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  • first installment from Something of an Autobiography


    I was born into the wrong family; this is the one thing everyone in it happily agrees upon.

    However, unlike my older brother (who was often referred to as a ‘hole in the rubber’), I was planned.

    Shall we have another? says my mum-to-be.

    Are you dry? my future-father replies.

    What?!? she asks.

    I’ve still some in my glass, my future-father answers.

    No, for chrissake Peter! Not another drink! (Although I will have one if you're getting up...) A child. Shall we have another child? she says.

    Uh. Well, it couldn’t hurt, he says.

    Mmm, yes it could, she replies with some authority.


    The event itself took place at the French Hospital in the dampest, foggiest part of a certain North American coastal city. Without much ado, I was swatted, swaddled, then swifted to a small and even damper, foggier town a few miles down the coast.

    The town itself was a dump. In fact, it was the city dump only recently transformed into a suburb. And once there it would be years before I'd see the sun.


    I was named after no one in particular until you get to my middle name. Deciding together on it turned out to have been the last time my parents were able to compromise on anything without lawyers being involved.

    For a middle name, I think Henry would suit him, helpfully suggested my now-father, whose father’s father was named Henry.

    What an awful name for a child, my mother argued.

    But it’s good solid name for a man, he retorted a bit defensively.

    We're not calling him Henry, that's for goddamn sure! she said. Why don’t we call the little bugger Henry with an ‘i’. It will be a kind of joke between us.

    -Aye, and an excellent compromise at that! he said, hopeful I'd carry on the family tradition, even if there was now a rather fey 'i' replacing the more masculine 'y'.

    And so it was that I came to bear the odd name Shane Henri.


    There is much I don’t remember of that perhaps blissful period of my life called infancy. Neither of the two adults most responsible (in the legal sense) of my care and upbringing can recall much either; so you’ll have to fill in the details yourself.

    I’m sure it was a rather typical babyhood – crying, eating, sleeping, and, when I became big enough, being used as a doorstop when the groceries were too heavy or my father wanted to keep an eye on the BBQ.

    There were also perhaps birthday parties and other joys, although the family photo albums don’t record any evidence of them.

    (In fact, there is scant evidence in those volumes that I had ever been an infant. My absence from the family photos led credence to an emerging belief that I was actually hatched elsewhere. Or maybe my older brother’s baby pictures simply took up too much room in the books, so they just put mine in a drawer somewhere. For safe keeping.)

    Anyway, let’s move quickly ahead. We’ve so much ground to cover and everyone has such short attention spans these days.


    Ah, yes! Here we are: I am five. While my parents visit with the parish priest in the front room, I’m sitting on the floor playing with my mother’s empty valium bottles, which I am pretending to pretend are armies of soldiers but which in actual fact I’ve no interest in whatsoever.

    Instead, I am thinking of those maraschino cherries in the cabinet.

    You may be surprised to know they come in at least three colors! Green, red, and, of course, blue. And don’t they taste so good! And don’t the red one’s make such a good lipstick color, the blue ones an excellent eye shadow, and the green ones the perfect rouge (or, if over applied, a wicked foundation!)

    Now, to put together the rest of the ensemble is very easy! Everyone knows that in a pinch a towel can serve as flowing hair, and a printed bed sheet can quickly become an elegant gown.

    But the shoes, that’s a tough one! Only heels will do and we must insist on complete authenticity when it comes to shoes.

    The rub: the only ones that would work, would really work, were in my mother’s bedroom closet. Getting them would require a risk.

    But the threat of another thrashing should not stop us when the audience is waiting and there’s a show to be put on!

    (to be continued
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