You know how scientists are saying that we can now live much longer, because we are able to grow new body parts in test tubes and use those to replace the old ones. Well, of course you know because you know everything, but I just use the expression as an introduction to this little chat.
Our priest last Sunday, a lovely woman with slightly loose dentures, said that when we pray, it should be like talking to an old friend and that there was no need for thee and thou and blessed and Almighty. So I use ''you know'' as a kind of conversation starter - Noam Chomsky probably has a term for it, if you ever heard of him. But, of course, you have, ha ha.
Anyway, to return to our muttons, I don't go along with all that the genetic people say about growing new kidneys and livers and spleens to replace those we damage by drinking too much alcohol or eating things produced in places where fracking is going on. I think that science is up itself, if you will excuse the colloquialism, and is going against your plans for us humans. When my time comes, I am happy to shuffle off and make room for someone else; moreover, I will join a march or sign an internet petition or do whatever is necessary to persuade the human race to stop interfering with your designs. I just wish you hadn't put it in writing - three score and ten was all right for desert nomads, but modern medicine has made huge strides since then.
I have just one request, a kind of quid pro quo: I don't want to die of something funny. I'm not famous enough to have my passing noted in the newspapers, but they love to ferret out some unusual death to fill a half column on page 6: MAN BEATEN TO DEATH BY HIS OWN SHOE, that kind of thing, or CANBERRAN DIES AFTER SWALLOWING MOBILE PHONE. Dying is bad enough without being laughed at as well. I have taken to wearing Hush Puppies in case of the first eventuality and use the biggest possible mobile phone to cover the second, so I am helping you out.
There are lots of ways you can take us and you seem to be getting more creative since humans began to realise the futility of war. But you made up for that by inventing groups like the Taliban and the Mafia and al-Qaeda. You can also use a Spanish fast train or an Italian bus to take dozens at a time or an earthquake for even more, though your cleverest invention is psychologists and lawyers and other do-gooders who persuade us that we should leave psychopaths roam the streets in case we limit their human rights. A word, too, about this business of hitting our mind while our body is in more or less good working order. That's a really mean trick, if you don't mind me saying so and I'd like to be spared it, please.
I used to be a teacher and if I was found wandering around Woden in my pyjamas explaining algebra to complete strangers it would be a matter of emailed amusement among former pupils who would greatly exaggerate the situation and probably suggest I was making more sense than when I tried to teach them about it 20 years ago.
When my time comes, I'd like something mildly heroic. I'm probably too old to try swimming the Bosporus or climbing K2, when you would have had no problem taking me, but it would be nice if people were able to say that I died doing something I loved. I don't mean … you know, though some readers may take that meaning; such deaths happen only in fiction and there have not been any since you took D. H. Lawrence and Harold Robbins to teach kindergarten in your place. Anyway, this is supposed to be a prayer and I should not be thinking about that kind of thing.
I would like to die with dignity. You managed that and even though your death was particularly cruel, at least you knew you would be up and about again in a few days and would not have to suffer anything more painful than Thomas poking his finger into places that must have still been sore.
My doctors have told me that I am in reasonably good working order apart from one of my internal organs, which is in need of regular maintenance. I know what he is hinting at, because genetic engineering has had some success there, but as I said at the beginning, they can find another guinea pig. I'm sticking with you and the woman with loose dentures.
Anyway that's what I think at the moment.
- Frank O'Shea is a Canberra writer.