Title: Songs of My Life

Author: Bill Manhire

In: Sport 11: Spring 1993

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, November 1993, Wellington

Part of: Sport

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Sport 11: Spring 1993


So do I get rid of him right here this minute or keep him on a while? Might just be nearing time for that final, long farewell . . . He gets to his feet, rubbing his head. The dog looks happy, that’s a start.

‘Look,’ I say.

‘Look, look, look,’ he says. ‘Tell me something significant,’ he says. ‘I need stuff to work with, Colin. I need the right kind of material.’

‘Polio?’ I say, and he says: ‘No.’

‘Pregnant woman?’

‘No, no, no, no, no!’

He starts to say something. Twilight. Whole width of the room between us.

‘There was once three birds, this big hawk and this duck and . . .’

‘No,’ I say, ‘Stop! Stop at once, Johnny Pingao! Stories are outlawed round here, you know that. They take too long.’

‘Look, it’s a joke,’ he says, ‘just a joke about a hedgehog.’

Voice pleading, eyes pleading, dog looking breathless in the background.

‘A joke.’

Maria comes and stands beside me. ‘Tumberling tumberling . . . hic.’

page 42

A joke. Well now. A joke.

‘Just a joke, Colin . . . Like, like, what’s the difference between an egg and a beetroot?’

A beetroot? An egg and a beetroot?

But jokes are too difficult: I’m getting someone else for that.