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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

children, then not, then nothing

He was a little baby. His lungs were too little to breath, his heart too little to beat, his brain too little to fizz. In the winter all weeping his mother and father buried the still life and moved on. They named him Stephen.

Stephen was older but not by much, when he stepped into the road chasing a ball. It was a runaway from the porch where his teenage cousin Ron was sitting. Ron couldn’t have expected the bounce that pushed poor Stephen into the road. He couldn’t have expected the long hauler from Texas with the load of carrots that killed Stephen that day. That birthday surgery wasn’t enough, postponing really. Ron never forgave himself and drank away the guilt, he died of liver failure in 1990. The 00’s were kinder.

The truck barely missed him, that’s how he remembered it. Stephen held on to that one as a cautionary tale.

“Never play in the street.” He’d think, “Always look both ways.”

So it went for a while that he didn’t die. No accidents or sickness, just pure unadulterated mediocrity. He played kickball and didn’t break his neck; he put pennies in his mouth but didn’t choke.

He went to high school and didn’t get laid, he went to college and did the same.

One night in his lonely was he drank too much and swallowed his vomit, the medics came but he couldn’t be saved. Another vigil on the campus lawn, with candles, and people sang but no one knew his name.

After having his stomach pumped he woke up with a wicked hangover. Doc Kidd hooked him up to an IV and he felt as good as new. He got laid later that year and was never the same.

Things were good then bad as it goes in most pointless throws of life.

A year later he waited in the ten items or less line at Ralphs. He held a couple packages of Ramen, corndogs and bottle of wine. He wanted to die then but couldn’t, he was embarrassed for himself. If someone had seen him then he would have wanted to die. Some girls offer their club card because he had forgotten his, he doesn’t feel so bad, then bad again.

“The shit people buy in this line.” He thought.

A man in front of him bought two tubs of ice cream, milk and a bottle of Draino, he imagined that man mixing them all together, miserable bastard.

At his eightieth birthday he fell in the pool then passed of pneumonia months later. He remembered wanting to live on the bottom of the pool and almost making it to the surface before his grandson Marco dragged him up.

He was happier after getting out of the hospital that year and around one hundred and fifty he developed leukemia. That, he beat for real.

In 2050 Stephen met a man named Tom Leak. Tom was forty or so and had just had his second child, it was a boy he named Tom Jr.

“I tell you what Tom there was no way I thought I would live this long. Amazing really. Don’t you think?”

“I would say so. You’re the oldest man alive by almost thirty years, I’d say that’s pretty fucking impressive.”

Stephen hadn’t thought of this before, why would he? Every day was just that, another easy day where he had to keep going. He had heard people pray for death but it wouldn’t come to him, it just wouldn’t. Every time he had a chance it was another near miss, another miraculous recovery.

Tom died later that year, then celebrated the birthday of Tom Jr a few weeks later.

Eight centuries later when Stephen sailed past the planet Saturn, after the earth was charred and destroyed, he finally considered the truth of life. He was only a shimmer, he was only a glimmer, no body, floating on forever.

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