Tyler  McNamara
Writing. World Building. Game Design.

Reality Fan Fiction

Vascular Dementia + Horny Toad in a Shoe Box


A note from the author:
This is the first motif suggestion I've taken. It came to me from a friend who's mother was just diagnosed, which added a weight to the motif that I wanted to treat respectfully, yet then she threw in 'Horny Toad in a Shoe Box'. So I thought maybe she needed/wanted some cheering up about it and considered doing a Memento style "Why am I here in this situation?" thing, but that didn't quite fit, then I considered going total bonkers and tried to imagine a hero who uses dementia to fight crime... somehow.

I lived with my grandpa (when he was in the earlier stages of his dementia) for a year and a half, and decided to draw heavily on that experience. So this in honor of my friend, and also my Grandpa.

     Writhing on the floor of the jungle in pain, Arnold--I mean-- Major Alan Schaefer, yells to his surviving team member, "Ruuuun, Get to the Choppa!" I can't help but laugh and sink deeper into the couch. Thanks to the bit Schwarzenegger did on Jimmy Kimmel last night, I've been inspired to re-watch The Predator, but I don't get much further into the flick as I hear the door open behind me. I pause it. Spinning the band around my finger I wait for her to ask the question, "what'cha watchin'?"
     She surprises me with a different question. "Is that Collateral Damage?" I love it when she surprises me. I turn around and peak over the edge of the couch. With my hands on both sides of my mouth like... what do you call those things? not a proboscis... mandibles! I waggle my fingers at her like mandibles and make a growling/clicking noise.
     "Predator?!" she guesses again, setting the bags on the kitchen island. "Get to the choppa!" she yells, sounding more like Billy Crystal doing Fernando, but I smile anyway.
     She sits down beside me and asks, "How's your Dad?"
     "Dad's dad," I shrug. "We went shopping for shoes, and then I took him to Friendly's."
     "Gross."
     I nod. "I think the food tastes better to him knowing that he's getting free ice cream  afterward."
     "Do they still call it a happy ending?" she chuckles.
     "Yes. You want to hear something funny?"
     "Yes."
     "I told you that he's been having trouble lacing up his shoes?"
     "Yeah... this doesn't sound like a funny story."
     "Just stay with me for a bit."
     "Sorry. Yes, you've mentioned he can't tie his shoes anymore."
     "Never mind tying his shoes, bending over is too hard. So he's been walking around with them untied. I took him to the Payless at the mall and it takes us like an hour to walk from where we parked to the store." She gives me this look, "Okay, so maybe this story is a little funny, and a little blow-off-steamy. We finally get to the store and he looks down at his feet and says, "I don't need new shoes, this are brand new!'"
     "His shoes are no longer white. They're barely even gray, the laces are all frayed and it looks like he's run over them with the car, or used them to clean-up decking stain. They've got so support and he's been telling me how he needs new shoes. Now suddenly they're band new?"
#
     There's nothing more pleasing than a new pair of sneakers. They were red, and they were new. This was the first pair that hadn't come with torn-out eyelets, unfamiliar stains, laces with impossible to untie knots, worn out soles, or already smelling like one of my five brother's rancid feet. When I slipped those sneakers on I felt like a million dollars. I felt an energy like lightning coursing up through my legs. I wanted to take them running.  I wanted the biggest, widest stretch of open desert to take those sneakers up to speed and run down the warm Texas wind.
     "Keep those shoes clean now," my mother threatened though the peril and consequences went entirely unspoken.
     "I will," I called through the screen door as it crashed shut behind me. The grand leap off the porch carried me out a hundred feet, and I landed in an impressive cloud of dust. Not waiting for it to settle I took off.
#
      So as we're walking down one aisle he reaches out to this pair of black leather dance shoes and just kind of knocks them off the rack. I thought he was falling and trying to catch himself at first, but he just goes, "Oop," like he does, and slowly starts bending, teetering over to pick them up. Of course I grab them for him, and put them back on the rack.
     "Remember when we used to go out dancing?" he asks me.
     "We've never gone dancing."
     "Oh sure," he says, "After school we'd drive to that place... with the..." he spent a long time tying to remember, "In Austin. Come on Louis, you remember. What was that place."
Louis is his older brother by five years, my uncle. He died of a heart attack eight years ago, but I don't remind him of that. "Dad, we've never gone dancing."
     "Well, we should get those shoes just in case. I mean you wouldn't believe the girls at this place."
     "They don't have a pair in your size."
     "Ask that girl. That girl, you know, the brown one up at the... up front."
The brown girl? I debate whether it's worth it trying to explain to him that this is a bargain store and there are no shoes out back. He tries a few more times to convince me to buy them, I mean they are a good deal for pretty swank looking shoes, and the fact that they won't fit him doesn't deter him in the least.
