Sometimes a word lingers. ‘Incorporation’ lingered for long after it came up in a chat with a chum.
The first inkling I got of what a corporation might be was from Grandpa Mole. After a long and sumptuous Sunday lunch he would take a big intake of breath and, patting his stomach, would say: ‘Well, that has certainly added to my corporation’. And then he would go to the kitchen whistling ‘Three Little Maids from School are we’, and turn the taps on to wash up.
Later, as he snoozed contentedly in his armchair, I would watch his paws rise and fall on what might have been a paunch on a chubbier mole, and imagine the roast beef and potatoes, the Yorkshire pudding and gravy and brussels sprouts, the steamed lemon pudding and custard, all encapsulated in this one corporation. They were always whole in my mind, unchewed.
I was quite a small mole then, certainly not yet versed in where tiny moles came from, and I had rather imagined myself to be more or less hermetically sealed like Tante Mole’s preserved apricots. But Grandpa Mole’s corporation gave me pause.
What if I wasn’t the only creature living in my pelt? The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became. Those voices that urged me to unravel Mathilde’s knitting or try out my new colouring pencils on the flyleaves of Great Uncle Mole’s encyclopaedias were not me. Nor for that matter were the voices that told me not to eat the chocolate buns, fresh from the oven and cooling enticingly on their racks in the scullery. My pelt was fairly straining at the seams to accommodate the imps, elves and scolds who had taken up lodgings in it.
I had further pause for thought when one hot summer’s day a stoat from the village came sweating to our burrow door to take our census details. She wouldn’t come in, she said, it was too cramped, but she wouldn’t half like a cup of tea. She sat down on the garden bench with a sheaf of papers and asked if Grandpa Mole was still the head of our household.
The head. If Grandpa Mole was the head, then what were my parents? What was I? A paw perhaps. Did an invisible pelt incorporate the household. Were we all just parts of some enormous mole. And who decided which bit of body we were? I could imagine bloodthirsty tiffs as my kin vied for prestigious parts. Was Uncle Ratty were counted in? He was one of us to all intents and purposes. Would the invisible pelt reveal a certain rattishness? No one could blame him if he preferred the autonomy of being counted, head, paws and tail as the one entity that made up his nesty household on the riverbank.
It was much, much later that I discovered you could conjure up a corporation; evolve a business into a separate legal entity; become the Dr Frankenstein to your very own monster. And that if, unlike Dr Frankenstein, you took your parental responsibilities seriously and nursed your dear monster through thick and thin, that entity could become an object of pride.
My chum told me he found he felt more inclined to nurture this separate entity than he had himself.
And that makes me wonder if, when the scolds who co-lodge within my pelt get too noisy, I might be able to imagine myself into a separate, benign moleskin; one that has no components to berate me or lead me astray; one whose composition is only of encouragement.