In my first memory I am standing in a train station with my father. I have no idea in which city, or how old I was. I don’t think I was older than 4 years of age. We were waiting for my friend and his father (my fathers friend.) Dad had bought me a jumbo sausage from a chip shop and I had munched most of it but was too full to finish it off. Turning to my father I explained that I was full and he told me to throw it into a dustbin. Looking briefly around I discovered that there was in fact no bin within which to throw said remainder of said jumbo sausage. Returning to my father I explained this fact to him and he said something along the lines of “Oh just put it any where son,” I cast my gaze around once more seeing a large plant pot housing a mangy dying tree, a man with a large unkept beard slumped against a wall and a few bollards.
“Shall I give it to that man dad?” I asked.
“No son, I don’t think he’ll want it.” To my father the man was clearly asleep, or dead. Probably for the best that I didn’t disturb him. As I had previously done a moment earlier, he cast his gaze around discovering the grubby plant pot and the bollards.
“Just throw it into the plant pot Jack,” he said. He couldn’t have possibly comprehended the effect that those words would have on my future. As I stared incredulously at my father barely able to conceive of the notion of shirking responsibility for this sausage into said plant pot, notions ran wildly though my head. It was in this moment that my innocence was lost; I knew in that second that all bets were off. If I could rightly discard a half eaten jumbo sausage into a plant pot, I could do anything. It was an idea that has grown to define my entire psyche. Whilst I stood there, whole universes of possibility opening out in front of me my father took the greasy half chewed sausage out of my hand and casually tossed it into the plant pot. Even now some 22 years later I can still see that jumbo sausage wheeling through the air somersaulting down towards the earth. I can even hear the light thud as it hit the soil.
As my father returned to me unaware of the whirlwind of realization going on inside my head, he noticed the expression on my face. “What’s the problem Jack?” He asked.
“But… but… the plant pot isn’t a dustbin,” I managed to say.
“It’s just a sausage son.” It’s just a sausage. JUST A SAUSAGE. I still couldn’t believe the events that had just taken place and in the years to come I would often return to this defining moment and remind myself in times of moral quandaries that if it’s okay to wantonly discard a sausage into a plant pot then any course of action is actually okay. At this moment however I couldn’t understand why I had such a strong urge to retrieve it? My father could still sense my unease.
“Do you want to be holding it all night?”
“So don’t worry about it.”
My mind couldn’t fathom what would happen next. I knew at that age that if you throw something into a dustbin then someone would collect that rubbish and put it into a place with other rubbish. But what would happen to the sausage? Even now I wonder what happened to it. So many different things could have transpired.
1. Eventually the homeless man woke up. Groggy and hungover he said something unintelligible he managed to drag himself to his feet. Swaying slightly he went over to the plant pot. People often threw fag buts in there and he could do with a smoke. Low and behold he discovered a half eaten jumbo sausage. Not really what he was looking for, but there weren’t any fag buts in the plant pot. He hadn’t eaten in a few days and it had been a long time since he had felt any sense of shame or propriety. In other words he was not above fishing a jumbo sausage out of a plant pot, wiping off the dirt and eating it. Which was exactly what he did. The second that salty lukewarm sausage touched his lips he knew he had discovered heaven on earth. “How could anything be so delicious?” He thought. “How, in my 53 years on this planet have I not eaten one of these?” Something deep inside him woke up. Something he hadn’t felt for a long time. A hope. A dream that he could once again enjoy such a sumptuous feast as this. Things had to change. It was time to stop shitting his pants outside of train stations, and time to take back control of his destiny. One way or another he was going to do something… something to do with sausages. Okay, so it wasn’t a fully realized plan, but lets face it, a half drunk man who’d been wearing the same clothes for 7 years could only take things one step at a time. “So what was step one?” He thought. He hadn’t been prone to tending his appearance for a long time he realized, but looking down he discovered that he looked pretty bloody awful. His clothes were caked in years of stains. His skin was so covered in grime that there was not one inch that could be considered even slightly clean. “If I have a hope of getting more of those delicious sausages I’ve got to clean myself up,” he thought. He had no watch, but judging by the sky it was probably around 3am. He knew that it would be a few hours until he could steal some clothes but he could at least clean himself up a little. He was still a little groggy, but with every passing moment his mind, his plan and his purpose was getting clearer. He made his way into the public bathroom of the train station. There was a tired looking business man washing his hands in the sink.
“Spare a little change, I haven’t eaten in days.” This was a lie, he’d just had the most delicious meal of his entire life, but now was not the moment for truth. Now was the moment for action! The business man fished around awkwardly in his pockets and dug out some change. “That’s all I’ve got,” he mumbled before quickly escaping the bathroom. The homeless man stood swaying in front of the mirror.