     "I'll give them to my boy,"
     "You mean me? They won't fit me. Come on, let's go ask the saleswoman if they've got something that'll fit you." He agrees and we leave the dance shoes behind. By the end of the aisle he's forgotten all about them.
#
     Smiling, anticipating the funny part, she asks, "Did you end up finding some that fit him?"
     You should have seen the look on his face when he put on that pair of beige, velcro sneakers. He did this funny hop like he was playing basketball or something, he very nearly fell over, but then took off, motoring around the store without his cane. Moving his arms like he was running. He scared me half to death, but then I saw the look on his face. He looked like a little kid. So pleased with himself.
     "Dad slow down, you're going to--"
     "Oop!" he called out as he tripped over an invisible something, and started pitching forward. I would have yelled but I was choking on my heart as it leapt up my throat. At the last second he caught himself, and I could see enough fear on his face that I couldn't bear reprimanding him. I hate it when he surprises me like that.
      "You see that?" he asked.
     "Yeah, that was close." I tried to hand him his cane.
     He knocked it away, and pointed at his feet. "There are good shoes. I'm going to catch the wind."
     "We have to buy them first." I handed him the shoebox with his old shoes inside.  "Speaking of catching something if we hurry we can catch the afternoon matinee."
     "Oh? Did you ever see that show where the guy..." he couldn't think of the word and tried a different approach. "It's those people on the..."
     My wife could begin a sentence this way and I would somehow know exactly what she was talking about, but I'm still trying to learn they way Dad's brain works... or doesn't. Finally he say the key word, "boat".
     "Titanic?"
     "Yeah, with Leonardo Dicaprio."  Really Dad? You remember 'Leonardo Dicaprio', but you can't remember, 'boat'?
     "Yeah, Dad I've seen it. I put that on DVD for you. Remember?" I remember the hour long walk to the shoe store and decide we aren't going to make it for the opening scene. "Never mind about the movie, I'll take you to Friendly's"
     Eventually, we get up to the counter where the saleswoman is smiling politely waiting for us. She says her thing, 'did you find what you're looking for whatever,'  and Dad looks down, admiring his shoes and says, "You're a good worker."  I don't know if this is one of those, 'Everyone was racist in the 50's / the Japs are the enemy' moments, or if he's just confused. This look of terror crosses this poor saleswoman's face, and looks to me for help, but before I can say anything she just says, "Thank you."
     He points to the new pair of shoes he's wearing, "Good job, getting the blood out. If Pa saw those... marks (I'm pretty sure he meant stains), he'd give me the strap."
     "The... s-strap?" she looks to me again and I shrug.
     Dad laughs and says, "But I caught that little son-of-a-bitch. You want to see it?" Being careful to hold it level and not knock it about too much, he sets the shoe box on the counter.
     "I'm sorry. My Dad's had a series of mini strokes and it's reduced the blood flow to his brain, it's called vascular dementia. He's harmless, just a little confused.
#
     "By restricting the blood flow leaving their heads, the pressure builds up and ruptures a blood vessel in their eyes, allowing them to... Oh my goodness, it says that they can aim the blood stream at predators and squirt it up to five feet away. This book says it's called an autohemorrhage defense mechanism."
     "Well I knew that already," I said. "Well, not the auto-h-marriage thing, but look." Bending my leg and balancing on one foot so I could place my shoe on the librarian's desk, I showed her the dark red stain on new red shoes.
     The lady at the reference desk, nodded. "That's nothing a toothbrush and a little spit won't take out."
     Just then the shoe box upended and my captive specimen a fine Phrynosoma cornutum escaped. Leaping off the reference desk and pausing, dazed on the floor. Just as I reached out for it, it puffed itself up and got all spiky, and truth be told it startled me. Before I could gather myself it darted off between the stacks before I could get my hands around it.
#
     "What did he think was in the box?"
     "No idea. Anyway, the next thing I know he's invited the saleswomen to come to Friendly's with us.      She's trying to be kind and explain that she needs to work, to which he puffs out his chest and says, 'Oh? You don't need to work, I'll take good care of you.'"
     My wife smiles at the story and kisses me sweetly on the cheek. "You know... you don't need to explain it to everyone."
     "You should have seen the look on her face." I thought back to the moment, and remembered that she was actually smiling and being polite. She knew exactly what was going on. I was the horrified one. "I know... I guess maybe I'm explaining it to myself. You know? It's my Dad.  I've depended on him for so much. He's been there for me my whole life. Now half the time he's somewhere else in his mind, and I can't even count on him to remember my name."
     I could feel the frog crawling up my throat and I knew if I looked at her I was going to lose it. "So that's my funny story about my day with Dad."