Oscar Davis

To become an opera singer or a physicist


They had to make up ten people. Only ten people. To officially do the prayers. And they couldn’t even do that. I was invited to be the tenth. In fact, I think two others were there to also help add up the numbers. So sad. Just imagine struggling to find ten people.

Eat up your mash potato. Oo you have some on your chin. Eat up your
cake. Eat up your…

Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp…

On the hands. The lines above my brow makes it seem like I’m frowning. Maybe I am frowning. Sitting on a chair, in filth. Crumbs from sponge cake. Urine. Shit. Oh fuck, I can’t hold it in. Old pants. Old shirt. Old…
You a very good looking. I from Italy. My family from Italy. I will be buried there. My brother buried there. I will be buried in Italy.

I remember the silver birches in the front of my house. The sun set behind them. I used to pluck those strange, wonderful leaves and roll them between my palms. They were so…

How you feeling Dad?

Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong…

Nurse! Nurse! Hello? Is anyone goddam here!

Looks like your feet decided to take you for a walk. I hope you live a long life!

Tomorrow will be my birthday.

I started to cry when I saw him. He had been dating her for almost a year. Before that he had lost his wife to cancer as well. He was there, all over again. Alongside her family and friends and – he helped bury her. I began to cry when I saw him pick up the shovel. He had endured so much. It isn’t fair sometimes. It’s just not…

Oh hey, what – oh, oh I’m sorry. Oh______ I’m so sorry. Oh ok. That’s ok. Yeah I’ll talk to you soon. Yeah of course. I’ll speak with you later. Bye.

But I’m telling you now. Kill me before that happens. Pull the plug, put a pillow over my head ha! But seriously. I’m scared of that more than anything.

Fuck. Fuck. Shit. Fuck.

How you feeling?

Hmm that’s a hard question. We were looking after my Nana, when she was sick. I was studying upstairs and she was watching TV downstairs. I went to say goodnight and she was sitting there, facing the TV with her wig off. I had never seen her like that. I couldn’t say goodnight. I just went upstairs and cried until I…

The smell on his face. And his prickly cheeks. We used to call them whiskers.

Who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop…

Hey, I’m just quickly picking up some clothes. We’re picking up Gran from the airport now. Yeah, the doctor said. The doctor said that Mum – yeah. Thanks. Yeah. Yep we’ll talk.

Look at me. There’s so much more behind these eyes. Someone look at me! I still feel like a child.

Look who’s here to see you. It’s _____ and _____. Would you like me to take those? I’ll put them in a nice vase. Take a seat here. And here. I’ll be back in a tick.

Fuck. Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Geoff. Fuck. Shit. Geoff. Geoff

How funny is this – so, his grandfather was a lawyer. And my grandfather, he was a physicist. Both our grandfathers were honoured with awards. Both had big families. Both died early. Now, ten years later, I’m studying physics. He’s studying law. Talk about intergenerational.

What am I looking at? My daughter? My wife? Who am I looking at?

Here is one of his jokes. We call them Papa jokes: in a month and a half, in a week and a half, in a day and a half, how long does it take a man to eat a hammer?

I remember in the background there was a song playing and the chorus went “there she goes my beautiful world”. It seemed strangely relevant. Maybe even a little dramatic. My brother and I have a habit of connecting songs to the moment they’re played.

Like that time in the car when I was crying to White Blood. Or when Simon and Garfunkel’s American Tune was playing at Dad’s house. To be honest, I don’t even think about the song that much. There she goes my beautiful world. I think about two days before I heard that song. Where her breathing rattled as liquid filled her lungs. And how her eyes were closed and her mouth was slightly open. How she looked more vulnerable than I’ve ever seen her. There she goes my….

Who put the dip in the dip da dip da dip…

Depends whether he’s a professional or a hammer-chewer!

Tomorrow will be my birthday!

Apparently his dad is in the same hospice. Same as _______. The hospice at the end of the street I grew up in. Every time I drive past I first think of her and then of my childhood. Of the silver birches in the front garden.

She likes having her hand stroked. Like this.

How you feeling Dad? I saw what they did to the dining hall. Looks really…

Hi _____. Oh, I meant _______. Sorry. How have you been? Are you still in school? Oh, that’s right. Yes. Yes. Um could you turn the lights down a little. It’s a bit bright for me. Thanks ______. Oh _______, yes. Sorry.

We’re here for a good time, not a long time! That’s our…

It’s really a miracle. Really. She’s in remission. I couldn’t believe it when I first heard. The cancer has completely…

I see you hold your breath! Do you want something? Do you feel guilty? Well, you should. Do us both a favour and stop coming here. Get out of here. I don’t want you here anymore. Get out!

Fuck. Fuck. Shit.

Why aren’t you married? All I want is a grandchild. You’re almost thirty. And I sit here and I’m waiting and waiting. How long do you think I can wait for? You’re not even seeing someone. You’re a beautiful boy. Where are all the girls? Why aren’t you married?

