Mother Mary and bed linens have a long and storied history.

You may recall that a few years ago, she refused to use the sheets that Brother Frank bought her, because there were bats printed on the fitted sheet and a life-size Batman on the flat sheet.

Mother Mary couldn't picture Batman lying on top of her.

Neither can I.

Visualize among yourselves.

Frank had gotten the sheets because they were on sale, which gives you an idea of how the Flying Scottolines roll. If there's a sale, we're buying. Even if it's in the kids department and Mother Mary has aged out, at 88.

So I should have expected trouble when last Christmas, Mother Mary asked for new sheets. But I didn't see it coming, and neither will you.

"No problem," said I. "What color do you want?"

(By the way, what a sport I am, huh? Why spring for jewelry when your mother wants sheets? Nothing says love like percale. After all, it's not like you only get one mother. Oh, wait.)

But Mother Mary answered, "I want sheets, but I want to buy them myself. Just send me a check, and I'll go to Anna's."

"What's Anna's?"

"The store on the corner."

I shouldn't have asked. Mother Mary loves stores-on-the-corner. She grew up in South Philly, going to the corner grocery, bakery, and butcher. There are precious few stores-on-the-corner these days, but Mom always finds the mom-and-pop stores.

So I send the check and call her a week later. "Ma, did you get your sheets?"

"No, Frank did, and I hate them. They're too big."

"What size are they?"

"600 count."

"Mom, the count of the sheets isn't the size. It's the quality of the cotton."

"These aren't cotton. They're polyester."

Now I'm really confused. "600-count polyester? That can't be right."

"I agree, they're not right. I hate them."

I cut to the chase. "I have an idea. How about I send you a new set of sheets? You have a queen-size bed. What color you want?"

"White. Cotton. I don't care about the count. I can count."

Gotcha.

"Also, they can't have bugs."

I blink. "Got it, no bugs. Good thing you mentioned that, because I was going to buy sheets with bugs. But now, no way."

"Don't make fun. Your sheets at your house had a bug and that's why my ass itches."

"What?" I ask, thrown for a loop by the non sequiturs. You have to roll with the punches when you talk to Mother Mary. Sentences come out of nowhere, like a conversational video game.

"I got a bite on my ass from your sheets."

It makes no sense. The last time she was at my house was during the summer. "Your butt still can't itch from six months ago."

All she says is, "What can I tell you? It was a helluva bug."

So I hang up, go online, find a set of nice cotton sheets, and send them down to Miami, then call a week later. "Ma, how do you like the sheets?"

"I don't."

"Why not?"

"They're not white. I said white."

I cringe. Actually she's right. They were cream, not white, but the ones I liked the most were cream, and I didn't think it would make a difference. "Does it really matter, Ma?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"On white, I can see the bugs better."

Of course.

And for her birthday, she's getting jewelry.

Look for Lisa Scottoline's new novel, Come Home, and Lisa and Francesca's book, Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: The Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter. Visit Lisa at scottoline.com.