Listen, I've had my fill. And so, I have employed the help of my very good friend, Greg Lee to guest BleachTM for me today. He's a nice guy - but no promises. He may stink. I really don't care. I'll be at the beach. See you tomorrow. BP
When I recently returned home from a long trip, there was a message on my ancient answering machine. It was the voice of a slightly depressed, older woman. It sounded like she’d really been through it.
She said, “Well, hi there, Greg. This is Mary Sizener. How’s that for a blast from the past? Anyhow, just wanted to let you know that Richard is going in for his surgery next week, and it’s been terrible trying to get the doctors to just sit down and talk with us about it. But it looks like it’s gonna be stints. Just like we figured.
“Anyhow, I thought who knows more about stints than you? Except of course, a cardiologist.”
She laughed, then sighed.
“Anyway, I thought I’d call and get your opinion on it all. So, give us a call when you can – and NO you don’t have to worry about running into DOREY! She’s finally out of our life for good. So good riddance, I say!”
Then she gave her number, and hung up.
When I finished listening to the message I realized four things:
1.) I had no idea who Mary was.
2.) I had no idea who Richard was.
3.) I had no idea what a STINT was! And…
4.) I never liked Dorey anyway so…good riddance.
Then I felt a weird tingle go up my back.
Who was this lady? Had I been an expert on stints all this time and just never knew it? Was I at that moment being watched from across the street by a crazed stalker?
I called my Mom and had her listen to the message. Maybe she could recognize the name or voice. When it finished playing I said,
She said, “That is so, SO…CREEPY.”
I thanked her profusely for putting me at ease, then hung up, cried a little, and went to bed with a bat underneath the covers and all the lights on.
The next day, I felt I should probably call this lady and explain that she had the wrong guy. Or, at least offer up all I knew about stints. It was the least I could do.
When I called the number, Mary wasn't there. She was with her husband Richard who was at the hospital.
"Probably a stint, is my conjecture."
The above conjectuer-er wasn't Dorey of course -because she's out of our lives for good, thank goodness, but instead - Jerry.
"Well, that's what Mary told ME it was too," I replied, manufactured concern dripping from my voice.
"Well that must be it then," said Jerry. “Stints. Oh man - that ain’t never good. Not...not good.”
"Yeah, well - I can’t say I’ve ever known a stint to be good,” I said, still not exactly sure what it was we were talking about.
"Yep," said Jerry, "That's probably it. Stints. Not...not good."
There was then a short pause as Jerry and I contemplated what this surgery might mean to poor ‘ole Richard, and the fact that I had NO idea who Jerry was.
And Jerry clearly had no idea who I was. Which surprised me, considering the kind of relationship we both shared with Mary. Needless to say I was a little hurt.
I wondered why Mary had never mentioned me to Jerry. Had Dorey somehow scared her into keeping quite about me? Maybe Jerry was RICHARD’S friend, an old Army buddy, the one Mary never really liked. Who later became one of Dorey’s renegade boyfriends and stayed in the basement after Dorey left, and now spends his days drinkin’ beer, playin’ Doobie Brothers records and eatin’ cold pizza.
Maybe Mary feared that Jerry was just hanging around, hoping something terrible would happen to Richard and the stints and then swoop in on Mary and have the whole estate to himself. I hate to say it, but I wouldn’t put it past him. Jerry’s always been like that. Creep.
Anyway, I didn’t feel like I could get into the whole “I’m not who they think I am, and who the heck are you” thing with JERRY, of all people. So, I left a message for Mary to call me, and Jerry promised to mention to Mary that I was very sorry to hear about the whole stint thing with Richard. Because by THEN, I kinda WAS. Especially after all Mary and Richard been through with Dorey and the unhelpful doctors and this Jerry guy just hangin’ around waitin’ for Richard to croak. Creep.
When we hung up I immediately registered for a gun, and a bodyguard, and thought, “You know, Dorey’s probably the reason 'ole Richard had to get stints in the first place. She was always so selfish. And whiny. Always expecting others to clean up her messes. And those FRIENDS of hers, and stupid Jerry. Don’t get me started.”
The next night the phone rang. I picked it up. It was Mary.
I had forgotten that ‘ole Mary had a way of beginning a conversation and then continuing it all on her own. I really didn't need to be there. It was like a radio show, with no callers. All I said was, "Hi, Mary." Then she took it from there, for almost 5 solid minutes. She had a LOT to fill me in on too. I tried to find an opening. There wasn’t one.
She said Jerry had told her that I called, and she wanted to keep me up to date on the latest.
"Oh, great," I said. Then looked out my window, scanning the buildings across the street for snipers.
Mary rattled on. She told me how Richard was feeling after the operation, and about how frustrating it had been to get information from doctors, and how that they had to just practically MAKE them sit down and discuss Richard's options.
"Which WAS the stints. But I'm not telling YOU anything. I'm sure you know ALL about it!" she said.
"Yep, “ I said, “And I know getting information from doctors can sometimes be very frustrating.”
“I’ll bet you do!” she said and laughed big.
She had that crazy/cigarette smoker/wicked witch/sniper laugh that can chill you to the bone and make a middle-aged man sleep with a bat underneath the covers with all the lights on.
