“Mad Libs” by Randall Brown

[Person] wants [something], but [this other person] wants [something else.]

My father wants to stop taking his water pills for his swollen legs, but the assisted living nurse wants him to cut the dose.

It’s like this for [time period]. Three weeks.

Then, he [noun] [verb]. Can’t stop pissing.

Well, that changes things. Now [Person] needs [something meaningful] to solve [an external] and [internal problem].

My father needs to contact his doctor because stopping those pills means he doesn’t have to camp out next to the toilet, and he won’t be constantly reminded of his dependence and slow paralysis that is not unlike death.

[Person] does [failed action].

Through the bathroom door, my father tells the assisted living nurse to call his goddamn doctor and get him to authorize the stoppage, but the nurse says the doctor isn’t going to talk to some assisted living nurse like some equal. My father opens the door, and she hands over the pill, stands there to make sure he swallows.

[Person] learns [something], though.

My father realizes, as the pill gets stuck and he has to choke on it a bit, that he’s going to have to call the doctor himself. This is not easy, for my father cannot imagine what he will do when the doctor treats him as unequal.

Again, [Person] does [failed action].

He dials the phone and reads from his written down speech, about the swollen legs meaning nothing to him and the pills that bind him to bathrooms and keep him from meals and Penn State games and the videos at the bottom of his pants drawer. But when he finishes, he hears a screech, and he doesn’t know what the hell happened.

[Person] learns [something] again.

My father learns jack shit, though. He dials again and again, and each time, that screech like aliens in human bodies. And if I were there, I’d tell him it’s the goddamn fax machine but I’m not there, and all day he dials and reads his speech and gets screeched at.

[Person] commits [final action].

Finally, my father falls asleep in mid-sentence. He pisses himself.

[Person] now understands [something profound].

He wakes up, the nurse pulling at his pants. “Now,” my father says, “now do you see?” She says she does, no more pills, what does it matter, anyways?

The desire for [thing] subsides to nothing.

No more pills.

It’s like this for a while.

A few days go by.

Then, [Person] wants [something different], but [his/her name] wants something else.

Then my father wants the vegetables crunchier, but the cook wants my father to stop thinking of himself and think of the people without teeth who can’t eat crunchy vegetables and my father wants the hell out of this jail, and he screams at the cook—What the hell did I do? Tell me. What did I do?—and makes his slow way back to his apartment saying, “That’s it. That’s it.” He picks up the phone, dials [somebody].


More fiction at Used Furniture.


  1. Richard Osgood says:

    Crack me up, Randall. Unique and creative format. I want to live on your edge, brother.

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