A fable for our times
I was sitting in the day room of the We’ll Take Your Cranky Old Relatives Off Your Hands (So Long As They’ve Got Plenty of Dough) Nursing Home listening (well, half-listening) to this disgruntled geezer complain.
“Nothin’ excitin’ ever happens ‘round here,” he said, droppin’ as many letters as he could to prove to me he was an authentic disgruntled geezer and not one o’ them artificial coots they manufacture in slave-labor factories in China or Bangladesh and ship over here for use in Hollywood movies when Wilford Brimley ain’t available. “And the elevator music they play stinks, too,” he added.
To tell the truth, I hadn’t been paying close attention to his diatribe until that last comment, because I was waiting for Auntie Harridan to finish applying her sulfur-and-brimstone perfume so I could take her out to Sunday dinner at the only place she’d eat, which had gone out of business 20 years before because of repeated outbreaks of cholera. Fortunately, she was blind and confused enough to be fooled into thinking the food at one of those chain restaurants like 99 Diseases of Chipotle-Flavored Apples and Bees was every bit a rancid as she preferred.
But I’ve wandered off my topic, much like my newfound geezer pal, who was now reliving his glory years as a big-time record producer in the 1980s (“’I’d Rather Jack’ by the Reynolds Girls was all my idea and so was Chris DeBurgh’s ‘Lady in Red’”). At first, I was repulsed by somebody who had foisted so much awful music on the public. But as he continued to brag, I gradually realized there was a way to spice up the lives of these aging reprobates, while also getting even with him for having subjected me to such audio insults as Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”
No sooner had I dropped a thoroughly dissatisfied Auntie H back at the rest home (“The salad tasted sort of fresh, and the cream in my coffee was hardly even curdled”), then I set out to find the perfect cure for geezeri-tis. And Milli Vanilli.
Which is: therapy animals.
As you probably know, these critters are specially trained to provide comfort and companionship to the confined. Cute puppies. Fluffy kitties. Garrulous gerbils. But my wrinkly pal wasn’t looking for any of those adorable qualities. He wanted some action, and I intended to give it to him.
The very next morning, I showed up at the nursing home with Karl and Karla, the Therapy Snapping Turtles. The sizable reptiles were not pleased about this, since they’d been rudely removed from their swamp the evening before and did not find an overnight stay in a metal washtub to be to their liking. They promptly set out to express their displeasure to the semi-ambulatory residents.
I probably ought to clarify something before this (more or less fictional) story goes too much further. Normally, therapy animals are carefully trained to avoid all signs of aggressive behavior. But training snapping turtles is sort of like teaching your sofa to sing “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins. Even if you were successful, it would still be a disaster. As a result, Karl and Karla were unfamiliar with the entire concept of therapy and proceeded to inflict panic, life-threatening injuries and shredded bingo cards on the residents and slower-moving staff. A fitting punishment, I thought, for inflicting Starship’s “We Built This City on Rock and Roll” on an unsuspecting world. And the sound of crunching bones almost drowned that terrible tune out of my mind.
When last seen, the shelled pair was dragging the record-producing geezer across the nursing home grounds in the general direction of a small pond. He was shouting something that sounded vaguely like the lyrics to ABBA’s “SOS.” I responded appropriately with a chorus of “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys.
I meant it ironically.
On the off chance the old coot survived that encounter, I plan to return next week with Ralphie, the Therapy Vampire Bat, and Amelia, the Therapy Diamondback Rattlesnake. For theme music, I’ll probably use “Invisible Touch” by Genesis.
Moral: If you believe the answer to your problems can be found in the lyrics of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” your problems are much worse than you think.
Al Diamon lives with four dogs, all of whom need therapy. He writes the weekly column Politics & Other Mistakes for several Maine news outlets, serves as the media critic for The Bollard magazine and covers alcoholic beverages for Food Etc. magazine. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.