The Nose

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October 22, 2019

I call my 86-year-old mother every day. It’s as much for Mum as for me but Marion likes to make out I’m doing it purely for my own gratification. As soon I call, she wants action. She wants entertainment. She wants a nugget she can sink her teeth into, something she’ll have an opinion about, a platform from which she can tell me that I’m doing it all wrong and that if the shoe were on the other foot she would do it better, a hell of a lot better.

Inevitably, she asks, ‘So, what’s happening?’ and if I don’t come up with something snappy, she’ll dismiss me with, ‘So, nothing then’. The thing is, she’s usually right. Not a lot happens in my little but reasonably happy life. My cat yawns. The greengrocer gets in new season nectarines. I write 1,000 words. My cat yawns again and I find myself fascinated by the sunlight shining through her ear. All those tiny veins.

The other day I was talking to Marion about the renovation work that will soon start. It will be tough, I said. They’ll be building a new bathroom while I’m living here. Then, of course, there’ll be the demolition of the back of the house and the rebuilding, all happening in the scorching heat of Sydney midsummer.

‘Well, you chose to live in Sydney,’ she replied. ‘It gets hot here, too.’

Today, once again, I found myself under pressure to deliver something to prove that damn it, I do have a life. So I told her about the woman in my yoga class, the one with foot odour. She’s new to the studio and wears shoes without socks, those odd, individual-toe things. The smell once these shoe things are removed is intense and putrid.

‘I keep moving my yoga mat around the room, trying to create distance between myself and the feet,’ I say.

Mum inhales noisily. ‘You should tell her,’ she says.

I reply in my wishy-washy way that it’s a sensitive matter, that it’s not my place. I mean, what could you say to the woman?

‘Tell her that her feet stink and she should wash them. It’s very unpleasant for everyone,’ says Mum. ‘That’s what I would do.’

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