Most nights, Kirsty takes care of Eva’s bath, and I do her story. Tonight was no exception. Eva chose the books she wanted, and we snuggled in. The first was something to do with trucks, and how troublesome that are (very troublesome indeed, in case you’re wondering). The second was about an old lady, and this fly she swallowed.
Apparently, right, there was this old lady who swallowed a fly. Nobody is quite certain why she would do this, but early odds on her imminent death were apparently quite good at the time. Personally, having inadvertently swallowed the odd fly myself, I think this was a hasty assumption, but I’m happy to stretch credibility for good rhyme.
Having gobbled down a fly, quite on purpose as far as I can tell, the old lady went on to swallow a spider. Now, in the child’s mind, there is a certain logic to this. Spiders, after all, eat flies, so there is at least an anticipated remedial effect. Perhaps the old lady should have guessed that the spider would wriggle and wriggle and jiggle inside her, but at least I can see what she was getting at.
Furthermore, when she subsequently swallowed a bird, there is again a certain logic. An Alka-Seltzer is hardly going to make much difference to a wriggling, jiggling spider, and the discomfort would need to be addressed somehow.
The cat was stretching things, but at least cats are reputed for their bird-dispatching qualities. And having swallowed a cat to catch the bird which ate the spider which swallowed the fly (at this point the odds on a fatality are starting to look more credible), wolfing down a dog follows a similar logic.
And then the old lady swallows a cow. A fucking cow. What the blessed fuck was she thinking? How, when considering the dog-devouring options open to her, did she reach the extraordinary conclusion that a cow – nature’s pacifist – was going to do the trick? Even Eva, aged nearly-four, gives me a quizzical look. “Cow’s eat grass,” I can hear her thinking, and then the wheels turn, and her face twitches as she tries to picture a world where packs of ravenous cows prowl the back streets of our inner cities, bringing down stray canines and feasting on their steaming remains. Kirsty is forgiving, suggesting that after eating a fly, a spider, a bird, a cat, and a dog in quick succession, the old lady might not be entirely in her right mind. I don’t buy it. Swallowing a cow is not the sort of thing you do on impulse, or by accident. There would be plenty of time to come to your senses
I struggle on, hoping to move Eva away from such images, only to discover that the cow’s natural predator is not the wolf, or the bear, or the lion, or even man. It is, in fact, the horse.
My view of country living is by now twisted entirely upside down. A horse to catch a cow? Yes, over distances, that might be credible. A horse can certainly outrun a cow. But would it bring the bovine down, perhaps rip out its throat and retrieve it for its master? I always thought not. And besides, the advantage of greater speed over distance is all but made redundant within the confines of an old lady’s small intestine.
At least the old lady dies at this point, and I am spared the truth of what might be nature’s antidote to the horse. The rhinoceros, perhaps? The sperm whale? I shudder to think…
I finish the story with a strained smile, and leave Eva to dream of bloodthirsty herds of Fresians, and rant at Kirsty at the madness of the whole thing. “I’m going to go and bloody well write a blog about it,” I inform her dramatically, as she spoons couscous and roasted veg into a bowl.
“Lucky readers,” she replies, her features barely twitching.
And so you are, my friends. So you are.