A Morbid Interlude

I have long suspected my old aunts of having a screwball morbid streak in an Arsenic & Old Lace fashion, since every story they tell ends with a wretched death; but I’ve since realised that an incredible number of Shitsvilles have indeed died tragically, and that whenever history is viewed in its entirety the sunshine stories are few and far between, so you can’t blame them really; the wonder is that there is any glint of hope left in their old eyes. As we go through the address book looking for relatives we can sponge off, I have been forced to strike out half of the entries. To the woes of Nephew Roger (shot), Cousin Becky (eaten), Cousin Brunhilde (drowned) and Twin Brothers Alfonso & Beau (DTs, after they caught an infection fighting over a horse), we must  add Uncle Arthur, who was crushed by rocks (“Rocks or stones, I can’t remember which…” says Aunt Tatiana), Uncle Branwell (laudanum poisoning or suicide), Uncle Evelyn (a General) who was shot in the back leading his troops in a drill, he had made such a tit of himself in camp, and my great-great-great Uncle Nicky who was artlessly deposed after sending 1700 Russian soldiers marching into war without boots. Untimely deaths must be a family tradition: indeed my own father will probably suffocate upside-down in a full-body cast having had all of his bones broken by the fabulous Las Vegas mafia; Mother will live forever (and that is another kind of tragedy) but her sister Rosemary, we must recall, was ended by a bear trap; meanwhile I can’t expect to go on making enemies with vegans the way I do and still live to a grand old age.

Lauren Bacall, 1950s


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