Mr Malachai is a stuffed Nile Crocodile – Crocodylus Niloticus. I don’t go looking for taxidermy – although whilst we’re on the subject I find the craft bizarre and the arrangements of Walter Potter’s taxidermy tableaux – Rabbits’ Village School for example, both grotesque and oddly fascinating all at once.
But as Mr Malachai last swam in river water in the 1920s I don’t feel guilty about his subsequent stuffing as I had no part in his untimely demise. Mr Malachai is in need of some attention, as his stuffing is coming out on one side and he has lost a few claws over the years. However, he maintains a fine row of teeth.
I inherited Mr Malachai. He used to belong to my grandparents and was an object of fascination to me from an early age. He was only known as Croc or Baby back then. Later, my grandfather invented a soft reassuring voice for him and claimed he had a fondness for cucumber sandwiches, although it should be noted that in the wild this species eats a wide variety of prey but cucumber sandwiches are not generally mentioned. Mr Malachai would commentate on all matters from the top of the book shelf with great wisdom and humour, which amused me now and then.
I half believed in Mr Malachai, just like the tooth fairy or an invisible friend. I suppose that is why Mr Malachai was eventually left to me in my grandmother’s will and now sits on my bookshelf commentating on all manner of things as the mood takes him.
Mr Malachai’s provenance remains somewhat shrouded in mystery. My grandfather was a doctor covering coal mining communities in the South Wales valleys. Family legend has it that an African prince who was studying at Aberystwyth University in the 1930s came up the bwlch to visit and presented the good doctor with Mr Malachai as a gift.
More I cannot tell you – not even how the name Mr Malachai came about – these things must be lost in the mists of time.
Such is the nature of a curio and part of Mr Malachai’s innate and rakish charm.