“Jesus christ,” he was an absolute state. He could barely see himself through the grimy matted hair on his head and the beard on his face which were both streaked with grey. His face (what he could see of it) was dark brown, leathery and weather beaten. He started to take off his clothes, stripping down to his t-shirt and his y-fronts. Taking his shoes off was the biggest challenge. His motor skills were not what they used to be and it took him at least 5 minutes to undo to the grime-crusted laces. He got a sudden after taste of jumbo sausage on his tongue and it reinvigorated his senses. With a renewed sense of purpose he fumbled at the laces and managed with sustained effort to remove the shoes from his feet. He took his bundle of grimy belongings and went into the toilet stall. He used the water to bathe his underwear. Through a process of soak, rinse, drain and repeat he managed to get all his clothes and even himself to a semi passable state. Yes his clothes were stained and dirty, there were some stains that would never come out, but the smell was greatly diminished. He had even managed to clean the dirt off his skin and the grime out of his hair. He put his damp clothes back on, but his spirits would not be dampened. On his way out of the stall he took a look in the mirror, his efforts had taken years off. One of the train station staff had walked into the toilet and the homeless man realized that he had left an almighty mess in the stall. He quickly made his departure and once out the doorway faintly heard the man say “What the fuck is this!?”
By the time he exited the train station it was full daylight, more people were milling around now. It might have been his good spirits but he noticed that people were looking a little less disgusted by him than usual. In the foggy recesses of his mind he remembered that there was an army surplus store on the other side of the city. It took him a good couple of hours to get there and by the time he arrived it was almost midday. He pushed open the door and stepped inside, it was dark and untidy. The counter was vacant and so he took his chance. Moving as quickly as his tired limbs would allow he quickly grabbed up a new t-shirt, trousers, jacket, boots and socks and exited the store. His heart pumping and adrenaline flowing through his veins he made his way down to a bridge nearby. He stripped down once more and changed into his new threads, chucking his old mangy clothes into the river. With every passing moment he felt vigour and life returning to his body. He’d need to shave and cut his hair. Lifting the scissors and razors were easy and it wasn’t long before he had made his way to another public toilet. The scissors made short work of his hair and soon enough he had a passable if not trendy mop atop his head. Removing the beard was a little more tricky. The scissors took it down mostly. By this point there were vast clumps of grey streaked hair covering the toilet floor. His hand shaking a little as he took the razor to his face. It had been a long time since he had done this, not since he had been in the army. It wasn’t long before he cut himself, blood trickled into the sink and he swore. He cut himself 5 more times whilst shaving, but it was worth it. He looked in awe at his face. The years had not been kind. His lips were dry and chapped and compared to his dark brown leathery sun-damaged forehead below the nose his skin was pale and somewhat ridiculous. Dabbing toilet paper to his skin he removed the blood. New clothes. New face. Fresh start. Now where were those jumbo sausages?
2. A dog ate it.
3. The half chewed sausage was never removed from the plat pot, as the months passed it slowly decomposed into the soil. After a year the sausage had been completely absorbed into the soil beneath it and came to form the balance of nutrients for the tree that grew in the plant pot. After another year, 98% of the matter that had made up the sausage had been absorbed through the soil and into the tree. 6 months after this the station was given the funds to improve its decor and by now though the tree was healthy, the plant pot was chipped and discolored. It was taken along with the tree to a landfill and tossed away. Over the next week the tree began to die. It’s leaves started to discolor and turn yellow, the roots began to shrivel. “I’m fucked,” the tree thought. It prayed day and night to the tree god to be saved but no help came. It thought back wistfully to it’s life outside the train station. It hadn’t been a bad life. He hadn’t really appreciated everything he’d had there. Trees don’t have faces, but if they did he would have been smiling in remembrance of the time a man threw a sausage onto the earth he was planed in. He had watched the small child stood next to the man, the child was clearly going though some sort of realization. One thing humans don’t know is that trees are telepathic. They can read our thoughts like an open text book. In fact they can read all animals thoughts. Trees are very empathetic plants and have an unrivaled knowledge and understanding of the world around them; which is quite useless really as they can’t move or communicate in any way. Nevertheless, being telepathic is a godsend for trees as it breaks up the utter mind-bending monotony of not being able to speak or move. Honestly, being a tree can be awful sometimes; having all the wisdom of the ages but being able to do sod all with it. Trees are actually very witty too, and great with puns. It’s the main reason why trees grow together in forests, so that they can chat to each other, telepathically of course.
So, the tree was led on the landfill. He was next to a bunch of flowers that had been withering next to him, but flowers were known in the social tree circles to be vain and flamboyant. Fairly distasteful plants really. For the first few days they had ignored each other completely; the flowers being too proud and the tree too stubborn. Eventually the tree was like:
“Oh, your talking to me are you?”
