and my heart crumples like a coke can

Text: Ali Whitelock

you never ate fusilli nor farfalle nor spaghettini.

you did not like all that italian shite. you liked chocolate eclairs penguin biscuits beef with string in gravy and custard with steamed pudding which is like a fruit cake. a long time ago we wished you would die. you loved tractors and bob-cats. a bob-cat is the australian name for a digger. one winter in scotland you dug a hole in a field with your bob-cat cut off the electricity supply to the entire village burst the mains water pipe. the water froze children skated on it wayward cars skidded into badgers and lambs born in unseasonal snow. your father was a farmer. he gave you your love of tractors. and potatoes. he skimped on other sorts of love. once you gifted a plough to mum. and a socket set. another time a cement mixer. you smoked and drank. grouse mostly. embassy regals. one time you moved a washing machine for a neighbour. you bought old tractors and renovated them sold them in the classifieds. although you could not spell it you were an entrepreneur. your legs went thin. the nutritionist said all you had to do was drink complan. you used to wash your car a lot. the celebrant at your funeral said you would be on your way to heaven in a gleaming vehicle. nobody laughed. you were not religious. i do not believe in heaven. your brother in canada rings me a lot since you died. he told me you were coeliac. it is unrelated to motor neurone disease. you were seventy fucking two. david bowie sixty nine. alan rickman the same. your adam’s apple stopped moving. i realise i too will stop breathing one day. at your funeral your sort-of-wife asked for donations to the disease you didn’t know you had. i don’t know if anyone donated. nine days before you died i visited you at your pebble dashed house, sat beside you on your tan leather couch, watched upside down chaffinches feed on the bird nuts hanging from the hills hoist in your front garden. a hills hoist is australian. in scotland it is a whirly jig. i have been away too long. you tried to make your way to the bathroom on your zimmer frame. you fell in the hall way. i didn’t know how to get you up. i lay beside you on the carpet. you kept apologising. there was nothing to apologise for. the nutritionist was wrong. you died the tuesday after valentine’s day. valentine’s day was on the friday. stephen hawking had motor neurone disease too. his is different to the kind you had. there are four different kinds. yours was diagnosed the day you died. you were already dead. stephen hawkins liked cosmological stuff and the big bang. you liked tractors. when i think of how much you liked tractors, my heart crumples like a coke can.

Ali Whitelock’s and my heart crumples like a coke can is published by Wakefield Press


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