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Ian Martin

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Frikkie Euthanases His Brother

“I couldn’t stand suffering to see him like that,” said Frikkie.

“Don’t you mean you couldn’t stand seeing him suffer like that?”

Frikkie was telling Plug why he had euthanased his brother. The one who had broken his back when he was impaled on a stake after Frikkie had pushed him out of the highest tree in their garden 30 years ago.

“No,” said Frikkie. “I’m talking about my suffering, not his. You can’t suffer for somebody, and they can’t suffer for you. It’s your own suffering you have to deal with. Anyway, I couldn’t stand it any more, so I euthanased him, and now neither of us is suffering.”

From the veranda they overlooked a waterhole, and behind the silhouetted trees the sky was turning red as the light faded. They sipped their Jack and Coke and listened to the lioness grunting and crunching on bone. Ten minutes earlier they had been watching a group of gemsbok at the water’s edge when the predator attacked and brought down a young male, and the rest bolted. They had watched the buck thrashing about and heard its bellows as the lioness got stuck in and began tearing off chunks of meat while they were still fresh.

“I suppose you euthanased him mainly because his suffering disgusted you?” said Plug. “Was the quality of his life really so bad? I mean, you threw a lot of money at trying to care for him. Surely he derived a certain amount of pleasure from being alive? Didn’t he love soapies? And wasn’t he a fast food junkie?”

“When he wasn’t watching soapies or having handfuls of KFC shoved down his throat, he did nothing but complain and feel sorry for himself,’ said Frikkie. “He was verbally abusive to everyone who took care of him, including my mother. The nurses never lasted for more than a few months. He became obscenely obese and developed diabetes, and was on insulin as well as blood pressure medication and a whole lot of psychiatric drugs. He had lost most of his toes, his one heel was turning gangrenous, and his eyesight was going. One day I visited him and it just hit me. I thought, no, man, this is totally fucking crazy! And that’s when I decided enough was enough.”

“So how did you do it?” asked Plug. “If you don’t mind me asking?

“No, that’s all right,” said Frikkie. “I planned it carefully, and started by getting Mister Delivery to bring us his favourite lunch: Nando’s peri-peri chicken with a roll and chips. Double portion for him, of course. With his diabetes he is not supposed to drink Coke, but I said it was a treat and spiked it with brandy. By the time the nurse had finished feeding him and left us alone, I could see he was feeling lekker. A soapie was playing in the background and I told him I would show him something much better, and I switched to a porn movie. I could tell from his breathing that he approved of my choice, and I called Jasmine, who was outside in her Lamborghini listening to a Mozart horn concerto while she waited. I pointed to the carnation, the box of chocs and the envelope with the three grand, and asked her to go real slow and gentle, like she was doing this to Jesus Christ, just to remind him he was a man. Then I left her to it.”

“And when you returned? How was he?”

“I could hardly recognise him,” said Frikkie. “Serene, man, serene. All the tension and frustration had left him and it was like he was in a trance. I got him to drink some of Doctor Pillay’s morphine cocktail, and when I could see he was floating on a cloud up in the warm sunlight, I told him I was going to give him his insulin. His breathing was already shallow, and after a couple of minutes it stopped altogether. It was very quiet in the room. Just the sound of trickling as his bladder emptied and the pee ran off the waterproof. I tell you, apart from the smell of piss, it was the most beautiful experience of peace I have ever had.”

“And you felt no guilt or remorse?”

“Hell, no,” said Frikkie. “For what? Instead of leaving him to the scavengers I made sure he went in style. They were already talking about amputating his foot. You know how much it costs to have your foot amputated at a Mediclinic? You pay the physician to refer you to his pal the specialist with the scalpel, and the specialist sends some of your foot to his buddy the pathologist, and the rest of you to his old mate the radiologist. They all agree that your foot is rot, and off it must be chopped. This decision has cost maybe 25 or 30 thousand. When the cleaner who comes in to mop the floor could have given you the same diagnosis just by sniffing the stench in the room. But then she doesn’t have shares in the Medical Aid scheme and Mediclinic, does she?”

“And by the time you come round from the anaesthetic your other foot’s gone vrot, I suppose?” said Plug.

“You said it,” said Frikkie. “They’ll keep cutting off bits at 150 thousand a shot until there’s nothing left of you or the Medical Aid runs out. Instead of assisting you to die with dignity when the writing first appears on the wall.”

Down at the waterhole a hyena that was hanging about for leftovers guffawed in the dark, as if it had just heard a really good joke.


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