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Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006 10:03 pm

Staying alive

When it comes to health matters, even smart guys are idiots

Untitled Document I need to rent a woman for Ben DeFray — nothing sexual intended; no domestic duties; no companionship required; no relationship need exist at all. All she has to do is stop by once a week, look at him, and force him to go to a doctor — when he needs medical attention. I need to keep Ben alive; he owes me phrases. Rented Woman: You need to go see a doctor, Ben — you’re bleeding from your right eye, and your left arm looks like past-its-sell-date asparagus. 
Ben: Probably a cold. I’ll drink some orange juice. 
Rented Woman: Get in the car now, you blithering idiot! We’re going to the emergency room. 
It doesn’t work when I try it. Me: You need to go see a doctor, Ben — you’re bleeding from your right eye, and your left arm looks like past-its-sell-date asparagus. 
Ben: Probably a cold. I’ll drink some orange juice. 
Me: Seems reasonable to me.
The problem is that Ben has no women around to make him not an idiot — and he’s so male, he has hair on the soles of his feet. The only reason he has lived this long is that three, or maybe four, wives have shared very short times with him over the years. “Two of the wives shot me with a large gun,” Ben once told me, “or maybe it was one large wife with two guns; I can’t remember.”
I need to rent a woman for Ben — the emergency of it hit me last week. Me: Ben, you gonna make the poker game this Friday? Ben: Probably not. When I woke up yesterday, I was blind. Me: What did the doctor say?
Ben: I’m gonna wait until after the Super Bowl to see a doctor. Me: Seems reasonable to me. Were it not for mothers, wives and daughters, all men would be dead at age 18 — or 45. Ben is, without doubt, one of the smartest people passing this way so far; he has so many Ph.D.s after his name, were he so inclined, it’d take two lines to list ’em all. He is not so inclined. He doesn’t care what people think of him; he only cares what he thinks of himself — one of the many, many reasons women stay in his life only for short periods. Ben has 14 plain white T-shirts and no shirts with buttonholes. He invented most of the things that make it a better world: the silicon chip, the propel-you-out easy chair, the umbrella hat, high-top sneakers, the sky lounge, the big-screen TV, and the pizza wheel. And yet, because of his “being all male” condition, he’s health-care challenged. He only seeks medical help when a large bone at eye level breaks or when there’s a hole somewhere where there ought not to be a hole, as when his wife or wives shot him. “It was,” he told me, “an uncomfortable experience. The insurance company forced ’em to discharge me while I was still on the operating table — something to do with either my second or fourth wife no longer carrying me on her insurance. I was cut in half at the time, so, in a rare fit of compassion, they let the bottom half stay hospitalized overnight and sent only the top half home — at least, that’s how I remember it.”
Ben doesn’t remember reality well any more. A few years back he quit inventing things and started inventing stories. He ghostwrites autobiographies for small-time politicians now, and he followed the market to Springfield. Ben owes me six phrases. Because I write stuff for family-type publications, I oftentimes have phrases left over that don’t fit the family genre, and I give them to Ben — and because his genre demands nothing but lies, when a truth leaks from his pen, he gives it to me. Last month I gave him this: “He woke up with a mouth full of dried whiskey and an ass full of buckshot” and “If you think Bugs Bunny ever lost to Daffy Duck, you’re obviously undereducated and probably a jack-legged communist.” 
I think you’ll agree that two phrases as poignant as those two deserve six in return. Ben owes me, so I need to keep him alive. I phone Ben, to check one more time, before placing the “Rent a Woman” ad. Me: Ben, you still blind? Ben: Not sure, ’cause I can’t see the mirror — but, blind or not blind, I’m only giving you one phrase back. The “Bugs vs. Daffy” was invaluable, I can use it a thousand times over, but the “mouth full of dried whiskey” one was just garbage.
Me: Did the orange juice work? Reason I ask, my left arm has turned to asparagus.
Ben: I’m renting you a woman — right after the Super Bowl. 
Me: Seems reasonable to me.

Contact Doug Bybee Sr. at dougbybee@sbcglobal.net.
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