August 11th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Doctor-patient privilege dies with My Health Record

EDITORIAL By-elections reflect disenchantment with major parties

CANBERRA OBSERVED Longman result may force PM to rethink policies

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS No question about it: the Don is in charge

ENERGY Lower electricity price a fantasy

EUTHANASIA Vulnerable will be victims of Leyonhjelm's deadly bill


PHILOSOPHY On human nature

CULTURE AND SOCIETY The shadow of that hyddeous strength

FICTION A Scent of Musk

MUSIC Globalised Music

CINEMA The Equalizer 2

BOOK REVIEW ADF as modern peacekeepers

BOOK REVIEW The men who built up a great tradition


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A Scent of Musk

by Jeffry Babb

News Weekly, August 11, 2018

When Carolyn Hunt sat next to me at the train station, I could tell she was happier than she had been for a long time. She was impeccably dressed, as always, but there was something in the way she held her head and tossed her hair that caught my attention. Her hair was naturally honey blonde; it fell to her shoulders in a single perfect drop, straight and without even the hint of a wave. She had an indefinable presence. Carolyn’s skin had a peaches and cream bloom. She turned to me and smiled. “Where are you off to, Greg?” she asked.

“The City,” I said.

“Any reason?” She replied.

“I’m going to a meeting at Myer, in the Mural Hall.”

“You mean you have to have a meeting to go shopping? I know things were bureaucratised, but I didn’t know you needed a meeting to go shopping,” she laughed.

“No, it’s not a shopping meeting, it is the annual general meeting of Myer Limited; I’m a shareholder in the company,” I said.

“What does that mean?” Carolyn asked.

“It means every time you buy something at Myer, I make about a trillionth of a cent, “ I replied.

“You’re looking good, Carolyn. Any reason why?” I asked.

“Yes. I’ve grown up,” Carolyn said.

Carolyn was in her early forties. She had three children and was a regular churchgoer. I didn’t quite understand.

“You grew up? How?” I asked.

“With Ashlyn’s help. I’ve had three pregnancies and three babies. After every birth, I’ve suffered from postnatal depression. It was so bad it was disabling. I could hardly get out of bed, let alone run a house. I wanted another baby, but my doctor said no, so did my mum. It’s sad to have children and feel you can’t love them. For years I felt I was a failure as a mother. I felt I should love my children, but I couldn’t.

“Rick was no help. He is one of these men who retreat into themselves. He won’t say what’s bothering him. He gets morose and grumpy; it lasts for days on end.

“He made me feel stupid. I’m not stupid! I have a degree in mathematics. I’m not stupid!

“Then Rick started pushing me around. He said that I deserved it, that I was a bad wife and that I was a bad mother. It made me feel worse, as if I was shrivelling up inside and slowly dying. He made me feel as if I deserved it.

“One day, I couldn’t move; I just couldn’t get out of bed. So they called the doctor. The doctor said that if I couldn’t get out of bed I shouldn’t be alone at home. So they put me in a psychiatric ward. I don’t know what medication they had put me on, but it didn’t make me feel any better.

“They made me get up every day. I didn’t feel like eating, but they made me eat. We did occupational therapy. That was the best part of the day, it’s sort of like handicrafts. After I had been there for six weeks they said I wasn’t showing signs of improvement and that they would consider ECT – electro-convulsive therapy. What doctors call shock treatment. They put electrodes on your head then run electricity through your brain. You are sedated and these days you don’t actually convulse wildly like you did in the bad old days. They said if I had the treatment I could go home. So I had it.

“It seemed for a while that I had had a brain wipe. I couldn’t remember anything. But gradually I started getting better. After a month, I was well enough to go home. I was terribly lonely at home. I just sat there and did nothing. It was as if the energy had been drained out of me. I did the things I had to do and Rick seemed to understand that I still wasn’t well, but it wasn’t until I met Ashlyn that I started feeling better.

“Who is Ashlyn?” I asked.

“Would you like to see her?” Carolyn replied.

I was a bit mystified but I said, “Sure.”

Carolyn unzipped her calf-length left boot and then said, “Here’s Ashlyn.”

