The Great Gig in the Sky

20 Jun

“I’m afraid we’ve got some unfortunate news to tell you.” A pause. I can hear my dad looking at my mom and my mom quietly saying “you tell her” on the other end of the line.

My heart drops and I can feel it hitting the walls of my stomach as it goes down. The first thing I think of is Domino. (I think they called her Domino because she must’ve been black and white at some point within the protection of her mother’s womb – though how they’d know that, I don’t know. I suppose there’s always that first five minutes after they’re done with her at the doggie parlour, but I’ve never seen her like that.) I mean, she may smell like laundry that hasn’t been dried properly and look a little bit like a bag of old dreadlocks crossed with something I’d pull out of the vacuum cleaner in my res when it stops working properly, but I love that dog to pieces. I don’t know what I’d do with myself if something happened to her. My heart is hammering now. “What’s happened?” I ask, not really wanting to know.

It’s at this moment that the Telkom payphone starts to drone like those heart-monitors in the movies when someone’s gone to say howdy to Jesus and ask his opinion on the Creationist-Evolutionist debate, and I shout over the sound for my parents to call me back.

“What is it?” I ask as I pick up the phone for the second time. Another pause.
“Woodstock’s gone to join the great gig in the sky”, my Dad says gently.
“Oh,” I respond. “Are you guys ok?”

I’ve known Woodstock since the moment he hatched, one Winter night when I was 7. He looked the way an old person must look if you leave them in the sun too long, but smaller. Slowly, he started developing feathers and looking like one of the “before” pictures would look if they had Lazer Hair therapy ads for budgerigars. Eventually he developed feathers and began to look like a majestic lemon with a tail, although he sadly lost the ability to fly at an early age, so that he soared to the ground like a well-aimed shuttlecock if he tried to jump off the kitchen counter. ¬†Nonetheless, he fearlessly traversed our various houses (there have been four in his lifetime) on foot, never stopping short of taunting the vicious mongrels who could smell him from under the closed back door. For many years he eagerly ran up and down his perch and tweeted along in duet whenever I played the piano, as well as contributing numerous backing harmonies to my vocal recordings.

My parents are coping well with the grief. Like me, they recognize that he’s had a long and prosperous life for an aeronautically-challenged budgie, and will no doubt be delighted to reunite with the 12 family members he lost over the course of it.

In honour of Woodstock, I post the Pink Floyd song my dad referred to in reporting his demise. God rest his eternal soul.

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