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,
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
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
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
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.
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, email@example.com, 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”;
“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.