Elephant cancers

Sometimes I used to meet cousin Rufus on the bridge and we went to the old tram bar in front of the Arts Centre, which is nice for the scent of the river and the folk you can tell are artistic because they wear red lipstick. There Rufus sat with his forearms crossed and long, white hands dangling while he smoked; his cuffs were unravelling and his shirt shone through at the elbows; whenever he leaned forward the jumper stretched across his shoulders, in a way that made me think it was disintegrating. The year before, Rufus had been put to work by his tyrant father (my third cousin) Arthur Shitsville. Knowing his son to be a great writer, Arthur had helpfully found work for him writing copy for the Herald Scum.  Poor Rufus was rather bullied in the offices by the Mackintosh who wrote the “Elephants with Cancer” page and the misogynist who penned the ladies’ section. In his lunch hour he would taxi across half the city to have a single drink, far away from anyone connected with the press. Last time I saw him his nerves were shot, which is why he was weak kneed, trembling, quite breathless, and after he said, “S-s-scotch. T-tonic,” could not speak for stammering.

Every day Rufus prayed for the sack, and to further this end produced nothing but absurd and libellous stories full of spelling errors. But Rupert Murdoch had really taken to him, and he was given a box for an original poem one Sunday paper. It appeared without fanfare: “About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters – how well they understood— ” and was largely overshadowed by the Mackintosh’s rant in “Elephant Cancers” which is perhaps why no one ever knew that he plagiarised Auden.

Then one day my dear sweet cousin Rufus was finally and forever delivered from the Murdoch papers by a timely death.

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