I hadn’t heard of Michael Jackson until he died. That’s when Mum bought his music and we started learning the moves, which is also when Mum broke her ankle. She downloaded on Saturday, the day after Michael Jackson died. He died on an American Thursday.
Mum and I got right into it. On the news they called it a public out-pouring but they mainly measured it by how much stuff people bought, not by sadness and tears. Tears would be impossible to count, unless people counted their own tears, in minutes spent crying. Crying would be the sadness indicator.
I’m really good at maths, as well as dancing. My teacher says I have a peculiar talent for statistics. I discovered them in the newspaper. Mum buys it every day and leaves it lying around, with the bad news about accidents and wars and horrible murders, all over the kitchen table.
I know heaps of stuff I wish I didn’t know, but once I’ve read it, I can’t unread it; like when parents murder their kids. Sometimes I have nightmares about all the horrible things that happen, that’s when I do long division in my head to distract me. Numbers are useful in more ways than one.
I learnt a lot about Michael Jackson when he died. He was in the news all the time. First it was about how he died, and then there was heaps of stuff about his kids and how much money he kept making even when he was dead. There was even a ghost sighting, which I saw on YouTube. It did kind of look like a spooky version of Michael Jackson doing a backwards moonwalk. When I squinted my eyes it looked even more like him. Only about seven percent of ghost sightings are real, so no one knows for sure.
After Michael Jackson died his music was played all the time, especially in our house. Thirty-three percent of his moves were completely made up. The moonwalk is the most famous and the hardest to do, even though it looks super easy. You have to start with your left foot flat and right foot back on your toes, and then it’s a backward slip and slide from your heel onto the ball of your foot and back to your toes. Your toes never leave the ground. Less than two percent can do it properly and I’m one of them.
It’s harder than ballet leaps and most kinds of partner dancing. Michael Jackson was one of the best dancers ever. He was tall and skinny and completely limbered like a spring twig until he was an old man. Fifty is actually really old, even though Mum thinks it’s not. It’s older than most people lived in the olden days and more than many in these times.
‘Poor old Michael Jackson.’ That’s what Mum says after we dance to ‘Blame it on the boogie’ or something. That’s until she did the magnificent twisted broken ankle move. I could see it happening mid-leap. Too much air; not enough ground. She landed and twisted halfway into a moonwalk but her foot didn’t follow and it all ended with a crumbled heap of Mum on the floor.
She groaned and whimpered, so I got some frozen peas. After a while it swelled to the size of a closed fist and she couldn’t walk.
‘Let’s go to hospital and check it out,’ I said like I was the mother. It was like that with Mum and me. Sometimes it’s best if I take charge.
When we got to the accident and emergency ward we waited for ages because it was Saturday and there were quite a few sporting injuries and do-it-yourself jobs gone wrong: two saw cuts, a nail in a thumb, something nasty in someone’s eye, and four twisted, broken or sprained limbs, including Mum’s ankle.
‘Fifty percent have bone injuries,’ I said to Mum. ‘And that’s an actual fact.’ I grinned. There are three kinds of facts – actual, considered and accepted. I made them up myself. Most of my statistics are considered facts, which are the not-quite-proven variety. Actual facts are science and accepted facts can’t be proven.
I hate waiting rooms more than I hate spelling tests and dentists, but lucky for us Michael Jackson was on the telly, including the funeral when his daughter cried and said how much she loved him.
As I was sitting there feeling sad, I heard some loud teenagers on the other side of the room. One of them had his arm in a sling.
‘Wacko Jacko,’ the sling boy mocked.
‘He’s one weird freakazoid,’ the other one added.
‘His kids are freaks too.’
‘Yeah, Prince Michael One and Two, did he run out of names?’ The sling boy cracked a lame joke.
‘They’re bound to be effed-up,’ the other one added, except he used the real f-word.
‘Yeah, I wouldn’t mind being effed-up if I was that effing rich.’ They went on and on without any facts or respect. I couldn’t stand it any longer.
‘Michael Jackson is a genius,’ I said in my boldest voice. I hate people who rant without facts, so I carried on. ‘I reckon he was the best father in the world, just like his daughter said. I reckon you don’t know anything about good families. And, I bet you don’t even know that eighty-three percent of families aren’t what you think.’
Everyone in the waiting room was staring at me, even the nurse at the desk was staring like she had nothing else to do. Mum was smiling. Then someone clapped, I think it was the woman with the broken-legged man.
The man with a cut finger looked at Mum. ‘You make sure that one gets self-defence training,’ he winked. ‘She’s gonna need it.’
Then the nurse called Mum’s name and I helped her hobble behind the curtain.