Dying After Living

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My child Such trouble I have. And you sleep, your heart is placid; you dream in the joyless wood; in the night nailed in bronze, in the blue dark you lie still and shine.

Simonides (c. 556-468 BCE), "Danae" (tr. Richmond Lattimore)

Contents

PRESENTS UNLYING DYING AFTER LIVING

Presents

Today I'm five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I'm changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. "Was I minus numbers?" "Hmm?" Ma does a big stretch. "Up in Heaven. Was I minus one, minus two, minus three--?" "Nah, the numbers didn't start till you zoomed down." "Through Skylight. You were all sad till I happened in your tummy." "You said it." Ma leans out of Bed to switch on Lamp, he makes everything light up whoosh. I shut my eyes just in time, then open one a crack, then both. "I cried till I didn't have any tears left," she tells me. "I just lay here counting the seconds." "How many seconds?" I ask her. "Millions and millions of them." "No, but how many exactly?" "I lost count," says Ma. "Then you wished and wished on your egg till you got fat." She grins. "I could feel you kicking." "What was I kicking?" "Me, of course." I always laugh at that bit. "From the inside, boom boom." Ma lifts her sleep T-shirt and makes her tummy jump. "I thought, Jack's on his way . First thing in the morning, you slid out onto the rug with your eyes wide open." I look down at Rug with her red and brown and black all zigging around each other. There's the stain I spilled by mistake getting born. "You cutted the cord and I was free," I tell Ma. "Then I turned into a boy." "Actually, you were a boy already." She gets out of Bed and goes to Thermostat to hot the air. I don't think he came last night after nine, the air's always different if he came. I don't ask because she doesn't like saying about him. "Tell me, Mr. Five, would you like your present now or after breakfast?" "What is it,

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