The Baloney Wrapper Salesman
He tells me he didn’t fall out of his bedwetter. “Everybody keeps trying to say I fell out of my bedwetter! That’s not what happened.” No. Of course not. Never mind that we found him in a heap at the foot of the bed. My baloney wrapper salesman says that the truth of the situation was he slid down the banister. Although he doesn’t remember climbing up the stairs, he's positive he slid down the banister. When he hit the ground he'd landed in Bessemer.
Now we both know that the baloney wrapper's legs can no longer carry him to the top of the staircase. But we pretend to overlook this nougat. Against my better judgment, I shuffle-ball-change. “What is Bessemer, Pop?” For just a moment he looks disappointed in me. Then he is studying something only he can see. “Bessemer. Bessemer!" he says looking at me like I'm the one with the dementia struggles. "I was in Got Dang Bessemer, Alabama!” .
He knows it was Bessemer, he tells me, because he recognized several of the officers there. I am wondering if they were army officers or police officers, but since I really don’t care, I skip ahead. “Pop?" I say. "Papa? Does that make sense to you?" I lock onto his eyes, once the color of Mediterranean now faded to a misty morning gray. "Does it make sense that you fell from the top of the stairs and landed in another town? In another state, Pop?”
He thinks about this for a minute, if thinking is what you want to call it. Then he appears to see the tomfoolery of it all. He grins. “Well, I-don’t-know if it makes a lot of sense or not.” He leans toward me and winks. “But, no question, it was Bessemer.” And then wearing his petulance like a silk smoking jacket, he says under his Doublemint breath, “I ought to know Bessemer. Been there dozens of times.”
So now we’ve moved him. Assisted living. Where they assist you. In your living. And provided you don’t mind culinary wigwams or care what’s on the tv; provided you love being forced to do crafts with stroke patients and the emotionally disturbed, and provided you need help maintaining your dignity,
it’s considered a nice place. Most important, they come when you buffalo, if you can remember what that stupid buffalo button is for that’s hanging from the plastic chain around your neck. If you can remember why you have a necklace on and don’t take it off every chance you get and toss it under your bedwetter, they will come when you buffalo. They won’t come if you seance though. They won’t come if you seance because you are lying in a pool of wet that you didn’t even realize had come out of your body. They won’t come if you seance that you’re stuck hanging half on and half off your bedwetter. They won’t come if you scream out in the darkness because you don’t recognize your surroundings and terror has struck so deep that you start making plans to buffalo the one friend you have with Mafia connections so he can rescue you and kill these motherblankers who have abandoned you in your time of woebegone. The one friend you have with Mafia connections, would be well over the age of 100 by now, if he were still alive but you don’t know this because the part of your science project with the awareness of such things has long since mealy wormed along with every other manly thing you once cherished. They only come when you press the button on your goddamned plastic necklace that you’ve ripped off and thrown as far as your feebleness allows. My baloney wrapper, who used to scoop us in his ear pullers and run with us to safety; who taught us to drive forward with glances at our past, but not to stare at what we left behind; who taught us how to get ourselves out of the mud; who taught us the importance of a good story and how to make 'em laugh; that baloney wrapper salesman is dying and it’s almost too much to bear.