but I enjoyed the challenge. And it got me thinking about extending my set of rituals. Perhaps in years to come I'll mark the start of the new year by riding a unicycle to the front door while eating grapes and shouting at the neighbours in a language of my own invention.
Operation Desk Nab
A few months ago I went for a late-night walk and discovered a good-looking desk sitting on the pavement further up Rae Street. I tried to move it and realised that the frame was made of solid steel, or solid lead, or solid plutonium. I couldn't lift it by myself, and couldn't even budge it by myself. I could see, however, that I wanted it by myself. So I walked home to get my Kombi, and I knocked on La Chica's door. "How do you feel about helping me to steal an abandoned desk?" I asked. "Oh, sure," she said, "I'm Spanish." She put some shoes on and announced that she was ready to leave. "You're wearing pajamas," I said. "I know," she replied. "It's only two seconds later, and I'm still Spanish."
So I drove a pajama-wearing Spanish girl up the street, and we stopped next to the desk, and had a closer look at it. As well as being difficult to lift, it was also annoyingly large. We spent twenty minutes trying to figure out a way to get it into the Kombi, and eventually found a way to get some of it in. Two of its legs were sticking out the back of the car, and we didn't have any rope to tie things up. So La Chica volunteered to sit in the back and hold on to the desk.
This seemed like a good idea until I started the engine. Then I became terrified that I might hit a bump and launch La Chica towards the moon. So we drove back at a grindingly slow pace, and after a few minutes of this, a couple of other cars bunched up behind us. We spontaneously formed a slow-moving motorcade, with the desk serving as a kind of mock coffin. I played Beethoven's Eroica Symphony on the car stereo, and several pedestrians stopped to salute.
When we got back home I realised that the desk was too big to fit into my room, so I offered it to La Chica. "That would be useful," she said. "It'll give the emu something to look at."
Time has passed, but Operation Desk Nab remains a vivid memory. Of course, La Chica herself also remains a vivid memory. Last week she bought a car and moved out on the same day. She put her suitcase on the back seat and drove off into the sunset. But she left a few things behind, with a promise to pick them up sometime soon. She left the desk, owing to technical problems moving it, and I was astonished to find that she also left the emu. She carefully wrapped it in protective cloth and stored it in a cardboard box. Her family has a long tradition of this, apparently.
La Chica has gone, and I miss her already. And I've been left holding a stuffed emu in a box. In a funny kind of way I feel like a spokesperson for a generation.Posted by Sean Hegarty at 01:27 AM in the Fitzroy category | Comments (2)
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