Tattooed on the inside of her calf, running into the instep of her foot was the word “Ashlyn” in Celtic script and the picture of a dog. She wasn’t the tattoo type.

“Ashlyn. Is she a greyhound?” I asked.

“No, Ashlyn was a whippet; similar to a greyhound, but smaller. Beautiful, isn’t she? When she ran, no one could catch her.”

“Would you like to tell me about her?” I asked.

“Thank you kindly for your interest, Gregory. I think I have time to tell you. It’s a long story,” Carolyn said.

“When I returned home I didn’t have that sick, heavy feeling in the bottom of my stomach with depression. I felt nothing; I felt like a machine. I was simply going through the motions of living. I got the kids off to school, I cooked dinner, I did the shopping but I was like a zombie. I felt nothing. Then one day a little kid came to the door. He was obviously aboriginal.

“Look missus, would you like a dog? She’s only $10. She’s a whippet. When she grows up, she’ll be able to run real fast.” The boy gave me a shy smile. He must have been around ten years old.

“My first reaction was to tell him to go away, but I thought, ‘there’s no harm in looking.’ She was such a lovely little dog, with big brown eyes. She saw me and gave a little bark. I thought ‘why not? She can keep me company.’ So I got my purse and gave the boy $10.

“A puppy is like a baby, it requires constant attention. I thought, ‘What can I call her?’ I remembered I’d been reading something on Celtic mythology. She was like a dream come true for me, so I called her Ashlyn. Soon she was up and running around. And she was fast! Even when she was a tiny little thing, she was very fast. And she loved to run.

“I had to feed her, clean her and look after her. As she grew older, she would run around the yard like a mad thing, digging holes everywhere. She was so energetic. So every morning we went for a walk. At first it was a chore, but as she grew older, we walked further. We would walk down to the river, then we would walk around the back streets, exploring as we went. When we found a park where dogs were allowed, I would let Ashlyn off the leash and she would chase the ball.

“Then we started going out in the afternoon as well. I began feeling better and eating better. My stomach was less flabby and I was starting to get some tone in my legs. I started looking forward to mornings. Rick hadn’t been very happy about the dog at first, but when he saw the good she was doing me, he accepted her. The kids loved Ashlyn, but she was my dog.

“The more I did with Ashlyn, the less depressed I felt. I was losing that empty feeling and I was starting to feel like a real person again. My doctor said he very pleased with the way my recovery was progressing and that I only had to see him once a month.

“Ashlyn could run! I could never hope to catch her, but she always came when I called her. She was so fast! By the time she was three, she was quite sedate. She still loved to run, but she was easy to handle. I was only seeing the doctor once every three months.

“Ashlyn was my best friend. When she saw me in the morning, she would jump up to me and lick my face. After breakfast, she would grab the lead and bark. And she was so smart! The whole family was so much happier. Rick was actually talking to me, even if it was mainly about his work, but his work is the most important thing in his life;I learned to accept that too.”

“So, Ashlyn is your best friend?” I asked.

“One morning we were in the park. I had a ball thrower, it’s like a spear thrower, except you use a ball. I threw the ball really hard but it bounced off the fence and onto the road.

“The driver had no chance. I know that now, but then I was full of rage and horror and sickness. I knew Ashlyn couldn’t survive, but I begged the driver to take Ashlyn to the vet. The vet looked sadly at me and said Ashlyn had to be put down. She died in my arms. It was like losing a child. Ashlyn never complained, she never whinged, she never threw her food around. She always loved to see me. How can words express your feelings when your best friend dies?

“I was thrown into grief but I knew I would come out of it eventually, and I did. My grief wasn’t the sort of hollow sickness you feel in your stomach with profound depression. If feeling bad can be healthy, then my grief was healthy, because I was mourning for what I had lost. I knew that Ashlyn had saved me. I knew that Ashlyn was the first creature that ever loved me totally, without reservation and without hesitation.

“So Greg, that’s my story. I haven’t tried to replace Ashlyn, because I can’t. I carry her image on my body to show I will never forget her and how grateful I am for the few short years we spent together. Ashlyn made me a different person. She taught me how to love.”

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm