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I returned from a lovely trip to Mexico last weekend. I was relaxed, rejuvenated, full of ideas for writing projects, tanned. It was a great getaway. It is hard for me to go away since there are always pets to be looked after. But with Crazy D and L’il Sis both in residence, I can leave knowing things will be taken care of. Chicken soup was prepared (by me, I admit) before I left. The food was complete with labels “lift soup container from bottom–lid is loose, instructions for watering plants, feeding the outside birds, giving Mrs. Beeton sufficient attention so she doesn’t mope. I was confident in the knowledge that Crazy D would do the snow shoveling if needed, take the garbage out, keep The Pig company while L’il Sis was at work paying for Piggy’s kibble.

Sure enough, the house and pets looked to be in good shape…the pets were pissed that their doting Grandma had abandoned them  (I’m sure they thought I’d left them for dead) but forgave me as soon as they saw me. (It didn’t hurt that my pockets were stuffed with nuts and crumbs).

The following day I had a Skype chat with Gill. In what was, I’m sure, a slip of the tongue, she mentioned that she was having ear problems. Since it is a rare day when Gill doesn’t have an ear infection, I didn’t think too much of it. Apparently I wasn’t sufficiently concerned and didn’t provide the appropriate degree of sympathy with respect to her latest ailment.

“Ma, I had a bad case of vertigo. I staggered into work, lurching around, holding onto posts, chairs, anything to keep me upright.”

“And that’s different how? Just kidding. Okay, ‘fess up. You’re sure you weren’t just hungover?” I know Gill well enough to realize that this was a distinct possibility.

“No, Ma. This was the real deal. Don’t you remember, I’ve had this before? I go swimming and get water in my ears and then a middle ear infection sets up residence and on comes the vertigo.”

“Oh, for god’s sake. Have you been playing with the Q-Tips in your ears again?”

The long silence was deafening — or at least pregnant (as in a pregnant pause that gives away so much it might as well be a ten-piece band.)

“Why ever would you think that?” Gill asked defensively.

“Because I know you. Ever since you were three, you took an unnatural pleasure in rheeming your ears with Q-tips. As I recall, the only trick you ever taught any of our pet birds was that one where Barney, the crazy cockatiel that lived in my bathroom, did a hopping backwards dance whenever you took Q-tip in hand to begin your excavation work. Bat shit crazy, that bird was. And you, with your sharp instruments poking into your ears, weren’t much higher up on the scale!”

“You’ll be happy to hear I went to the doctor and she signed me up as a patient. A real doc, Ma! I finally have one after all this time in the UK. Aren’t you proud of me?”

Silence.

After a minute, I could tell Gill was feeling nervous. That usually happens when I don’t answer. “Well, Ma! That’s what you told me to do, isn’t it? Get a doc? Have regular checkups before things go pear-shaped?”

Tersely I commented, “Yes, dear, it is.”

“So get this, Ma. I gave her my history — all my diseases, even down to the long ago bout of scurvy and my funny foot fungus. She’s going to run some tests on the fungus. All I have to do is clip my toenails and leave them in a zip-loc bag in a box outside her office.” As she said this, she held up the bag of toenail bits for me to see.

“For God’s sake! I’ve had a lovely, restful week (much needed, I might add) and the minute I get back you accost me with a bag of rotting toenails??!!Is there no justice?”

“In my defense, Ma, Crazy D and L’il Sis had problems when you were gone too.”

“Yes, but they managed to hold things together, help each other out AND look after the pets.”

“Come on, Ma, you know what really happened as well s I do. The Pig and Mrs. Beeton were totally in charge and the kids swooped in at the last minute to save the situation so you wouldn’t find out what actually happened!”

“Sigh…I don’t know, I don’t care, as long as you all agree to let me out again soon! And nobody dies…”

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