Emma’s simple need to discuss her pains.
|Emma Morrison takes pills but they are merely made of sugar. Of course, Emma does not know this, which is fine because all that is important, to Emma anyway, is that they work. Emma will stroll into the apothecary bold as brass or perhaps secure as sass and hand old Doc Wertz a dime for a handful of pills--that’s all there was to it, no prescription, no formalities and no fuss. Then Emma, bouncy, white-haired Emma, holds the look of smug nonagenarian. Her's is a conquest and an air of pride, balanced upon the peak of an upturned nosed graced with just the slightest hint of rosacea. She shuffles surely across the cranberry titled floor and exits the quaint pre-World War II building to the chimes of the little bells abutting the door frame and jamb.
Doc has two Myna birds, which squawk each time they hear the bells.
Pain is Emma. Notice I did not say Emma is pain, or that Emma is a pain--no, that would be too crass, too cruel. Perhaps I should draw these lines more clearly. Having pain is an inherent part of Emma’s personality. Some people collect stamps, others horde milk crates or old copies of Reader’s Digest while still others collect mice in the form of ceramic or wood or even shiny wax. Emma, it seems, collects pains. Not only that, she would be disappointed, to say the least, if she could not tell you about her, Pain du jour. And all of us, generally, in this small hamlet where elbows easily rub and voices overlap and scandal is limited to the uncontrolled giggles from imbibing too much fruit punch at the VFW hall on Saturday night, all of us understand and humor and even looked forward in an odd sort of way to Emma’s cogent oration on the latest spasm, pang or perspicacious gnawing that would dare tread her aged temple.
Just so happens I saw old Doc Wertz the other day who had just seem old Emma who had just rung the bells upon leaving after fisting her sugar pills for ten cents as the two Myna birds voice their opinion in the corner from the thrill of it all.
“So, I take it Emma was just in?” I said with a toothy grin.
Doc Wertz removed his big, black framed glasses and rubbed his thick, brown mustache with thumb and index finger like he was trying to lengthen it.
“Yes, she was in all right--she is a hoot!” Wertz said, putting his glasses back on and tossing me an open mouthed grin that announced yellow, crooked teeth.
“A hoot, yes, but a dear hoot nonetheless,” I opined, setting down a box of Crest, some double A batteries, and a Farmer’s Almanac, along with a twenty.
Doc Wertz took my twenty, gave me my change and pointed to a large jar filled with sugar pills.
“Emma’s Pills?” I acknowledged.
Doc Wertz nodded and rubbed his mustache.
“And sweet little Emma has no idea they are sugar pills, right?” I said, taking my brown bag of purchased item from off the counter.
“It is a classic example of the placebo effect,” Wertz said as he closed the cash register drawer.
I grinned, yet I did so because of a genuine, warm feeling, like I had just had sweet taffy or had been brushed up against by a purring tabby with long whiskers.
“As long as it works for her, right Doc?” I added.
“That’s right,” Wertz said. “She believes they work, and that is what is key to the placebo effect--there is nothing supernatural to it, because with mind is real, and in truth, the mind is the great healer. The medical profession has known this for a long time.”
“No question about that Doc!” And I offered him a good day and turned to exit the store.
But Doc Wertz called me back.
Seems Emma had forgotten he cotton balls, and Doc Wertz had them in a bag there and asked me if I’d drop them off to Emma--I was going in that direction--and I was more than delighted to be of service. It was no more than a few blocks, and I always get a charge out of seeing, and hearing, little old Emma.
Emma lived by herself in an old, gray two story house with a large front porch with full hedges and mint ivy growing everywhere. A large rocking chair sat upon the porch half stained, along with a wicker bench and a magazine rack full of Women’s Day and Better Homes and Gardens.
I rang the bell and Emma opened the door and looked at me with her worn yet characterized face as if I were the answer to her prayers and she was in full compliance with thankfulness.
“Good afternoon, Emma,” and I handed her the bag with the cotton balls.
“You forgot these when you were at the apothecary.”
At just one glance, I knew she was grateful—her face said it all. She asked me in for coffee and apple pie. Her house was warm and pleasant with the scent of lilacs and an overabundance of shawls and afghans. I admit that I expected Emma, at some point, to clutch her side and cry, Ow! That Hurt! but such was not the case.
Yet Emma did tell me, with both pride and enthusiasm, how she had made her visit earlier to Doc Wertz to secure her pills. I of course was tickled but curbed my delight. I finished my pie and coffee and began to leave, but just as I was at the door, Emma said to me forthrightly and with a plaintive longing in her face;
“Don’t you want to know about my pain today?”
I stopped dead, Yet I went along.
“Well, I sure do! What will you do about it?” I sincerely asked.
Emma’s face was aglow.
“It will be simple," she said.