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Old Gray Mare

How do you tell your sister that her bed is ready for the compost pile? The deep six? A swayback mare ready for the glue factory?

She has so graciously invited me to stay for an entire week at her posh condo in the beguiling forests of the Great Pacific Northwest Ė how can I tell her that her broken down guest bed has made me a pig-in-a-blanket, like dad used to cook up on Sunday mornings?

I am stupid from nine hours travel, my ear is ringing, my head is buzzing and Iím yearning to hit the sack. And, oh, what a sad sack it is.

I pitch and roll on it trying to find a spot that isnít sagging to the floor. Hell, I might as well sleep on the floor. After nearly capsizing off this un-seaworthy Titanic I roll toward the leeward side. But at mid-point Iím met with a spine - the hump on a camelís back Ė and moving over that, I pitch windward. Iím thinking, ďWoman overboard!Ē as I crawl onto the floor, cursing and wishing I could grab a hose and pump some polyester foam back into it to plump it up.

ďOK, suckaí, this is WAR!Ē

I retrieve a narrow blow-up mattress my thoughtful sibling has stored beneath this leviathan because last year I had also bemoaned the sad sack.

I sandwich the flotation device beneath the sheets, mount it and pitch and roll like a surfer riding the Pipeline.

By now itís about 2 a.m. and, shocked out of my travel stupor, sleep evades me. Instead, my brain is calculating like a CPAís in April: ďIím going to have to stay in a hotel. Thatís gonna cost at least $500, so why not buy her a new mattress? Iíd have something to show for my money and if she ever invites me back, which is dubious after I tell her how lousy her bed still is, Iíll be able to sleep in bliss in yearly visits to come. And so will her other guests.Ē

I will reason with her, ďIím claustrophobic. Thatís why I always get a window seat on planes. Your mattress is trying to swallow me whole. Itís clinging to me like white on rice. You may come in tomorrow morning and not be able to find me. Iíll be gobbled up in mattress hell.Ē

I toss and turn, prod and poke old Nellieís bumps, and canít begin to guess her age: 15? 20?

I fall into a fitful sleep and, the next morning, decide to give old Nellie one more trial night. And if itís another pillow fight, Iím gonna tell my sister, once and for all, ďThe old gray mare she ainít what she used to be. Itís time to put her out to pasture. And Iíll be glad to pay for it.Ē

Depending on her reaction Iíll be vacationing next year in Washington or Arizona. . .

The next night she unfurls a queen-sized Zodiac and pumps it up to maximum, still trying to satisfy me.

ďAre you sure you want to put the down comforter mattress pad on TOP of it?Ē she queries.

ďOh, yes,Ē says stubborn me as I edge my way into another sleepless in Seattle night: smothered in a marshmallow.

At about 4 a.m., I get a clue: maybe it IS the down-filled pad thatís making this bed a white water rafting trip. So I throw it to the floor and Ė whodathunkit? Ė the mattress underneath is pretty OK.

The next day I eat several portions of humble pie and, in ensuing nights, sleep peacefully. Well, enough at least for this old mare to enjoy the rest of her trip . . .


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