Thursday, 12 March 2015
My fascination with skeletons probably started in Askeaton *. I revisited the skeleton in that cracked tomb many times. I remember the coolness of the draft and the smell as I leaned in to peer inside; that sweet smell of pastry, which I recognized every time dough was rolled out on a flouring board in our warm kitchen, at home. I don’t remember finding it gruesome; it was much too fascinating to be gruesome. The eels my father caught were gruesome; the way they wriggled in that bucket after their heads were chopped off and their skins removed, the bloodiness of it. My skeleton was nothing like that, it was clean, white and floury.
Years later when Maria Ryan came to work for us, her stories were the first that altered my perception of skeletons. She lived beside a graveyard, and she told us that when she was just a child they used to play with the skeletons that had oozed out of the earth next to her garden. She told us that boys from the village used the skulls as footballs. And what I thought was really, really shocking; she used to join in the game. That was particularly gruesome I found, even though I did sort of understand. If something is there for the taking, something unusual but also ghastly, in time that ghastliness diminishes until it becomes just an object, not the remains of a person, but a round ball to play football with when you don’t have a real one.
I never touched my skeleton. One day when I went to visit him I caught a couple in the act of closing the tomb off. I don’t know if they were Irish, probably not. I wanted to scream at them to leave him alone. But I didn’t dare, I was just ten. They put their whole weight into it and the lid slowly, screechingly closed before my eyes. My skeleton had been taken from me.
All that was left to wonder about was that bloody mess in that bucket, the metal smell of it, and that disgusting white piece of fish on my plate at the end of what could have been a lovely family outing.
* See post Childhood Memories
Miniatures are for sale:
Framed miniature mounted in a wooden frame: 100 euros excluding postage and packing
Boxed miniature: 75 euros excluding postage and packing
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