40 questions to Bette D, a direct transcript of the interview dated 11 Aug 2013, 14 hours before her death
1. WHAT TYPE OF BIRTH DID YOU HAVE?
How would I know. Most important day of your godsdamn life and not two brain cells aware enough to bump together. Probably a good thing. What a godsdamn mess.
2. WHAT YEAR WERE YOU BORN AND WHERE?
1928 at a military base in Shanghai.
3. WHAT TYPE OF HUMOUR MAKES YOU LAUGH?
That type they call dark humour. Dorothy Parker.
4. WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
I haven’t cried since I was 12 and that was the last time.
5. HOW DO YOU MAKE A LIVING?
I’m 85 sonny, how the hell do you think I make a living? Opening my legs to every geriatric fool here for a penny? The state looks after me. And when I was young enough to make a living, women didn’t make a godsdamned living. By the time the war had ended, like any other young girl I was a wifing opportunity for the broken men coming home. I was lucky with Parry.
6. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR MOTHER?
My mother? Myra can you pass me some water please, this air is too godsdamn dry. What? I’ve got nothing to say about that. I don’t remember much of her. What’s the next question?
7. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR FATHER?
He was a good man. A hard man, but a good man. He died too young.
8. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SPORT?
Sonny you don’t think you could’ve thought these questions through a little better? Sport. Lord above. The last time my body moved faster than a two-bit tram I could still walk by myself and that was in 1968. The day after Nixon took the oath.
9. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE OUTFIT?
Well sonny, I was never one for dressing to the nines, but my favourite dress was this pretty little royal blue frock with white polka dots. I was wearing it the day I met Parry at the dance hall.
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TELEVISION PROGRAMME?
Now you’re onto something sonny. I love the box. Godsdammit. Do you know how many wonderful programmes are on the box? These kids are behaving like animals and getting themselves knocked up, behaving like whores. Girls tarted up and kissing each other like it’s a godsdamn fact of life. It’s sin in technicolour sonny. It’s Satan’s window to the world.
11. WHAT MAKES YOU ANGRIEST?
When Myra refuses to take the pumpkin off my plate. If I’ve told that girl once, I’ve told her a hundred godsdamned times. I don’t like orange anything. I don’t want it on my plate. Not on it, not near it.
12. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COLOUR?
Anything but godsdamn orange.
13. WHAT IS YOUR POLITICAL AFFILIATION?
Well Nixon was a waste. You know, by the time I was old enough to think, the war was over and I was being married off. Parry took care of the thinking then. Godsdamn idiot. Not that women had a say anyway. After the accident there wasn’t much thinking I could do.
14. DO YOU GAMBLE?
Every godsdamn day of my life. Have you seen the state of the garden paths here. I keep telling Myra that the ramps are a godsdamn safety risk. I said to her just the other day, I said: ‘Myra if I have to break another bone when this godsdamn chair topples over, God himself will have to settle my godsdamn soul.’ Is what I said to her. Didn’t I Myra? No matter that I believe God’s as real as the godsdamned tooth fairy. I’ve made it a matter of public record.
15. DO YOU HAVE CHILDREN? DO YOU LIKE CHILDREN?
[Nurse Myra: Jack, what kind of question is that?]
[Jack: I’m sorry Nurse M, it’s just it was just here, I’m just asking everyone, you know, it’s a set Mrs D—, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to]
[Nurse Myra: Just move on to the next one Jack. We don’t have all day.]
16. WHAT RELIGION ARE YOU?
If there was a godsdamned god I believed in I would be inclined to worship him in the Christian negro gospel fashion. I always liked their hymns. They really can sing, that lot.
17. WHAT IS THE MOST EXCITING THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?
To be honest sonny, apart from what I’m about to do, I would say the night Parry and I got ourselves hitched. I was lucky with Parry. Other girls weren’t so charmed. I would say to Parry, I’d say: ‘Parry, I was godsdamned charmed when daddy took a shine to you’. I guess I used up all my luck on one person.
18. WHAT IS THE MOST TRAUMATIC THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?
[Nurse Myra: Jack.]
It’s ok Myra. Might as well get this out the way. There isn’t going to be another chance. Do I only get to choose one most traumatic thing sonny? After all the death and sadness, I’d find it hard to scratch through the memory of my life and pick out only one godsdamned thing. Losing those little babies before they were naturally come into the world … well, that stung me … we tried so hard; Parry wanted a family so badly. That accident. Waking up to find my legs and Parry gone after eight years in blackness was no godsdamned joyride neither. But I’d lost my God way before then anyway. The day we found my little girl child’s body in that pool of water I hated so much. I don’t know what I did to deserve this sonny. If there is a Lord, I don’t know a godsdamned reason why he decided to hate me so vilely.
