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A Shout From The Attic: Veterinary Thaumaturgy – Almost!

...One day, I was walking to my home in Fitzwilliam Street from town having decided to go through the Wood Yard, I happened upon an interesting little jute sack tied at the neck. Picking it up and on opening it, I found three dead puppies. They were still warm, so I knew that they had not been dead for long and would not be hard to resurrect...

Ronnie Bray tells of discovering life's harshest fact.

To read earlier chapters of Ronnie's autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

Children do not understand the correlation between life and death. They perceive death as a variety of sleep from which the subject can be awakened. The idea that the dead are forever gone is not one of the compelling notions that drive childhood, but one that comes slowly to their understanding as age creeps subtly upon them. eventually to lead them out of the innocent and comfortable phantasies of infancy.

It is in this context that the story unfolds. A context that is informed with the improbable marriage of faery tales and Hollywood that swirls together to construct a model of reality that few would understand. My defence is that it made sense to me and seemed like an excellent idea at the time.

First, I need to explain the Wood Yard, as the place was known. It was a wide open space filled with broken and discarded building materials, that may, once upon a time, have been a builder’s yard where timber and other necessities of construction were stored, but now was desolate and vacant apart from the many piles of debris so fatally attractive to children who, with the imperfect materials in that place constructed perfect make-believe worlds. There was a pathway through the mounds of remains that ran from New North Road, through the broad archway at the side of Scott’s Furriers, running all the way up to the old Royal Infirmary steps that led out to Portland Street and another short path from Towning Terrace the ran at right angles to the long pathway, with which it converged.

One day, I was walking to my home in Fitzwilliam Street from town having decided to go through the Wood Yard, I happened upon an interesting little jute sack tied at the neck. Picking it up and on opening it, I found three dead puppies. They were still warm, so I knew that they had not been dead for long and would not be hard to resurrect.

At this time, I was not familiar with all the details of death. Once, on holiday in Blackpool with mother and father, granddad and grandfather, René, and baby Arthur, we crossed over a busy street where a woman lay on the roadway, her wicker basket turned the wrong way up and its fruits, damsons, I can see them now, scattered across the road. She looked alive, but was not moving. People walked around her as if she was not there. We also walked around her and went on our way, mother hastily explaining that she was dead. I did not really know what it meant or how it affected the lying-down lady, but as I looked backwards to see her as we walked into the insouciant crowd, I felt a pang of having seen something that felt I should not have done.

An oft-repeated story at home was about a cousin of my mother. She was a young girl, and, to my shame, I can’t remember her name, but she died at home choking on a damson stone. Whenever I heard this story it made me feel strange and brought a sense of yonderliness as I imagined that I missed her, even though I had never met her. She had choked to death long before I was born, but her death was, in some inexplicable electrifying way, personal to me.

I learned that another aunt, Clara, my father’s sister, had also died at sixteen. She had been getting ready to go out and stood combing her hair in the front room of the house on Northgate in the mirror that hung over the mantelpiece of the fireplace, the common site for looking glasses, when her cotton dress was caught by the flames, enveloping her in flames so sudden and intense that she died from her burns. Sixteen is too young to die. Fortunate indeed is that life untouched by the call of the deathly visitor, who comes to high and low, and rich and poor, without respect of person. Even so, I knew nothing of death on that day I found the puppies.

I took the sack home with me intending to start work right away on their revivification, but as I went through the back door, a voice from the cellar called me to dinner. I put the sack quickly into the bottom cupboard just inside the back door then went down to dine without washing my hands, as was my custom. From the dinner table, I set off on some forgotten course that occupied the next few days. I was so preoccupied with whatever it was I was doing that I forgot all about the puppies until someone noticed the smell. Smells of that order are not secret and I was not the only one who had a twitching nose. I was asked some embarrassing and searching questions, summarily tried, found guilty, convicted, but escaped punishment on the grounds of insanity.

Since that episode, I have dropped any pretension to be able to do the impossible – well, almost! Knowing what is and what is not achievable is the great secret. It saves time, temper, and resources. Like the prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous,

"O Lord, give me the humility to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can change,
and the wisdom to tell the difference."

Still, one never knows until one has tried. And they were only a bit dead!

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