“If you’re going to be like that you can fuck off.”
“No, sorry. I was just… No, I was just checking it was me you were talking to.” The tree contemplated this for a moment. It was a ridiculous thing to say.
“There are literally no other plants in a mile wide radius. Who else would I be talking to?” The tree said, dripping with sarcasm. They didn’t talk to each other for the next couple of days. Eventually the flowers said.
“I’m a bit scared.” The flowers were pretty withered by this point and it was quite obvious that they would be dead before long.
“Me too.” The tree admitted.
“We’re going to die aren’t we.” The flowers remarked.
“It looks that way. Yes. I think we are.”
“I never knew my mother,” said the flowers. The tree thought about this for a second.
“I was taken away by a bee when I was just a pollen,” said the flower. “By the time I grew into a flower I was far away..”
“That’s too bad.” The tree felt a little sorry for the flowers. Many flowers had a hard little life really. “Wanna talk about it?”
“The bee took me to Flowertropolis.” The tree had never heard of this place before, he suspected it was some naïve name for a field of some sort, but he kept that thought to himself.
“What’s Flowertropolis?” He asked.
“Oh it’s a wonderful place, well, it was at first. I grew up around thousands of other flowers, there were so many different species. Flowers from all different grows of life. The soil was rich and delicious and we were happy there. We heard stories of humans cutting the flowers down but we didn’t believe them, it was all too perfect. Then one day I saw a human for the first time. I caught sight of something glinting in her hand. She knelt down next to a bunch of flowers growing not too far from me and started inspecting them. Picking through them. Suddenly she moved the shiny object towards the stem of one of the flowers, it all happened so fast. The metal object cut the flower out of the ground. I can still hear her screams today. A quiet chill fell over that entire field. The rumors were true. Humans were harvesting us. Every day the woman would return and others too, picking the best of us, cutting us down in our prime. Every day I would pray to the flower god: Not me, not me, don’t pick me! I could feel myself growing and knew my time would soon be up. Most of my friends had been picked by now, the field that had once held so much joy and life was desolate and barren. When my day came I was already resigned to my fate. The woman came at me with the sharp things. Aren’t you a pretty little thing, she remarked. Then she cut me down and threw me into a sack. The next time I saw light I was in a human city. I was in amongst flowers of all different types, all as scared as each other, praying that the flower god would bring me a swift and merciful death; but he wasn’t listening. We were bunched together. Soon enough other humans were looking at us. Bunch after bunch were taken away and eventually I was taken by a man in a suit. He held me tightly in his hand. Too tightly. He went to a place where lots of humans were gathered sitting and eating. He gave me to a woman who smelled my petals and smiled. She asked another person in a white shirt to bring a vase with a little water and she placed me in there. I drank deep from the water feeling gratitude to the woman. They proceeded to eat and talk for a few hours. After they had eaten 3 meals the woman got up and left and I was alone with the man. He pulled a small box from his pocket and took out a ring of silver metal. He called over the other man in the white shirt and asked him to: Put the ring in a glass of Champagne and bring it back when she returns to the table. She returned and the man brought a see-through vessel with bubbling yellow liquid. The silver ring of metal was in the bottom. She noticed the silver ring immediately. Marry me, he said. Yes, yes, yes of course! She cried. Then she put the ring onto her finger. Later that night she put me into another vessel and I watched as they made love. I sat in this vessel for 1 week and then one day the man gathered me up and brought me here.”
“Those bastards,” said the tree. “How could they?” The tree paused to think for a moment. “Thank you for sharing that story. Thanks a bunch.” He doubted the flowers would get it.
“I just wish I knew what it was all for,” said the flowers. She died later that day. One week later, the tree died too. He never knew his mother either.
I have often wondered why my first memory should be set outside this drab grey train station with the plant pot, the homeless man and the bollards. Most people recall a memory of a birthday party, or Christmas. For me it’s a jumbo sausage and a plant pot. Why? Evidently this event whilst not on the same level as murder or theft stuck a cord with me. There was something about it that just didn’t seem right. How could my father, my moral compass, the man who I looked to to lead me and guide me behave in this manner? If a person could just go throwing sausages around willy nilly then what else could they do? It was shortly after this that I stole a micro machine from playgroup. My mother went ballistic! I was confused. I no longer knew right from wrong, the only guidance I could now trust was the feeling in my heart. The rules of society no longer meant so much, I could only rely on my inner judgement to steer me. In stealing the micro machine I knew I had made a blunder. I felt bad about it, and in this feeling balance was restored. Regardless, I would never be the same.
I wonder to myself, is there a point to this story? What is the significance. I guess the point is this: In a world of endless possibilities anything can happen. Though whatever happened to that sausage, it’s long gone now.