What’s wrong with…

Hi _____. Oh, I meant _______. Sorry. How have you been? Are you still in school? Oh, that’s right. Yes. Yes. Yep she’s straight down the hall there. Room 16.

Tomorrow will be my birthday. And then, I’ll be the same age he was.

I regret not fucking that barmaid! Ha!

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more than I’ll never know. And I think to myself…

How you feeling Dad?

Still alive!

Shit. Fuck. Shit. Baruch atah, Adonai, elloheinu melech haolam, borei p’ri hagafen. Geoff. Geoff. Geoff. Geoff

Here you go _____. I’ll put it on you. Look at that. Now you’ve got the Christmas spirit. What? Don’t be silly. Look. Everyone’s got one. I – sorry I don’t quite understand. Look everyone’s wearing one. You’ll look silly without it. Sorry I….

Really. It’s a miracle

How you feeling Dad?

Tomorrow will be my birthday. And then, I’ll be the same age he was. It’s something I’m still trying to understand. For so many years now, he’s been the same. He’s been frozen in this image – like a photo almost. And he looks young but still older than me.

Because he’s my dad. And also because he didn’t go slowly, like Mum did. Didn’t deteriorate and age a decade by the week. He was young – really. And that’s how I picture him. And – but now there’s this sudden clash of what I remember him being and me now understanding he only ever experienced as much as I have. That soon I’ll be older than him. Ha, weird. And it’s funny but I often wonder what it would be like to talk to him now. I know that sounds cliché. But I still do. And we’d talk about everything – as equals. And I’ll know he’ll understand me. He’ll understand what life feels like. Up to that moment. I’d tell him how my two beautiful boys are going. How I’ve raised them always with the idea of him on my mind. ______ reminds me so much of him. He’s studying physics now. He often says, I wish Papa was still here. I’d love to talk to him about…

I get the potato in. I young and could climb the walls. I would go out. At night and risk my life. If I get caught – dead. Family dead. No one gets any food. But I was quiet. And I could sneak in and out. There was a part of the wall no one watch. I climb there. I used to sell them. Yes. That helped my family. The money…

I still feel like a child, you know? One moment, everyone’s above you, and the next – I used to have a grandfather you know? I used to be a grandchild!

For fifty-five years we slept in the same bed. Fifty-five years. And then I come here and I have my own bed and I tell you, I haven’t slept this well in fifty-five years.

I actually don’t remember what the last thing she said to me was…

We all gathered in the TV room after dinner because _______ had converted old film footage to DVD. It was black and white, of course. But you could still tell how warm it was. The trees and bushes. Dirt roads. It was weird seeing him only a few years older than me but he still looked old. Probably because he was balding. The film mostly showed him hanging around with his brothers and parents. In shorts. But what really got me tearing up, was his voice. Because at the instant I heard him speak, I realised I hadn’t heard his voice in almost fifteen

No I don’t want to go! No, why do they get to stay! I don’t want to, I don’t want to!

Agvaniyot. Agvaniyot. That’s tomato right? Ok. And, so we just go around and ask them if they’d like some agvaniyot. Yeah yeah. And ask them how they’re going. How do you say that?

My hair was so beautiful. Look at this photo. So long. I was beautiful. The most beautiful…

Everything ok? You want to sit here? No? You want to stand? Come here. There’s a nice view from here. Look you can sit right next to _______. No?

There was a curtain separating us from her, so I never actually got to see what she looked like. But we could hear her scream. Really scream. I couldn’t understand what she was saying but apparently she was saying something like “I don’t want it anymore; I don’t want it. It hurts, it hurts”. To be honest, I didn’t need translating. It was pretty clear.

Every time I slept over there, early in the morning I used to wake up to him singing. And slowly I would get up and make my way to the kitchen, just so I could listen some more. Apparently, when he was younger, he was tossing up between becoming an opera singer or a…

We used to have someone come to house every morning with the ice! Just imagine. Ice!

I’ll just get a hot chocolate – weak, boiling hot. _______ you want anything? You sure? Sorry we’ve just come from the hospice down the road. Oh, thank you. Yeah. _______ you sure? Yeah. Ok we’ll get another hot chocolate as well.

I climbed up to the top but she only wanted to stay down the bottom and walk along the canyon. The view was incredible.

Nurse? Nurse!

Oh, such a shame. Oh, I know. And you see him – him. Oh, what a shame. I heard they were all there when she went. I could not imagine. Oh, shhh shh. She’s going down now.

Dad? How you feeling?

It was time to leave. I hadn’t spoken since entering the room. I couldn’t speak. Just before exiting I turned around, walked back to the bed and squeezed her hand. Then I never saw her again.

I’m glad I did it.


About the author:
Oscar Davis is a PhD candidate at the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin University, Australia. Majoring in Literary Studies and Astrophysics at Monash University in 2017, Davis went on to undertake an Honours Course in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne in 2019.

Image: AMADEUS FORGOTTEN OPERA “LE NOZZE DEI PESCI” by Frank Kortan (1964-). No medium specified. No size specified. By 2015. By free license.