Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Change

When Prunella opened her eyes this a.m., she had turned into a big fat grandmother. She could not see over her giant belly. When she lifted up her feet, excruciating pain. And the appearance! Chicken looking feet attached to porcine shape. She gave a grunt of disgust.

After false startings and balance losses she maneuvered her corpulence onto her side. A glass of water and several pillbottles stood on the night table next to a folded newspaper and a pencil. A cane stood propped next to the bed. As Prunella crept on it over to closet door, she noticed the bedroom was not much changed: same chest of drawers that was her grandmother’s, same double bed w/ no headboard, same desk from the Door Store. Now she found in the closet hanging her same clothes: cardigans, denim jumpers, and patterned skirts, but all grotesquely blown up in size!

How did this happen?

Holding desperately to the bannister with aching fingers, she poked the cane ahead of her to feel the next step, feeling agony in calves, back, and everywhere else. This routine at least felt familiar.

First her daughter, then her son, telephoned her. The telephone had changed too! It rang the same, but Prunella figured out that you answer it with buttons.
“I’ve changed,” she said to the daughter. "I weighed 194 lbs. this morning.”
“Well Mom, you should taken better care of yourself,” her daughter lectured.
”You’re so strict!” Prunella said. This whole change happened because she hadn’t taken “better care of herself”?

Her son was not strict when he phoned. He said “How you doing, Mom?” and she said,
“I seem to be wearing a backwards turned granny gown and black tennis shoes with no socks? And the edges rolled over.”
The son laughed “If you’d taken better care of yourself you would still be 28, Mom, younger than me!”

Furthermore, her true love was gone, vanished. She’d lost him, “not taken care” of him? If she ever climbed back upstairs, she must look for his suits and his shoes: the sandals, the pinstripe for meeting with grownups and for church, the “FBI-man” shoes for wearing with, the sandals for every day. Prunella’s changed old eyes started to sting with tears as she hobbled away from the phone on her same old desk.

“What happened? Where is he?" she asked a little gray Schnauzer that seemed to recognize her.
“Oh, well,” she said, lurching carefully over to sit down. The two spent the whole afternoon just sitting on the couch napping and watching the drawn shades turn bright and then shadowy. Sometimes silhouettes of leaves brushed across them. When the animal started pawing at her she gave it some food she found on the shelf. She found some soup there, too and heated it up on an amazing range. It had no burners!

Prunella remembered an interview in Good Housekeeping with Carl Jung—that she read just the other day, along with Kurt Vonnegut's new book. Dr. Jung spoke of staying in his cottage and just drifting around in his own thoughts. I’m a Jungian now, she thought (something she’d always tried to avoid). A Billy Pilgrim Jungian.

In between creeping to the kitchen and back, with aches and pains and altered perceptions, Prunella notice a TV set, but she couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. When the shades showed dark, she drank the rest of the soup and let the dog out into the yard and back in. The dog followed her on her crippled and painful climb back up the stairs. She noticed the little Schnauzer wasn’t looking too young herself.

Before getting back onto the bed Prunella remembered to check the closet and yup there were her true love’s clothes--but no sign anywhere of the dearest husband in the world. Then she lay down, and the dog jumped up onto the pillow beside her. Prunella said her prayers, sighing, “Lord, Lord, Lord,” and released all care and worry. Vicissitudes up to and including the end of the planet could not bother her. That part hadn’t changed anyway. Prunella forgave everyone in the world and gave thanks for a warm house and food. Sounds simple, but you try it.

As she headed off to sleep Prunella hoped that when she woke up everything would be back to normal again.


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