Categorized | Musings

Bufo Marinus and the Craft Savvy Seamstress: Episode One

The box, and a costume fitting for Alexander Pearce.

One hot summer’s afternoon, I opened the door to find a box. I knew it was coming. Several weeks earlier, I had ordered 30 stuffed cane toads from a taxidermist in Queensland. Now here they were. I took the box into the back garden and sliced open the top. With all the excitement and apprehension with which one would approach a mysterious trap door, I flung open the flaps… and there it was; A mass of brown leather limbs. Bloated Bellies. Dark warty spots and countless beady eyes.

I was afraid to touch them – just the site of them was enough to make me recoil, repulsed and afraid. They were hideous. I closed the flaps again.

I carried the box to my room and lay it next to the bevy of pest biology and history reference books I had borrowed from the library. I lifted the corner of the box flap and tentatively plucked out a toad, very gently flinging him to a safe distance with all the concern and apprehension that you would have handling a burning hot osteoporotic, haemophiliac, leper kitten. I put him to my periphery and got to work sewing an outfit for him. He was to be Alexander Pearce, the cannibal convict who ate eight of his fellow escapees, one by one, as they roamed the Tasmanian bush. For his jacket, I ripped shreds off some pants I had worn as I traversed several thousand kilometres of European “wilderness” on foot. I didn’t eat anyone on that journey, but it was one hell of an adventure, so it seemed like a fitting second life for these sentimental rags. When I had finished sewing his jacket, I moulded an axe head and a collection of bones out of plasticine. These would be his weapon and his victims’ remains. After they had dried in the oven I began painting them.

After several hours of sewing rags and sculpting bones, something strange happened. I realised I had lost sight of the toad, and now I needed him to do a costume fitting. Until now, my concerns had been purely practical (will the jacket fit, etc). Now, I was worried for the actual toad. There was panic in my eyes as I scanned the room, my hurried hands patting and grasping in the hope of finding what my eyes were failing to see. Despite there being another 29 in the box, the idea of losing this one toad scared me.  Somewhere between laughing at myself for losing the toad, being upset that the hideous thing had disappeared and feeling spooked that it might have come to life, I grabbed at a pile of fabric lying on the floor and felt a wriggly wad inside. I peeled off the surrounding fabric and found him in one piece. I was overcome with relief, and feelings that can only be described as “maternal”. While I had panicked, he was unfazed; patiently waiting where I’d left him, despite the sea of fabric that had threatened to swallow him for good. This made him all the more endearing.

I was now blind to his warts, his curly toes and his beady eyes. And I wasn’t bothered by the fact that he was an escaped convict and a shameless cannibal. In fact, one could say that after I had so carefully moulded an axe head for him, I was an accomplice. “Awww. Alexander Pearce… there you are”, I said as I took him into my hands. Later that night my house mate and I watched back to back episodes of Dexter, and I contemplated all the ways I could craft the perfect handle for Alexander Pearce’s little axe.