Black Petals Issue #80, Summer, 2017

Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Andrew's War-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Down at the Hardware Store-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Excision-Fiction by Paul Strickland
Rise-Fiction by Mike Mulvihill
Surviving Montezuma, Chapters 9 & 10-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Bugbear in the Darksome Chamber-Fiction by Charles C. Cole
The Critter in the Tin-Fiction By K. B. Updike Jr.
Bondegezu, Tree Kangaroo and 3 other poems by Richard Stevenson

Fiction by Paul Strickland



By Paul Strickland




Society had called on the Dirty Thirties generation to fight and defeat fascism in 1940s Europe. They did that job very well. Discharged from military and support services in 1945-46, they were expected to build industries and beget enough offspring to create a better world. Again, they succeeded.

With the WWII Greatest Generation dying off, their Baby-Boom heirs, having embraced the work ethic themselves, expected to retire and reap certain rewards. Society, however, had decided that these heirs, being far too numerous, were a useless drain on such life-enhancing resources as Medicare, CPP, and OAS.


One clear and crisp Canadian morning, retired Baby Boomer Joe almost dropped his cup of tea. On his favorite radio news show had he really heard the budget officer complain to his fellow parliamentarians that the “lazy” older generation Joe belonged to didn’t pay taxes? The officer concluded, “We’d need alien gold from outer space to save our unsustainable Medicare system, and we certainly can’t depend on a near-future close encounter of that nature.”

Another interview, featuring a medical professional, provided an even bleaker outlook, when the interviewee told the reporter, “After 75, only palliative care should be available to nonworking citizens. Younger generations just entering the work force should not be expected to pay for idlers who live too long.”

Joe turned the radio off and took an antacid. Then he headed to his doctor’s office for his annual flu shot.


At the doctor’s, diabetic Joe, after his usual flu shot, was urged to consider one for pneumonia prevention. But first he would have to carry home and peruse (before signing) the required form, which read, in part, “You recognize you have a chronic condition that will shorten your life…and extraordinary measures will not be used to prolong your life if you fall seriously ill.”

Joe could not bring himself to sign what he considered a death warrant. He knew that his Type 2 diabetes could be managed quite well, given modern technology and resources; if he was careful, he might live only a year or two less than a nondiabetic.

He remembered his father George half-joking that he didn’t want to be a burden, and hoped Joe would remind him to take up hang-gliding or sky-jumping in old age to remedy the situation. The system was unburdened of George by the drunk student driver who intersected the spry elder’s trajectory in a crosswalk.

Should I come down with something unbearable, thought Joe, laughing to himself, I’ll simply hike or ski a remote mountain trail and follow some bear tracks until…


A year later, Joe reluctantly agreed to what his doctors told him was a necessary surgery. In a few weeks (the previously rejected form having been signed) a drowsy, hospital-gowned Joe was on a gurney being pushed through double doors.

Everything went blank. He didn’t float weightlessly above the operating table and look down on himself, or walk through a dark tunnel into a bright light where saints and angels awaited. Instead, in a way, Joe got his final wish.

He awoke to find himself on a pleasant stroll with an unconcerned grizzly bear down a sunlit mountain trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. He had been here once before, a year after his father’s death. Now, it was as if he had stepped into the inspiration for Edward Hicks’ painting, The Peaceable Kingdom. And, for an Ending, it felt just right.



Paul Strickland,, of Prince George, BC, Canada, wrote BP #80’s “Excision” (+ BP #78’s “Clown Attack”; BP #77’s “Spider Line”; BP #73’s “Cold Surprise”; BP #71’s “Lust” and “Washed Away”; BP #70’s “Stuck in the Past”; BP #69’s “Ghostly Good-Bye”; BP #68’s “Rocking-Chair Ride”; BP #65’s “The Latter-Day Knight”; and was featured in BP #56 with “Boxes” and the reprint of “No Free Lunch”). He is a 60ish freelance writer in Prince George, BC, who was a newspaper reporter for 32 years, 28 of them for Canadian dailies. Born in Los Angeles, Strickland lived in Reno, Nevada for 20 years before moving permanently to Canada in 1981 in connection with his journalistic career. He turned to freelance writing and creative work in the spring of ‘09, and has since published chapbooks of poetry, essays, stories, and columns.

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