summer, I would help Amy stir strawberry jam in her kitchen.
One time, I asked her why she labeled the jars 1, 2, 3, 4, instead
of writing what was inside. She explained that she wanted to
know later if any of them were missing.
One day, I
had to take Amy to the hospital. Her pant legs swooshed as
she walked slowly toward me.
I'm sick," she said, feeling her seventy-eight years,
"I always think of those women pioneers who came to settle
the west. They didn't have time to feel sorry for themselves
or seek help from a psychiatrist."
always good to think positively before surgery," I responded. "Now
let's go. We're late."
walked out through the gate, Amy turned back to the house.
would you look at that tree!" she enthused. "Isn’t
I agreed, noticing how the long branches were intertwined,
as if they were sailing in the sky.
a Deodora cedar," Amy instructed me. "Once, some
Neanderthal working on my yard told me he could cut it into
the shape of a pine tree. The branches were too long, and
the fallen pine needles were damaging the roof and plugging
up the gutters. But I said, 'No way. It’s a cedar, and it’s
beautiful just the way it is.' In Italy I saw them everywhere.”
Amy. Let's go. Otherwise, we'll be late."
urged her toward my car. She walked a couple of steps and
at this praying mantis on the leaf! I love her! She likes
to watch me through the kitchen window. Look at how she tilts
her head to the side, as if she were listening. And her legs
are bent, as if she's praying.”
lovely, Amy. But, let’s go.”
how well she blends in with her surroundings! She looks like
a stick.” Amy clearly wanted to be heard.
in the car, she started talking about the two Danish ladies
down the street who had died recently. One was ninety-five,
and her sister was ninety-two. They had had a good life. Both
drank a little whisky and ate good food.
on the radio, saying that sometimes it helped her to feel
better. Then she would know where the sun was shining in
the world and where it was cold.
that we might need papers at the hospital, I asked if she
had any sort of proof of her birth. She answered that she
had some pictures of herself. I told her that pictures were
not proof, since they could be falsified. She gave me a strange
look and didn't say anything until we got to the hospital.
entered the building, a man wearing a sky blue uniform was
pushing an open cart with two skeletons on it, covered by
a plastic, see-through tarp. Amy asked in disbelief, “Are
those skeletons real?”
the man answered, giving her a fleeting smile. She hopped
after the cart, saying again, “Can I ask you to pull back
the tarp just for a second? I’ve never seen a real live skeleton
before.” The man hesitated for a moment and then with a slight
nervous air, uncovered the skeletons.
Amy said. "Were they treated with something?”
just scrubbed and cleaned thoroughly.”
know our bones were so smooth and yellowish, like plastic. If
that’s how we really look, we’re attractive skeletons.” The
man gave her a short smile and went about his way.
wasn’t smart to see the skeletons before surgery," I
said. "Maybe they were the two Danish ladies from your
think so,” Amy mumbled, slowing her walk.“What surgery? They’re
just going to take a small sample of my skin and send it to
since it will shed blood, do you think they’ll put you under
not a princess. They’ll just give me something local. Everything
will go well. You’ll see.”
doctor introduced himself as a student in his last year. After
sitting Amy down in a chair, he numbed her upper lip with
an injection and proceeded to cut a small sample of skin from
the left side of her mouth. Amy seemed to be concentrating,
as if she were stirring strawberry jam.
watching the surgery, I stared out the window. Two angels
carried me across the river to the land of the dead, where
two Danish ladies were pouring whisky.
is good here," they said, turning to me. "And the
neighbors are better. Stay with us.”
had to take Amy home," I said.
back to the doctor, who was frantically shaking a bloody piece
of gauze in the air.
you see that piece of skin that I just cut out?" he asked.
"It has to be around here somewhere.”
her eyes and answered irritably, “I wasn’t scrutinizing your
every move, doctor. My eyes were closed.”
his head and started on the first stitch, mumbling nervously
under his breath, “Such a nice sample I had. I did it so well. It
has to be around here somewhere.”
swallow it, doctor.” Amy was annoyed now.
understand,” the doctor mumbled on his fourth stitch, by now
who’s supposed to understand? Am I supposed to understand?”
Amy replied out of the corner of her bloody mouth.
completed the fifth and final stitch. Then he got down on
his knees, looking worn out. Amy struggled to kneel down next
to him. I joined them, too. We all searched in different corners. But
there was no sign of the skin.
doctor, drained of energy, said, “That’s okay, Mrs. Roisen. Go
home and rest. We’ll wait two weeks and do it again.”
she said, "don’t forget to bring a video camera next
time. And sterilize your shoes when you get home. Maybe my
sample is stuck to the bottom.”
later, everyone at the hospital greeted us like old friends. The
doctor apologized again, “After you left last time, everyone
here was looking for that sample. No one found it. It was
so strange. That’s not the first time, either. Sometimes they
even lose samples in the lab, and we have to do everything
here," Amy said, nodding toward me, "wants to write
something about this whole fiasco."
don’t put my name in it," the doctor whispered alarmingly.
"I might never graduate."
worry,” I said. “Maybe we should go to another hospital next
turned red and said warmly, “I assure you that Mrs. Roisen
won’t pay a thing for these two visits. They will be completely
free stitches," I said playfully. "What a bargain.”