I was sitting there in the dentist’s chair with my mouth agape like some crocodile stretching his jaw muscles. Sue Pierson, my dental hygienist who works for Dr. Niebergall, had her hand in my mouth scraping out the residue of peanut M&Ms that I had accumulated at the Malibu Film Society over the past several months. 

We both belong to the film society and whenever I see her there I feel guilty about eating all those M&Ms, but the guilt does not in any way stop me from gorging myself. 

Sue does what all dental hygienists and dentists do--she asks me open-ended questions while my oral cavity is obviously indisposed. For instance, she recently asked me what I thought about a movie we had both seen. I responded with something incoherent, like this: “Uh, uh ah, uh, ooh, ah!” Like a mother who alone can understand her blabbering infant, she, of course, was fully able to understand my gibberish. “Yes, I felt the same way about the movie,” she answered.

This strange dialogue continued with Sue asking me questions and me making sounds interlacing grunts with a host of other weird noises. And then she started to tell me something that warmed my heart greatly.

“I always read The Malibu Times,” she explained and before she went on I said, “Ooh, uh, uh, ah,” (meaning, “I hope you enjoy my columns”). Sue continued, “I always turn to the obituary page to see what friends I have lost.”

If I heard correctly--and even though my communication was still severely compromised, my hearing was undisturbed—Sue was telling me that I, very much still a living organism, was being outranked by the departed.

I protested loudly: “Eh, eh, ooh, ah, oh,” (meaning, “You read the obituaries before reading my columns?”). She seemed oblivious to my protest and went on, “The older I get, the more important it is for me to read the obituaries.” 

It became obvious that Sue was stuck inside the first section of TMT, and was not going to make it to Section B where my columns hang out. I, therefore, can rest assured that Sue will not read this column about her, because she is far more interested in those who have left the scene (Hollywood jargon for dying) than anything I have to say. 

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