Evil Genius and the Interminable Novel

Apparently there is disagreement between Amnesty International and various nations about what constitutes torture. I think holding peoples’ heads underwater while intermittently asking them questions is torturous. The nuns at high school used a version of this and I can personally testify that nothing can be taken seriously from the mouth of someone who is about to have their head held under water for the tenth time. In fairness to the nun’s efficiency in such manners however I never used the emergency fire hose to start a water fight again. The same may apply to terrorists – who knows? The one indescribably insufferable torture that has never featured on Amnesty’s list is worse than having limbs boiled or toenails pulled out. It is worse than being locked in a small room and having Celine Dion songs broadcast 24 hours a day while power point images taken by Anne Geddes are flashed on the walls. Feb16th 2011
It is worse even that watching NZ parliamentary TV. The agony of which I speak will be well known to many who have small children. We suffer in the silence that can only be engendered by having three tea towels stuffed down our gobs and from repeatedly beating our heads on the fridge door. It is: The Interminable Novel. The novel is not interminable because the reader is allowed sufficient time to engage in the text and yet the book is so boring that it seems endless. No. The book is interminable because the reader is never allowed to finish it. I hold the mythic summer in my heart as some utopian season when I will lay upon an old towel and read novels to my heart’s content. By mid February I am beginning to suspect that for the seventh summer in a row – exactly the number of summers I have been relief mothering my child in the hope that one day the real Mum will show up – I will still not have finished a novel by the end of it. Opening the pages of any novel will summon some genie of distraction to work his evil magic on those I cohabit with. The torture will begin with something like this: ‘Mum, I don’t want to bother you but something really bad has happened.’ “What?” “I’ve forgotten.” In between faking an asthma attack the small person wanders to the fridge to get something and an entire jar of dairy free yogurt which I spent 2 hours making falls on the floor. ‘Don’t worry Mum I’ll clean it up.” I agree that this is indeed the case and try to ignore her as she uses a drawer full of clean tea towels to do it. I continue reading.
She rings her grandmother. Yes, hello Nanny. Mum is all curled up on the sofa. She is reading a book but I think she might have been drinking.” She gives me a look which says ‘you are so burned.’ I return one that I hope says: “I brought you into this world and I can still take you out.” She hangs up.

“Mum”.The word stretches to 3 syllables. Can we talk about something?” It’s a sweet voice. Like in those movies where mothers and daughters don’t exist in a constant state of uncivil war. I try not to think about how much I want to kill her right now. “Yes darling.?” I capitulate. “What would you like to talk about?”
“Penguins. Shall we talk about penguins Mum?” And then I lose it. ‘No. We can not talk about bloody penguins as I am intensely involved with Mr. Grisham right now and to be frank I have no idea how he has made so much money writing such utter crap but I am intent on finding out so that I can send you to boarding school so that I may have the time to read something bloody decent.” “Is the book pretty bad Mum?” She says in a nice voice. A sympathetic voice. The one I’m sure the CIA uses. ‘Shall we just go to the pools then aye Mum?” Yes. Evil. Torturous. And very very efficient.

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