Thursday, March 7, 2019


One more from "What a Good Boy Am I"

            There was a niche set into a corner of the second floor landing, right beside the long corridor that led off past the bathroom down to the other spare bedrooms. It was a perfect place for the small bronze statue of the Good Shepherd that my Auntie Nancy made. (I know of only a few other artworks that my father’s sister made in her young days—mostly drawings and sculptures—before she became a wife my father’s good Cambridge friend, Alan, and a mother to six children. There’s no doubt that she was a talented artist, and her work—as I recall those few examples—reflected something of the art deco esthetic of the twenties and thirties. Too bad that, like so many women in the course of so many male-dominated centuries, she was denied the opportunity to pursue that talent to where it might have led). But, as the French say, let’s get back to our sheep…
            I must have been quite little, no more than four or five years old. I woke in darkness, in the middle of the night, my bladder bursting with the need to pee. I stumbled out of bed in my pajamas and tapped my way along the wall and the furniture to the nursery door, opening it to find the landing just as dark, perhaps more dark than ever. It was either very late at night, or very early in the morning, because my parents were fast asleep in their own bedroom. But I knew if I could walk straight, diagonally, across the landing I would have to end up at the bathroom door, where I would be able to find the long string of the pull switch that turned on the bathroom light.
            I stepped out onto the landing. With no wall or door to cling to, I had launched myself into the impenetrable darkness of a disorienting open space. With both hands out in front to forewarn me of obstacles, I started out with a step at a time, more fearful with each step as it carried me further into that dizzying black emptiness. I lost all sense of direction. The need to pee was now so urgent I was scared I couldn’t hold it; but I was scared, too, of waking up my parents, for fear they would be angry. So I kept inching forward, one foot at a time, my heart slamming against my ribs with a growing sense of terror. Stepping forward, stepping forward, feeling my way through total darkness, one step at a time until… I crashed into something hard and cold, something human, something about my size, something truly terrifying. And I couldn’t hold the pee for one second longer, the terror finished me off, and the flooded out, squirting out into the void and soaking my flannel pajamas.
            And I must have started to cry at that very moment, because suddenly a light went on, and my father or my mother—I don’t remember which—came out from their bedroom and found me there, so scared and so cold and so wet in what had been the darkness but was now blinding light. And I looked all around and I saw that I had pee’ed on myself. I had pee’ed on the carpet on the landing, I had pee’ed on the Good Shepherd. I had pee’ed on Jesus himself.
            Did someone dry me off and find me new pajamas? I’m guessing so. Did someone help me back to bed? I remember nothing other of that night than standing there, filled with shame, in front of Jesus himself, and wondering if I could ever be forgiven for the terrible thing I had done.

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