The Pastel Blue Kangaroo
Published in That’s Life Fast Fiction Autumn 2013 Australia
Also in Paws for Thought available on Amazon
“Your days are numbered, possum!” November Rathaway stated in her most emphatic voice. The animal, in question, stared back at her, blinked its inquisitive eyes and resumed watching ‘Kathy-Lee’ on the television. It wasn’t bothered in the least.
November seethed, swearing under her breath. The stupid possum was taking up more than half the lounge suite, lying comfortably on its back with head on a soft tapestry cushion. It held the remote control in its paws. The cheek of it, November thought, holding the remote as though it owned the place. The only consolation was that the little animal seemed content to watch the same show as she wanted. Perhaps it was a fan also.
Kathy-Lee prattled on. November noticed her sequined dress with matching scarf draped over her semi-exposed bosom. The colours seemed wrong; mauve sequins on a green and gold spandex dress? She felt sick.
From the corner of her eye she noticed the possum move, reaching to sip a drink from a sparkling apple juice – her sparkling apple juice. Yuk! Possum germs!
November exploded in anger. She stormed from the room to find her husband. He was still in bed. He was always in bed on the weekends, it seemed.
Ignoring the intense snowstorm in the hall and a pair of floating orchids, she walked past the dining room. The pink Centurion tank was gone from the ceiling. November decided that was a good thing. Pink tanks on ceilings were always unnerving, even though she knew they were a part of her imagination. As for the other apparitions, she understood that they weren’t real because they weren’t there yesterday or last week or last year. No, the main problems were the animals and people since they could move around. Hartley would know if the possum was actually there, oh, and Kathy-Lee’s dress.
She walked into the master-bedroom. Hartley was there on the bed. November stopped whilst gazing around. The outside wall was missing, replaced by a lush jungle scene with lianas and some of the same orchids which were in the hall. There was some continuity to her illusions, a small enough comfort. Something about the mind making a perverted sense of the random images it came up with, just like a dream. Lava was oozing from a crack in the dresser, carrying green boxes of Winning-Post chocolates down to the floor that was itself made of cards. Alongside Hartley, on the bed, was a naked girl.
November knew that this was a particular bad day. She struggled to focus. ‘Ignore the jungle, lava and cards,’ she told himself. Easy! They were inanimate objects and she could still realise that they were products of the damage to the visual cortex in her brain. After all, the tumour was removed and she was alive. The doctors had told her that her continual hallucinations would lessen over the coming months.
Unfortunately, they were particularly vivid at this time and now was the time that mattered. Nightmares whilst she was awake, with shadows, depth and, worst of all, visual continuity similar to special computer effects in the latest movies – the damn illusions behaved like actual objects as she moved around them. They were simply so realistic, she feared that someday soon she would lose touch with reality and become a part of her own fantastic dream-world.
Remembering the possum, she winced. When she first saw a make-believe animal, she had reached out to touch the vision. The sight of her hand going through the miniature giraffe had been bad enough, although the brain’s reaction to the inconsistency of vision and touch was a lot worse. She could still remember her screams from the violent spasms. It was as though there was a short circuit somewhere. The lesson had been very effective and November made sure she never again tried to verify any strange thing that she saw by using her own senses. Instead she would ask Hartley. It was important to know, if only for her peace of mind. After all, there could actually be a possum on the lounge, or a snake in the fridge, or … a stranger on her bed.
“Hartley?” she said, trying to ignore the girl as best as she could. She was very pretty.
“Okay. I’m coming sweetheart,” he replied. He jumped nimbly from the bed and cuddled up to November as they walked back to the hall.
From behind November heard a voice, chuckling. “It’s all right, love. I’m only an illusion.”
Away from the bedroom, November asked Hartley about the naked female.
“Not again,” he laughed at her. “Bloody hell, November. You seem to see nude women around all the time. Don’t you trust me, is that it? Oh course she’s not really there. Now, darling, what did you want me to check out for you?”
November relaxed. Of course he was correct. The number of times she’d noticed different girls in her house. Did that mean she had some fixation with women? November didn’t think so, although something did seem strange about the latest one of them. Something to consider later, perhaps?
She led Hartley to the lounge room, indicating the corner where the Minister of Education stood at attention, the possum and finally she inquired about Kathy-Lee’s weird clothing. Which ones actually existed?
Hartley smiled, happy to help his wife. He saw her concern and put his hand in hers. “’No’ to the politician, ‘no’ to the possum and ‘yes’ to Kathy-Lee’s clothes. Is that okay now? Can I go back to bed now sweetheart? I’ve had a terrible night’s sleep.”
November kissed him lovingly. He was so good to her and so patient. How could she ever cope without him? He was her only way to distinguish the truth from her fantasy world.
When Hartley left her, she sat next to the possum once more. She made sure that her body was well away from the furry beast. No point taking chances. However, November did glare at the animal, certain that it had stolen another apple juice from the ‘fridge.
“Your days are still numbered, possum!” November said in her most menacing tone.
To her left, she noticed a kangaroo appear, painting a sign on the lounge room wall. The kangaroo was blue – a soft, pastel blue that blended subtly with the magnolia wall. When the kangaroo finished the graffiti with a flourish, November read it aloud.
‘Skippy is a Wus!’ November’s head tilted to one side. She did that when she was attempting to solve a problem. She’d discovered that her mixed-up brain would often express her anxieties in visual images and the appearance of the blue kangaroo was one of those times.
“Why?” she asked the kangaroo. The marsupial turned to face her, winked then put her paw to her mouth. It was the ‘Quiet’ gesture that a librarian might use.
Silence? Fair enough. The kangaroo couldn’t talk, could she? It was the same as the possum and all of those other make-believe images that plagued her present life. Silence? What was the kangaroo trying to tell her … ?
Suddenly she understood the inconsistency that had been puzzling her for the previous few minutes. The fact was that November had visual hallucinations, yet the girl in her bedroom had spoken to her. And, more importantly, November had heard her speak.
Her expression gradually altered from indifference to pain, finally to anger. Although she was seething, November didn’t move from the lounge seat. Instead she was deep in thought. No point in rushing things. She would obviously wait until Hartley was away from his unclothed female friends – the ones that were ‘only in her imagination’ – then they would have a quiet, civilized discussion.
She considered the details carefully – the doctors’ reports, medical videos of her reacting to imaginary threats … One shrink had even suggested that her condition was capable of leading to temporary insanity. Yes, decided November, it would work. She could get away with it; of that she was certain.
As for not having someone to indicate reality from non-reality; well, she decided that she could live with that after all. It might be more difficult nevertheless she was sure the possum would help.
She turned to the wide-eyed animal that was now studying Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’. November had to admit that the reading glasses gave the possum an air of intellectual elegance.
“Looks like you’ve got a reprieve, possum” she said, regarding the beast as her new best friend. “But as for my darling hubby …” November leant forward to whisper, “His days are most definitely numbered.”