19. WHAT TYPE OF HOUSE DO YOU LIVE IN?
Well I live here sonny, at Whispering Oaks Retirement Home. Been here most twenty years now, isn’t that right Myra? I stay in a room with Bev, she’s a card sonny, a real card; Sally, that old deaf bat; and Mrs Gladstone, you know she’s almost 97 years old. Unbelievable. Godsdamned unbelievable. Still refuses to take The Door. What the hell’s she hanging on to is anybody’s guess. If I’d known sooner I’d’ve said godsdamned hells yes the moment I opened my eyes from that coma.
20. WHAT PHYSICAL DISEASE HAVE YOU HAD? WHAT WERE THE EFFECTS?
Physical diseases? My whole life has been one long godsdamned dis-ease. Do you get that sonny? Dis-ease. Oh you do. Smart these days aren’t they Myra. Too many brains. Not enough chutzpah. That’s what Mrs Gladstone calls it. She’s a Jew, you know.
21. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN LOVE? WITH WHOM AND WHEN?
Sonny the only godsdamned love I ever had was my Parry. My one consolation is that I told him that as often as I could; I’d say to him, I’d say: ‘Parry you are the godsdamn charm of my life. I’m so glad daddy took a shine to you,’ I’d say. And he would smile that beam down upon me – Parry was a tall man – and I’d feel like God himself had shined his light on my face. Even after all the bad things.
22. WHERE & WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST SEXUAL EXPERIENCE?
Well I knew these would be questions of a personal nature, but that’s a godsdamned step too far young man.
[Nurse Myra: Move along Jack.]
23. IF YOU WERE MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE, WHAT ONE THING WOULD YOU ALTER?
I’d go back and say no to Parry about moving into that godsdamned house with that godsdamned pool and all those godsdamned steps everywhere. I felt a shiver in my bones the moment he took me to see it. Like a cloud had moved over my soul. Parry said I was being a superstitious fool on accounts of where I was born, but I could feel a godsdamned evil lurking there. That house took three of my babies. Since then I’ve often wondered how there can be so much bad in the world, but no Lord above with goodness to keep it in check.
24. DESCRIBE YOUR MOST RECENT DREAM
Did Nurse Myra tell you to ask me that sonny? Did you Myra? Because I have been dreaming like one of those godsdamned hippies high on their drugs since she started giving me those little pink tablets in preparation for The Door. And all I’m dreaming about is walking right through it like a bride on her wedding night.
25. DO YOU SMOKE OR DRINK?
Neither have ever touched my lips sonny. Not since I saw what it did to my godsdamned mother.
26. DO YOU TAKE DRUGS OR HAVE YOU EVER?
Only hospital drugs sonny. And too godsdamned many of them.
27. LIST THREE CHARACTER FAILURES
Parry always said I never expressed my feelings enough. That I kept them bottled up too tight to be good for my soul.
28. DO YOU HAVE ANY MORE GOALS IN LIFE?
There is only one goal now sonny and that is The Door.
29. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PEOPLE HERE?
They’re good enough.
30. WHAT IS YOUR STRONGEST PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTE?
Parry always said I had the prettiest eyes.
31. WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOUR BODY THAT YOU LIKE LEAST?
Since losing my legs and nearly losing my mind sonny, I’m just godsdamned pleased to have the working limbs I do. Even though I don’t see the point of their continued existence up until this godsdamned point.
32. WHAT IS YOUR STRONGEST ATTRIBUTE?
Parry would say I was the most gods-to-honest-truth woman he ever met. Also my eyes. He liked my eyes. And my tits when I had them.
33. WHAT IS YOUR WEAKEST PERSONALITY TRAIT?
Daddy would say it was my godsdamned cheek. Now I guess he’d say it’s my loss of prayer.
34. WHAT PIECE OF MUSIC WOULD SOOTHE YOUR CHARACTER?
I would like them to play Near You. The Andrews Sisters version. Parry wanted the Francis Craig version for our song. But I’d always say to him, I’d say: ‘Parry, he’s no Bing… a ling ling.’ I’d say. And he thought it was the biggest laugh.
35. WHO IN THIS WORLD WOULD YOU CHANGE PLACES WITH?
Mae. Myra remembers her, don’t you Myra. She was the first to go through. But it’s not too long now.
36. AFTER AN EMOTIONAL SITUATION, HOW DOES YOUR BODY REACT?
React? My body doesn’t react sonny.
37. IF YOU COULD CHANGE ANYTHING IN YOUR LIFE WHAT WOULD IT BE?
You already asked this question sonny. Myra, he already asked this?
38. ARE YOU AN AGGRESSIVE OR PASSIVE PERSON?
I’m getting tired of these questions now sonny. Just really godsdamned tired. Myra how long still? [Nurse Myra: Not too long now Mrs D—. The doctor will be here shortly. Jack.]
39. LIST THREE OF YOUR FAVOURITE FOODS?
Anything that isn’t godsdamned orange. Or brussle sprouts. They’re proof that there is no godsdamned god you know.
40. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT DEATH
Like I cannot wait for it anymore. I’m ready for The Door. Myra? I’m ready for The Door now.
[Nurse Myra: That’s fine Mrs D—. It’s time to start preparations; we have all the information we need. Good day Jack. See you tomorrow for the next one.]