I stagger back from the doctor's office where spouse is holding the fort. “So do you think we should explain to them why you're malfunctioning?”
“Malfunctioning! I'm just ill, that's all. I'll be as right as rain once the anti-biotics kick in.”
“That wouldn't be a very helpful explanation to them though, would it? You'd get yourself in no end of trouble explaining it like that, you'll need to re-phrase it.”
“Yes, you're right. Keep it simple. Any ideas?”
“You're always better at explaining than I am.”
“Oh, I don't know.”
Spouse gathers the troops so that I can preserve oxygen. I explain with a big smile on my face. I await questions, hoping that there won't be any………………….
“Why it is new? Why it not old?” sparks the literal one.
“Not 'new' dear, it's pneu – here let me write it down for you.”
“Pneu! That is the stoopid one. Silent 'n's are in 'gnat' and 'gnaw' and oh! That's right! You are not the bad one afterall. 'Pneu' is in 'pneumatic' too. You are not the big fat lying one! I am forgiving your stoopids.”
In confirmation he darts behind me, lifts my shirt to plant a kiss of compensation in the small of my back.
“You are ill? You are dead?” queries the anxious one.
“No, I'm not dead dear, just ill.”
“No. Not dead.”
“When you are dead den?”
His sister intervenes as I become short of breath,
“Remember, nobody dies until they're at least 90 and that's ages away.” What can I say? Ninety seemed like a good compromise at the time.
“19! 19? 19! iz not a big number. 19 is a small number. I hate it, it's bad, I don won you to be deaded.”
“Not 19, 90 you stewpid head, why don't you ever listen properly,” she bellows because this conversation seems to be upsetting for everyone.
I put one arm around her and pull her in close even though I should probably correct her.
“Now listen! Do you remember the blue tape?” I point the kitchen cabinet where handy reference photographs accumulate. It depicts the conclusion to this same debate six months ago when we experienced difficulties with ‘time and death.’
Since it is a recurring theme, I thought it best to keep handy.
It shows blue masking tape running from the kitchen to the stairs,
marked with numerals from 0 to 99.
It is a magic visual cure for this particular anxiety,
or at least it is for now.