Cast of characters:
Nana: an elderly woman, well meaning but more than a little bit flaky
Kitty: Nana's much put-upon neighbor
Bob: crotchety pet store owner
Tweety: Nana's beloved pet canary
Yogi: Kitty's one year old golden retriever
Scene 1. Nana's kitchen, early afternoon. Nana is pacing back and forth, worried.
Nana: (to herself) I just don't know what to do... I've tried everything I can think of... They didn't really teach us about canaries back in nursing school... What should I do? I know - I'll call Kitty. (She reaches for the telephone and hits speed dial 1.) Hello, Kitty? It's Nana. I'm worried about Tweety. He doesn't seem...right. Can you come over and take a look at him? (pause) I know you aren't a vet, but you are a nurse... I mean, you were until you retired last year...you must remember about these things better than I can! (increasingly frantic) PLEASE, Kitty, please come take a look, I don't know what to do and Tweety just isn't right! (pause) Okay, thanks, see you in ten minutes.
Scene 2. Kitty's kitchen, early afternoon. She hangs up the phone and sighs in exasperation.
Kitty: Honestly! I don't know what else I would do with my time if I didn't have Nana and her crises to worry about. To think I thought I'd get some work done in the garden today... (She whistles for her dog.) Yogi! Come on boy, let's go for a ride in the car. We're going down the hill to Nana's house...again.
Scene 3. Nana's front yard, about 20 minutes later. Nana is standing at the end of her driveway, peering anxiously up the road for Kitty's car.
Nana: Where can she be? She only lives a mile away! I could've walked there from here by now, and I'm almost 86! Oh hurry, please hurry.... Oh, here she comes now. Thank goodness! (She waves frantically as Kitty pulls up and gets out of her car.)
Kitty: (to Yogi, under her breath) Good thing she was standing out here waving; it isn't as if we haven't been here a million times before! (Aloud) Stay, Yogi. Good boy. I'll be right back. Hello, Nana, where's the bird?
Nana: He's in the house, come on, quickly!
Scene 4. Nana's kitchen. Kitty and Nana enter. Classical music is blaring from a radio on the counter next to the cage. Kitty peers into the cage, but it is empty.
Kitty: (shouting above the music) Can we turn this down a tad, Nana? I didn't know you were going (she switches the radio off) deaf in your old age, too! Now then, where's the bird?
Nana: (distracted) Oh, Tweety likes the radio, and I thought it would cheer him up. Usually, he starts singing right away, as soon as I put the radio on - that classical station is his favorite. But today that didn't even help. I thought he might have an ear infection - I mean, birds must have ears even though we can't see them, right and if they have them they could get them infected, right? - so I turned the radio up to be sure he could hear it. Oh dear, I hope he is all right...
Kitty: (mildly annoyed) Where is he, Nana?
Nana: (continuing as if Kitty hadn't spoken) Well, the other day, I noticed he had this...this THING on his foot. Like a growth or something. So, I tried to soak it with Epsom Salts a few times a day to see if that would help it, but it didn't. That's what I did for old Joe when he had ingrown toenails, and it always worked for him. You remember my husband Joe don't you? We were married 53 years when he died. He would've known what to do for the bird's foot. So, this morning, when I checked his cage I noticed Tweety could barely move. He was just kind of holding on with that one little foot, he couldn't even hop over to his food dish. He could barely stand upright when I put him in the Epsom Salts bath. That's why I thought he might have an ear infection - from getting the salty water in his ears, since he kept tipping over into it. Canaries apparently aren't water birds, like ducks, because he wasn't floating really at all. Joe Junior always got ear infections when he went swimming - swimmer's ear, the doctors called it. I told that boy being a lifeguard was a silly choice for a summer job for someone who was so prone to swimmer's ear infections, but he wanted to hang out on the beach and show off for the girls, you know? What could I -
Kitty: (exasperated beyond all patience) Nana!!! WHERE IS THE BIRD???
Nana: (startled out of her monologue) Oh! The bird. Well, Tweety was shaking, so I thought he had caught a chill from the water. So, I put him in the oven to keep him warm until you got here. (She notices the look of shock on Kitty's face and grows alarmed.) I didn't turn it on very high - I put it on the lowest setting, "warm" that's all. I just couldn't stand to see him chilled and shivering.
Kitty: (as she rushes across the kitchen to the oven) Nana, when did you put him in there?
Nana: (upset) Right after we got off the phone. Oh dear, you don't think it is too warm in there for him, do you? I mean, aren't canaries tropical birds? He should be used to the heat...
Kitty: (peering into the oven and thinking quickly) Nana, I think I'd better take Tweety to the vet. Why don't you get me a shoe box to put him into?
Nana hurries out of the room. She returns moments later with a shoe box. Kitty reaches into the oven, snatches out the very dead bird, and quickly hides the corpse in the shoe box. Nana is in tears.
Kitty: (firmly) Nana, I'm going to take Tweety to the vet right now. You stay here, I know you don't like riding in the car with Yogi. (She leaves, box in hand.)
