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Saturday, February 6, 2010

~ the skinkatary


Let me speculate upon this image.

Both our cats, like cats the world over, are intensely interested in small running things. Tweety Bird catches and eats them. Little Kitty, who doesn’t know that they are food, just plays with them.

Garden skinks (ampropholis guichenoti) are a favourite and their local population is under constant pressure. We find so many tailless, dried up bodies that Polly and I decided to found a skinkatary. Thus far, there has been only the one burial, but doubtless there will be many more.



I have deduced that the ill-fated skink in the image at page top, while fleeing one of our cats, somehow found its way into the hollow beneath what I believe is an aquarium ornament in the shape of ... a rook perhaps? A donjon? A letterbox?

Somehow the lizard’s route of egress was closed, leaving only a tiny window at the top. (There are, by the way, similar small windows in old castles called ‘dream-holes’ which were built so that dreams could reach the bed chamber from the universe outside.) (It may also be possible that skinks are unable to travel in reverse.)

(In the movie Black Dream Hole Sailor Moon strives to prevent the evil queen, Badiyanu, and her loyal fairies using the "Black Dream Hole" to swallow the earth.)

Anyway, it seems the skink had the choice of dying within the musty confines of the ornament or making a bid for freedom. It appears to have chosen the latter.

And almost succeeded. Almost. But died, writhing twisting thrashing, its efforts waning as the last of its energy was spent. A ghastly death. A cave death. Pinned, stuck fast, doomed. The only consolation being that its small reptile brain may not have had the wherewithal to appreciate the claustrophobic horror of its circumstances.

Without doubt, it had dropped its tail. Skinks around here do that at the very first hint of an approaching cat. But the rear section of its body - what we would think of as the hips - was simply too wide to pull through, particularly given that there was not much to use for leverage.

There is a particular horror for me in this creature’s nasty end. It disinters a childhood experience which, though trivial, is cemented in my memory along with a very uncomfortable feeling.

We had returned from a three or four week summer holiday and opened up the house - this house, the one I live in - which had been very diligently sealed. I saw my mother looking at something on the kitchen windowsill.

“A bird got in,” she said, pointing to a cream bottle on the sill. Cream bottles in those days were of glass, roughly the shape of an old-style milk bottle and approximately half the size. They were sealed with a foil cap, which, I recall, was usually silver but sometimes golden, and were delivered by the milkman with his dray.

In the bottle was a black-bird. Head down. Beak agape. Eyes dead. Jammed like a feathered sardine behind the clear glass and smeared with dried yellow cream. I gaped at the bottle with dismay and utter incomprehension. It was my father who explained ...

Somehow, the bird had become trapped in the house. Over time, perhaps weeks, it had despaired for water. The only thing resembling water had been a tiny residue of cream at the bottom of the bottle and, in mortal desperation, the bird had tried to reach it, dooming itself in the process.

I found myself wondering how long it had taken for
the blackbird to die: secured absolutely by the solid glass confines, upside down, unable to move ...

Unable to obey a single of its inborn instincts.

I've drawn a picture from memory ...




When I posted my picture to Photobucket, they offered to print it on a mug for USD15.00. They even produced an image of what it would look like.

Tempting, no?

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2 comments:

Anthony & Rochelle said...

This photo of the mug made me laugh hysterically.

Sam Sejavka said...

me too