In memoriam
Dylan, 1974-95

"In the Gums of a Mumbling Gale" is the title of an essay I started writing in 1976 that so far has not proceeded beyond the second page. I have many similar works in progress, but few titles of that quality, so I'll use it here before I forget it.

Dylan turned 16 a few weeks ago. You may remember Dylan. He was the only Australian cat mentioned by name in the fiftieth anniversary issue of Amazing Science Fiction (June 1976, page 129). He is probably also the only Australian cat who has met Ursula Le Guin, Susan Wood, Mike Glicksohn, John D. Berry, Terry Hughes, Bill Rotsler, Bob Tucker, Bob Bloch, Chris Priest, Terry Carr, Vonda McIntyre, Art Widner, Bert Chandler, George Turner, Damien Broderick, Race Mathews, Lee Harding, Yvonne Rousseau and Gerald Murnane. Imagine what he would be worth if he had been autographed! Enough perhaps to pay his dental bills. Last week he broke a tooth -- I think it's correctly described as a canine, but I'll call it his top left fang. Off to the vet to complete the extraction, $187, ding! thank you, have a nice day. So far so bad. During dinner that night one of my teeth fell out, not a real tooth, only porcelain, but not just any tooth: I think it's correctly described as my top left canine. Dylan is a cat who demands no less than total sympathy, but this is ridiculous.
On Monday I went to Ron's computer shop and collected Number Two Computer (this one: a 386SX-16 clone made by Mr Chia in far-off Taiwan; Sally has inherited Number One Computer, the Epson XT) and proceeded down High Street, Thornbury, to Mr Knowles' dental repair shop. I said very little to Mr Knowles, or to anyone else for the next twenty-four hours. Ron was an exception. I rang Ron and said "Ipf nop worping!" "It was working OK for me," Ron said, and pressed me for detail, which I preferred not to go into. I took the computer back.
Sans computer, sans teeth . . . I felt bloody miserable, and made little secret of it.
Mr Knowles charged me $25 for his work, a trifle for such a boon: I would gladly have given him a valuable autographed cat for his trouble. Ron brought the computer back, along with his colleague Manny, who said there was nothing wrong with it. They set it up. It didn't work. Humidity was mentioned, along with the source of power, ghosts and other theological concepts. They took it away. Two hours later Ron brought it back again: Manny's brother Danny had found a propensity to intermittent synaptic reluctance in a bit of wire between the widget and the wadget. The computer was fixed. It performed all of its basic advertised functions with gusto. I offered Ron a cat, but he's given them up. I farewelled him and went in to dinner, real dinner, the kind of dinner you have with teeth. I felt oddly content. I felt like a drink, but I've given it up.

You're drinking! Geraldine said last night at the Society of Editors' twentieth anniversary meeting. Her dismay is understandable: Geraldine is a wonderfully sympathetic listener, and I have spent too much of her time lately talking about not drinking. I felt I had let her down. I may attempt to explain at the committee meeting next Monday. She may not wish to listen.
I gave up drinking on the first day of September. To satisfy myself that I really had given up, on 11 October I had a 1987 Tolley's Gewürztraminer. I didn't like it as much as I used to, and my liver complained about it next day, so that tended to confirm my belief that I have given up drinking. On my way to the meeting last night at least two thoughts crossed my mind: that I had not consciously decided to drink at the meeting, but had forgotten to bring mineral water with me, and therefore would drink at the meeting; and that it would be ironic if I were pulled up by police for a breath test after almost two months of abstinence.
It was a great meeting, and I enjoyed the 1988 Garafoli Verdicchio. On the way home I was pulled up by police for a breath test, my first, as I mentioned to the officer. He said nothing and waved me on. "What was the reading?" I asked him. "Oh, nothing really," he said. Scientific proof that I have given up drinking!

The Society of Editors Newsletter, November 1990

John Bangsund
Melbourne, Australia