Saturday, 19 September 2009

Wet nose and velveteen ears

We used to lure Aristotle outside with a biscuit shaped like a small brown bone. We'd break it in half (two half biscuits are better than one biscuit), and toss the first half out into the courtyard. Aristotle would lunge after it, and then we'd throw out the second half, so that mid-lunge, he'd lurch off after that and leave old firsty lying on the ground. This was good in a way, because it made the biscuit last longer, but then, making food last was never one of Aristotle's great aims. Eating the compost was one of his great aims. Breaking into my sister's bedroom so he could snaffle the abandoned school apples from her bag was one of his great aims. Figuring out how to open the fridge, sneaking carrots from the vegetable box, licking someone's plate while they weren't watching: all these were Aristotle's principal concerns. If Aristotle had paid more attention in geometry, and consequently realised that the quickest way to unite half a biscuit with his gastric system was to keep on lunging after the first half and only then to head off after the second, that's exactly what he would have done.

Aristotle was my brother. He died in my first year at uni and I remember walking through the quad after Greek with my face scrunched up and my eyes all salty. A woman with grey hair stopped and asked me if I was all right dear, and I told her my brother had died. Which was sort of misleading, but more the truth. I think my other brother, the human one, would agree.

He taught me most - or lots - of what I know. I was going to write here about how I lurch from book to book the way Aristotle lurched from one half of the biscuit to the other (I have about seven different books on the go at the moment). But there were more important lessons. Don't drop your steamed silver beet under the table and expect someone else to clean it up for you. If you discover that the creature you've been tracking for the past half hour turns out to be an echidna, give up and go home. Don't chase kangaroos unless you have warmed up your crucient ligament first. It's entirely possible to eat half a queen-sized chocolate mudcake and for noone else to notice for a good four hours. Love thine everyone, indiscriminately, with a slight preference for thy mother.

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