A job for life

GustaveDore_She_was_astonished_to_see_how_her_grandmother_looked

I’m from the government, he said.
I’m here to help, he said.
You’d be doing a public service, he said.
I was unemployed.
What could I do?
Said it was the perfect job for me –
a job for life.

I was never much
for all that washing and brushing
but I wasn’t all that hairy.
Well, on the inside perhaps,
just a little bit,
but aren’t we all?
He said I’d grow into the job.
And I did.
Mum wouldn’t recognize me now.

I don’t mind
the lurking in the woods so much,
sidling up to little girls,
sniffing ladies’ skirts,
running my tongue around their ankles.
Oh yes,
I don’t mind at all.
But the cottage thing –
I have to swallow the granny
and the girl
whole
so they can step out of my guts
all in one piece.
I’m not a bleeding goose, you know,
I like to chew my food.

Now the girl,
I wouldn’t mind her
on an empty stomach.
Take my time,
enjoy
the soft white skin, the golden hair…
But I’m already full of granny
and the taste of old lady –
camphor, cat and just a hint of piss.
And I have to wear the old biddy’s clothing.
Now if it was lacy knickers,
a skimpy negligee…
Better not think of that now.
Granny’s got bloody great bloomers,
a flannelette nightie and a bed-cap.
Who wears a bed-cap these days?

And it’s not just once.
Every time the book is opened
I have to strut my stuff.
Over and over.
Never a day off.
A job for life.
A job forever.

Made me sign a bit of paper –
I tried to read it
but the pimply boy at Centrelink
said not to bother,
said I was functionally illiterate,
whatever that means.
How was I to know what an ark-e-type was?
Thought it was something to do with building.
The old biddy in the cottage
explained it to me.
Have a quick cup of tea with her now
when the book is closed.
She doesn’t like it either.

They conned her too.
House of your own, they said.
Family nearby, they said.
Bring meals to you every day, they said.
No mention
of the sickening wait,
the terror of a wolf on your bed,
dragging you across the floor,
trying not to struggle
as he gulps you down.
Don’t fight back, they said,
you’ll only get hurt.
Bastards!

I blame the mothers really,
they read these stories to them.
At bedtime!
The girls are the worst.
The boys just enjoy the swing of the axe,
the slice of the knife and
then they forget about it all.
But the girls,
they stare into my eyes
and shiver.
It’s not fear.
Oh no!
Nothing so clean and straightforward.
They slide the book down the side of the bed.
They say they are afraid,
say they try to keep away.
But they always come back.
They open the book slowly
and quiver.

Oh yes, a job for life.
A job forever.

________________________________________________

This was intended as a performance piece but ended up a bit too long. Still, I think it works on paper. The hairy on the inside line is a distinctive reference to Angela Carter’s ‘The Company of Wolves’. It is a great line and I have heard it used often enough in other contexts for it not to be plagiarism – I hope.

©Catherine Merrick 2016

________________________________________________
Image: Gustave Dore (1832-1883)
https://commons.wikimedia.org /wiki/File:GustaveDore_She_was_astonished_to_see_how_her_grandmother_looked.jpg
accessed 13 Jan 2016

 

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