What are you doing? I ask Bernie.
Admiring my beauty, he says.
We’re sitting in the dining room at the table along with Alisa Glassman, Bernie’s daughter, who flew up here yesterday to be with us, bringing much-needed help, cheer, and spirit. Bernie has raised a mirror to look at his face, which shows a tall yellow bandage hanging over his nose, a large white bandage on his forehead, and another large white bandage at the bottom of the yellow bandage crisscrossing, mustache-like, over his mouth. Another large white bandage covers a spot on his chest beneath his green sweater.
Stanley has been growling at Bernie since we came back from the hospital after the first part of his plastic surgery to seal the large hole made on top of his nose. The carcinoma is still there and we’re looking at radiation next.
Stanley, why aren’t you saying hello to Bernie?
Because I don’t see him anywhere.
What do you mean, here he is!
You mean the guy smelling of blood and gook?
Not only is Bernie swathed in bandages, but also thin ribbons of blood flow out of both corners of both his eyes and nose, not to mention other discharges. The bandages are red with fresh blood or purple with dried, and Alisa and I are dabbing at his face to keep the mess under control. It doesn’t help that Bernie’s grinning into the mirror.
You look terrible, says Stanley. Whoever you are.
Don’t talk this way, Stan. How do you think it makes Bernie feel that his own dog doesn’t recognize him?
How do you think it makes me feel, seeing him like that?
You can barely see anything, Stan!
I guess cataracts are good for something.
Now listen, Stanley, the surgeon told us to expect all this discharge. He said everything is in order, everything is clean, the healing has begun.
Fool me, says Stan. Who is this man?
He’s Bernie, your master.
Doesn’t look like any kind of master to me.
Bernie, looking like a grisly, gory Mummy, makes a face and Stanley growls.
Zen masters don’t have to look like anything in particular, Stan, I expound.
Do they have to look like this?
You don’t get it, Stanley, though it’s staring you right in the face. There’s a famous koan: “The past Buddha and the future Buddha are his servants. Who is he?”
How are you feeling, Dad? Alisa asks. It’s nothing short of a miracle to have her here this weekend.
I-feel-fine, Dad says slowly, but-my-nose-itches-and-I-can’t-scratch-it.
No problem, says Alisa, and gives her own nose a scratch.
Huh? says Stanley.
We’re all interrelated, explains Alisa, so if I scratch my nose it’s like scratching Dad’s nose.
Huh? says Stanley.
You’re been with us for 13 years, Stan, and you haven’t learned a thing, I tell him.
Congratulations, says Bernie.
Stan wags his tail at him.
Finally coming around to say hi, eh? I say to Stanley.
Not saying hi, just begging.
Bernie turns towards me. I’m not seeing you taking any pictures of me, he says.
He’s right. This time I ain’t taking pictures.