I tried to laugh too but could only muster a terrified whimper.
Then some dogs barked.
"Oh! Those are our DOGS!" she screamed with delight.
"Oh, right," I said, trying not to cry.
"We love 'em, you know," she said.
“I know,” I lied.
Just then, my dog barked. Mary seemed both surprised and overly excited by this.
"Oh! What was THAT?!" she said.
"Oh, that's MY dog."
"Oh!! YOU have a DOG? I don’t believe it! He sounds SO CUTE! What kind is he?" she screeched.
Apparently after all these years, I had finally broke down and realized the joys of dog ownership - something Richard and Mary had been touting for some time.
"Beagle-terrier.” I said.
"Really? How long have you had HIM?"
"Oh, about 7 years."
There was a frosty pause. Apparently Mary remembered things differently. Since when had I started liking dogs? This wasn’t the guy she knew. Had I been lying to her all these years about liking dogs? Maybe DOREY had gotten to me?
"Oh, well that's…um…great," she said, clearly miffed, but not up to unraveling my secret, double life, dog obsession, lies right then. After all, there were stints to discuss. I was doomed.
Then the dogs barked again, creating another SLIGHTLY long-ish pause. It was my first chance in 10 minutes. I took it.
"So Mary," I began, "When was the last time we actually saw each other, would you say?"
"Oh, I guess it'd HAVE to be...what...5 years ago?"
I was glad she didn’t say "Oh, I guess around the time Dorey flipped out and killed all those puppies on TV."
"About 5 years?" I said.
"Yeah, about that."
"And where was that, Mary?"
"Oh right here, in San Mateo.
Which is a town I have never been to. I DID NOT KNOW THIS WOMAN .
I knew then it had to end - even if I was wrong and was going to hurt the feelings of a possible life-long, yet unremembered, family friend in the middle of a crisis, her husband languishing in the hospital, and me, their only hope for comfort and stint info. I was about to ruin it all with the news I HAD to share. Still, I pushed ahead.
"Mary, I have to be honest with you, I'm not sure we know each other."
Well, THIS was gonna be fun.
I said, "Mary, I kept thinking the light was gonna go on, and I'd remember where we know each other from, but I just don't think we know each other."
"You mean...you may NOT be the Greg Lee I know?"
"I don't think so, Mary. But just to be sure: what does the Greg Lee you know do for a living?"
"Well, he's a cardiologist at San Francisco University Hospital."
I had always fantasized about working in the medical field. And for a moment, I must confess, as I sat there listening to Mary, I entertained the thought of actually becoming this renowned, easy-to-talk-to, brilliant, handsome, Korean cardiologist from San Francisco University Hospital. And it would only take a second - and there would be no bothersome biology quiz to worry about either. I could do worse. Heck, I HAVE done worse. MUCH worse.
I was tempted. Ten years ago I would have done it without a second thought. But right when I thought I’d launch into my new persona, I thought of poor old Richard lyin’ alone in some cold, hospital bed, trying to eat apple sauce with all those stints stickin’ all out of his arm or whatever, while creepy Jerry sat back at his house waiting for him to die, as his wife was trying to get dog and medical advice from ME. It was all too much. As bad as it was going to be to tell her the truth, I knew I had to come clean.
I said, "Mary, I have to tell you, if that’s the case, then I’m afraid you could not have picked a more WRONG Greg Lee."
"What?” she said. “Well, I…I...what…ah…"
“I know nothing about stints. Or hearts. Or even first aid. You wouldn’t want me anywhere near your husband. Or your money. Or your food for that matter. These are just not my areas of expertise.”
Now MARY couldn't talk. I charged in.
"I'm so sorry. I wasn't trying to lead you on. I just kept thinking that you might be an old family friend that I couldn’t place - so I kept waiting for the light to go on but it never did.
"Well, I…I just feel…I feel so bad having bothered you."
"Not at all, Mary. I really thought I’d eventually figure out where I knew you from, but in the process, I have to say...I kinda started becoming concerned for Richard.”
Thankfully, she laughed. I laughed.
" I was worried about him! I mean, he seems like a nice guy, you know?”
She laughed again.
"Well, he IS a nice guy," she said.
"See, I thought so. I ALWAYS knew that!"
Really WEIRD pause.
"Well,” she said, for once having no idea of how to proceed.
"Anyway, “ I said, “It's been nice talking to you Mary, and I'm sure glad Richard’s doing better.”
“Well, thank you, Greg. Thanks a lot. I am too.”
“And please tell Jerry thanks for letting you know I called."
“She’s GOT to be kiddin’,” I thought.
“Jerry.” I said. “You know…Jerry? The guy in your basement?”
“Oh, JERRY! Right! Yes, I will. I’ll tell him. Um...well. Thank you, Greg."
"Not at all, Mary. And the best to you and Richard.”
“OK. Thank you.”
“And please don't hesitate to call again if you ever need any more made-up medical advice from a stranger."
She laughed. I laughed.
"God bless ya, Mary.”
"You too, Greg.
We hung up.
It was then I realized things between me and Mary and Richard and Jerry would always be good.
Dorey, was another story.
As together we stand and sing.