The old man was sitting in his favorite chair in the living room watching the six o’clock news. He had been using oxygen since he was first diagnosed with emphysema and COPD. By his chair was a round side table with all his daily needs. A box of tissue, a bottle of water, the newspaper, a crossword book, his reading glasses, a pen, the telephone, the remote for his television and a candy dish filled with cough drops.
Everyday his nurse would come to take his vital signs, make sure he took his medications, and check his oxygen. She would also replenish his cough drop supply from a tin in the kitchen. ” My goodness, Mr. Brown, you sure use a lot of cough drops!” She said. “Really?” He gasped and then coughed. “You never put enough in the dish, they go so fast.” ” Everyday, I put in a handful.” She replied. “You should try to drink more water.” “Okay,” he said. She finished her tasks and bid him farewell until the next day.
Mr. Brown was nearing ninety years old and had no family left to speak of. He was receiving Meals On Wheels and had a woman from the county come in and do his laundry, some light housework, and make his lunch. His neighbor brought whatever he needed from the store. His medicines were delivered from the drug store, at which time he would always order a bag of cough drops. He got different kinds, but the herbal ones were his favorite. They always seem to go the fastest. Once a month, his great-nephew, who lived two hours away, would come to spend the day. He would fix what needed fixing and on nice days, they would sit on the front porch swing and visit.
But for the most part, Mr. Brown was alone. He had lost his wife ten years back, to what the doctor called, “natural causes.” It had been a strained marriage, because Mrs. Brown was strongly opposed to her husband’s smoking. She strictly forbid him to smoke indoors and found the odor so offensive, they set up separate bedrooms. So it was ironic that after she died, he was forced to give up smoking on account of his need for oxygen. Every time he craved a cigar or cigarette, he would take a cough drop. They also helped with his cough. So it was no real concern to him that he bought so many. However, what was curious, is that every morning when he sat down in his chair, the dish would always seen to have less cough drops then when he went to bed the night before. But because he was rather forgetful, he would forget about this curiosity soon after he observed it and figured that with all the people coming and going, he must have given them some or they had just helped themselves. At any rate, it went on without question and was hardly the focus of anyone’s concern because of Mr. Brown’s chronic condition.
Mr.Brown lived in his house another six months before he had to go into a personal care home. He had grown too weak to be home alone. He was happy enough there and for some odd reason he found that the cough drops he would have his neighbor bring when he came to visit lasted much longer than when he had been at home! Perhaps he was using them less, he thought, but again, with his memory failing, he simply forgot to wonder about his cough drop consumption.
It was no great shock when Mr. Brown passed away. His house and all the contents had been signed over to his great-nephew years before, and so the house was put up for sale. It was a good solid house, but nothing had ever been updated. So the new owners set out to remodeling the house that Mr. Brown had built.
Things were going along slowly for the new homeowners. They were doing the work themselves and hadn’t taken up living in the home. It would be two years after Mr. Brown’s death that the great cough drop caper would be solved. When the kitchen was being remodeled, the base cabinets were pulled out to make room for new ones. Underneath one of the drawers were hundreds of cough drop wrappers, all different kinds crumbled up into a sort of nest, if you will. Yes, it turns out Mr. Brown had not been alone after all. Unbeknownst to anyone, a family of mice, with very clear throats, had occupied the residence. Until now. And thus the curious case of the disappearing cough drops was solved. Too bad Mr. Brown didn’t live to tell the tale!