Scene 5. A local pet store. Kitty enters, clutching the shoe box. Bob stands behind the register, a surly expression on his face. He is aimlessly thumbing through an issue of Cat Fancy.
Bob: (slightly more than a grunt) Can I help you?
Kitty: Yes. (She places the shoebox on the counter next to the register and removes the lid.) I need to buy a canary that looks exactly like this one.
Bob peers into the shoe box.
Bob: What happened to this one? It smells a bit...funky. Almost like...(sniffs loudly into the box)...gas.
Kitty: It died, obviously. Of...old age. Do you have a bird here that looks like it?
Bob: Yep, sure do. Do you want me to dispose of this one for you, too?
Scene 6. Kitty's car. Kitty pulls up in front of a grocery store. The new canary is in the shoebox on the front seat, and Yogi is sitting in the back seat.
Kitty: Yogi, you stay put. I just need to run in and pick up some milk. Can't afford anything else, now that I'm out $95 for that damn bird! (She gets out of the car and heads into the store.)
Scene 7. Grocery store parking lot, seven minutes after Kitty entered the store. She approaches the car carrying a grocery bag holding one gallon of milk and Soap Opera Digest.
Kitty: Oh no - what the ??? (She looks into her car with much anxiety.) Damn it, Yogi - those are FEATHERS, aren't they?
Scene 8. Bob's Pet Store.
Kitty: Hello again. I need you to sell me another bird that looks like the one I just bought.
Bob: (suspiciously) You need another bird? Lady, I'm not selling you another bird! What the heck happened to the one I just sold you 15 minutes ago?
Kitty: (frazzled) Well, if you won't sell me another bird, can I have my first bird back?
Scene 9. Nana's kitchen, three hours and a half tank of gas later. Kitty enters carrying the shoe box.
Kitty: (with forced brightness) Here you go, Nana. Good as new! (She places the new canary into the cage.)
Nana: (relieved) Oh goodness, Kitty, I was worried - you were gone so long! I was afraid something bad had happened to my precious Tweety!
Kitty: Well, the, uh, the vet had to operate and it took a while, what with the anesthesia and all... So the vet bill was pretty high, too, as you can imagine...
Nana: (not really listening) Oh yes, operations...those do take a while. I remember when Joe Junior had his tonsils out. He was in the hospital three whole days! And he didn't care a whit since he could eat all the ice cream he wanted. I thought it was down right irresponsible of that hospital to give him something as unhealthy as ice cream for three whole days! (to canary) You don't want any ice cream, do you, Tweety bird? No, birdie boy doesn't want any ice cream. He just wants his radio. (She switches on the radio. Classical music begins blaring as loudly as before.) There you are, Tweety.
Kitty: (shouting above the radio) Like I was saying, Nana, the vet bill was pretty high. It came to a hundred and ninety dollars. I paid it for you, of course, since you weren't there, and I knew you wouldn't want Tweety to go without treatment...
Nana: (completely distracted) Yes, yes, of course you did. Well, thank you so much for your help. To show my appreciation, here's a loaf of zucchini bread I baked earlier today. The zucchini came right from my own garden... (She stares intently at the bird.) He looks a bit strange, doesn't he, Kitty?
Kitty: (somewhat panicked) Strange? What do you mean, strange? I mean, he is still... uh... recovering from the anesthesia... that must be what you mean, right?
Nana: Oh, yes, that must be it. Well, thanks again for your help Kitty. Here's your bread. You probably want to get Yoga home for dinner, poor thing's been in the car all day, he must be hungry.
Kitty is so relieved that Nana didn't realize she is now the owner of a completely different bird that she grabs the bread from Nana and bolts out of the door.
Scene 10. Kitty's garden, three weeks later. Nana has dropped by to visit and has been chatting at Kitty for the past hour. Kitty is bent over her petunia bed and is doing her best to ignore Nana.
Nana: ...so anyhow, Joe never liked birds at all, and so he probably wouldn't have minded if the bird had dropped dead from his infected toenail. God rest his soul.
Kitty: (suddenly tuning in to Nana's words) What?! The bird died after all that?
Nana: (confused) What? My bird died??? What do you mean?
Kitty: (also confused) You said "God rest his soul" just now. You mean your bird's soul? I thought that the bird was fine - should've been after all the money I forked over for it...
Nana: No, no, not the BIRD'S soul, Joe's soul. You know, we were married 53 years before he died... (Suddenly looking intently at Kitty) But now that you mention it, you know what IS strange about the bird?
Kitty: (stomach instantly knotting) Wh-wh-what?
Nana: Well, ever since his operation, he has stopped singing to his classical music station. Now he will only sing when I put the radio to the country and western station. Doesn't that just beat all?
The above tale is based on a true story. Only some names and minor details were changed to protect the identity of the well-meaning and not at all put-upon relatives who came to Nana's rescue in the Great Canary Gassing and Replacement.