I KNEW by the sucking noise at the end of the line that she was putting her teeth in. There was a rustle and then a whistling sound as she tried them out for size. I keep telling her it would save time if she inserted them before she actually dialled my number, but I might as well be talking to the wall.
When she got them about 10 years ago, the teeth were so long she could have donned a saddle. Since then she has been filing them down with an emery board before she goes to bed every night. They still look like tombstones to me but, as Aunt Sadie says: "Who asked you?"
There was no preamble or chit-chat. "My bowels are locked up tight," she said. "I haven't had a movement in three days, and Madge says that's not good for anyone and I should see a doctor."
Madge is Auntie's best friend, and whereas Auntie's bark is worse than her bite, you can't say the same about Madge, who would give you a crack of her walking stick if you looked crooked at her.
But back to Auntie and her recalcitrant bowels. "Are you sure it's been three days?" I asked. "I may be 95, but I'm not gone funny in the head just yet. It's been three whole days, and I need you to help me do something about it!" she shot back. Under my breath I muttered: "I'm not sure I have a rubber glove long enough." But she must have had her hearing aid turned to high, because she shouted back: "I HEARD THAT!"
An hour later I pulled up to her house and rang the doorbell. Madge slowly opened it as if she was guarding the gates to hell. Auntie was sitting in her armchair with her coat and hat on. "Sadie's waste-disposal unit needs looking at," said Madge, as if Auntie could be fixed by a jab of a sewer rod.
I helped her up and out the door with Madge glowering at me like a muskrat with a toothache.
She had one leg in the car door when she suddenly stopped. "What's wrong?" I asked. "It must be all the prune juice I drank, but I think I'm ready to go now," she replied. "Actually, more than ready."
We made it back inside in jig-time. Later, she apologised for bringing me out and gave me a tin of Quality Street. When I got home I discovered the tin had already been opened and all the toffees were gone. I could almost hear her cackle.