Favourite saying backfires
all have favourite sayings from childhood. When I was a kid and would ask my father where my mother was, he would invariably say ‘‘ she went mad, so I shot her’’.
My sister and I grew up with this and thought it was a normal way to answer a question about someone’s whereabouts. We also thought it was hilarious. Dad would grin and then tell us where Mum was. Mum would roll her eyes. This was a rural area. We had guns in the house. There was even a calico bag full of shotgun cartridges in the bathroom cupboard.
Animals got shot from time to time. Sometimes – in the case of ducks, hares, bronze wing and wonga pigeons – it was so we could eat them.
Sometimes – in the case of a sick dog or a horse with a broken leg – it was because of their injuries.
If Stockholm tar, sulphur dust or Condy’s crystals couldn’t fix it, the future for any injured animal was precarious.
I don’t recall any animal being shot because it was ‘‘ mad’’.
My father and grandfather and their mates might have occasionally talked about a horse that was ‘‘ as mad as a cut snake’’, but I don’t remember them actually shooting one because of its bad temperament. Then again, I wouldn’t have put it past them.
When my own daughter was very young, four or five, she asked me one day, ‘‘ Dad, where’s Mum?’’
It was a question I had long been waiting for. I could barely contain my excitement at being able to finally deliver the answer I had heard so many times in my own childhood.
‘‘ She went mad, so I shot her,’’ I almost shouted, waiting for her to break out in a grin and to start laughing uncontrollably.
Instead she stared back at me, horror suddenly etched into her face.
‘‘ Uh-oh,’’ I thought. Her bottom lip started to tremble and she looked like she might be going into shock.
If that wasn’t bad enough, her mother happened to be in the next room and had heard the entire exchange. She came around the corner so fast she would have made Usain Bolt look like a slow coach.
I quickly determined that she wasn’t hurrying to slap me on the back and to have a big guffaw about my rip - roaringly funny riposte to our daughter’s innocent question.
To say she was a ‘‘ bit’’ angry would be like saying Muammar Gaddafi is on a ‘‘ bit’’ of a power trip.
Without going into all of the gory detail, suffice to say it was the first and last time I said those words to my kids when they asked me the whereabouts of their mother.
Having to answer ‘‘ she’s in the kitchen’’ or ‘‘ she’s out in the garden’’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.