UNITED STATES—Scene: Smells. A dog would love this place and never leave. There are ripe smells and revolting smells. There are cooking food smells from the kitchen that emits salsa music when the swing door opens. There are smells of fresh nurses reporting to work. From wide ajar doors escapes the unmistakable, humbling effluvia of a bedpan being changed, a smell which society masks so well.

We are is the acute rehab wing of Watsonville Manor. This is where the ailing and aging of Watsonville go to rot or recover.

“Should I press the button?”

“A nurse is already coming.”

“If I press the button, what will happen?”

“The chime will ring and you will complain that the chime is ringing.”

“Oh, I don’t know…”

“Mom, we’re waiting for a guy to get back from lunch. You know, you’re out to lunch.”

“It’s not funny. I feel pain. What is making that noise outside. Can that noise be stopped. That is driving me crazy.”

“You pressed the button and started it.”

“What does the button do? What am I supposed to do?”

“Stop asking so many dumb questions.”

“I’m sorry I ask so many dumb questions. I’m getting old.”

“Don’t worry, you always asked dumb questions and trained me to give you dumb answers.”

“What is the noise and how can I shut it off?”

Moans of desperation come from a patient in the next hospital bed, behind a drawn curtain: Oh my god, oh my god.

“What are you doing?”

“Oh nothing.”

“I know you’re doing something.”

“If you wanna know the truth, Ma, I’m cringing. The lady next door is trying to get to sleep.”

“I’m uncomfortable. How can I get turned on my side. My leg is killing me. Should I press the button? What’s making the constant noise?”

“The nurse is being called.”

“Shall I push the button again?”

“No.”

“I’m bothering the lady next door. Doris, am I bothering you. HELLO Doris, are you AWAKE? Am I going to stay this uncomfortable overnight? My leg is killing me. How did this happen. I remember, I fell and then what happened?”

“They took you to the hospital and operated on your broken hip.”

“That’s right.”

“The hip is great, Mom. I wish the rest of you was as good.”

“When am I going to get out of here?”

An oh, Jesus comes from behind the curtain separating the hospital beds.

“It’s up to you. The more therapy you do, the sooner you get back home.”

“Oh, I don’t know. (to the curtain) DORIS, ARE YOU ASLEEP ALREADY.”

“Oh Mom. She’s trying to get to sleep.”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out. How can I stop that constant noise in my head?”

“It’s in the hallway by the nurse’s station. There I go again, answering everything, trying to make you understand.”

“I don’t know what you’re saying.”

“You never did. That’s the funny thing. Nothing has changed.”

“Oh Doris, HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO SLEEP YET?”

From behind the curtain: Oh my god, oh my god, please.

To be continued…

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Hollywood humorist Grady Miller grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon). His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)