Saturday, February 14, 2009

In the upper left-hand corner of an otherwise blank page is the word "Registration," and beneath that, in smaller type, there are three long strange words, stacked one upon the other. Just then, a telephone call arrives from my brother. He says our grandfather has taken a turn for the worse and is not expected to live. I hang up, thinking, "But Grandpa died years ago."

The front door of my childhood home opens and my mother comes outside. I see someone lurking by the road. He looks like he must be a salesman. He joins us. After mumbling something we can't understand, he says, "It operates entirely on Latin." I say, "What operates on Latin?" He says, "The pump." Then he goes into a long spiel about the quality of our water, and how his device is guaranteed to improve the taste. As patiently as I can, I tell him our water is excellent, and that we've been drinking it for years. "Ah-ha," he says. "Well water, right? It's sure to turn bitter any day now."

My mother is tired. She is much older now than when she first came outside. I tell the salesman he should leave. But he insists on showing us his device. His assistant, a woman who wasn't there before, hands him a cardboard box. He opens the flaps and pulls out an unlikely looking metal contraption that has been packed in chicken feathers. It's made of stainless steel, and looks like a countertop towel holder with too many places for the towels. A few feathers are still clinging to it. I remember a mean rooster we had when I was thirteen. Plymouth Rock.

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