Meg de­liv­ers the ul­ti­mate anec­dote

GQ (Australia) - - GQ & A - MEG MA­SON

“IT’S FUNNY, WHAT YOU WERE SAY­ING ABOUT DOGS.” A DIN­NER PARTY, AND A GUEST HAS JUST FOUND HIS IN. CON­VER­SA­TIONAL FORCES HAVE ALIGNED AND NOW’S

the mo­ment to pull out his anec­dote. The Anec­dote. “My sis­ter once had this job dog-sit­ting for a posh fam­ily in North Lon­don,” he says, sip­ping his wine and with the glass still raised, sub­tly scan­ning the ta­ble to make sure he has ev­ery­one. “It was some sort of an­cient labrador.” He sets his drink down, re­as­sured that he wasn’t about to blow his best story on only half the room. “Any­way, she comes down­stairs, frst morn­ing, and the dog’s dead.” A col­lec­tive gasp. “It’s carked it, right on the Per­sian rug.” He leans back, hands be­hind his head, conf­dent we’re hang­ing on his ev­ery care­fully-cu­rated de­tail and sur­pris­ing up-front twist. “Own­ers are over­seas, so she couldn’t get hold of them. She calls the vets and they say, ‘Bring it in and we’ll pre­serve the body un­til the fam­ily gets back.’” “But” – he’s gath­er­ing pace now, cross­ing and un­cross­ing his legs – “she hasn’t got the money for a taxi, and this dog weighs 30-plus ki­los.” Of course it does! Please. Go on. “So she goes up­stairs and fnds a suit­case. Big wheelie num­ber.” No, surely not. Plates still loaded with Colin Fass­nidge’s eight-hour braised lamb shoul­der are pushed away, so the ta­ble could lean in, as one. “She man­ages to get the dog in – it’s al­ready stiff as any­thing – but she zips it in and wheels it to the sta­tion.” We can all just see it. “Turns out, there’s no lift. Rush hour, and she’s just stand­ing at the top of this mas­sive fight of stairs, try­ing to fgure out what to do, when a nice-look­ing guy of­fers a hand.” Wait, what? “He grabs the han­dle and says…” Do it, we’re all think­ing, do the ac­cent! “‘Whoa, you got rocks in here, love?’” Nailed it. “My sis­ter’s pan­ick­ing now, and thinks maybe he’s an un­der­cover po­lice­man and that tak­ing de­ceased an­i­mals on public trans­port is a crime. She goes, ‘Yeah, it’s my boyfriend’s decks.’ Guy looks at her, for a sec­ond,” he pauses, smiles. Time to land this baby. “And just takes off with it. Gone.” He col­lapses in his chair. Job done. The Anec­dote told, and there’s noth­ing left but for us all to agree you’d pay good money to see the thief’s face when he opened the bag. (Though I later fnd out the whole thing was apoc­ryphal. Fraud – oh the cheek of it.) Any­way, the only guest who hadn’t lapped it up, was – of course – the teller’s own wife, who, if mem­ory served, got up and started clear­ing right around the call to the vet. Be­cause that’s the thing with The Anec­dote. We all get one; two if we’re lucky; three if we’re patho­log­i­cal liars, and to buff ‘our’ story to an ap­pro­pri­ately high shine, to make it the re­li­able show­stop­per, The Anec­dote must have been told and re­told over a decade’s worth of din­ner par­ties. At least un­til your part­ner can lip-sync the en­tire thing and do all the ges­tures, in this case mim­ing the job of bending a rigor-mor­tised dog’s leg into a Samsonite. Au­thor Nora Ephron, she knew it. She knew that’s just another part of the deal, and that you can’t ex­pect your part­ner to keep com­ing up with new ma­te­rial, or fresh­en­ing up the old stuff just to keep the mar­riage alive. “My­self, I never change an in­fec­tion in a story once it’s work­ing,” she wrote in the novel Heart­burn, and then about the fc­tional hus­band in it: “Mark, on the other hand, changes his sto­ries ev­ery time he tells them, by mak­ing them longer.” By the time they broke up, his Anec­dote “had turned into a novella”. But there are worse, more di­vorce-wor­thy crimes a part­ner can com­mit in re­gards to The Anec­dote. Namely, fact-check­ing the other’s sto­ries in front of peo­ple (“Um, babe, I wouldn’t say a thou­sand. It was more like 20.”) Yawn. Or pat­ting them on the hand and say­ing “We’ve all heard this one, sweetie” when they’re al­ready com­mit­ted. When that hap­pens, your only job is to pan­tomime to­tal cap­ti­va­tion un­til they can bring about a hastier-than-usual con­clu­sion. Or fail­ing that, shoe­horn your Anec­dote in, no mat­ter how ar­tif­cial the segue. Speak­ing of which, this all re­minds me of the time I was in Bali, on my way back from the pool when a mon­key ran out of the trees and straight up my back. (I know, but wait.) As I’m try­ing to fick it off, it un­does my bikini! Would you be­lieve, it had bit­ten off the clasp and swal­lowed it. And now it’s chok­ing. (Cue hi­lar­i­ous gag­ging-simian sound ef­fect.) I’m hold­ing my bikini to­gether in one hand, and try­ing to prise the mon­key’s mouth open with the other (one arm be­hind my back, fran­tic prod­ding with other), so I can get the clasp out. I can ac­tu­ally see it (pinches skin of own neck to mimic imag­i­nary ob­ject stuck side­ways). And I’m think­ing (as you all are), is this thing ra­bid? I mean, there’s foam com­ing out of its mouth and I’m still try­ing to get a fnger in. In the end, the only thing left to do is press my fngers onto its fat nose holes, like I’m play­ing an ‘A’ on the des­cant recorder. (Two-fnger mon­key nos­tril-block­ing demo, lean back, smile.) Toot! Ev­ery time. Now, cof­fee. Who’s hav­ing what? n

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