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A Country For Old Men
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 1

This morning my son came to visit me.

This is such a rare thing nowadays that I knew right away that something must be wrong. He only comes to me when he has, as he says, problems to sort out.

I was sitting in my wheelchair tending to the plants in the border along the outside path. I donít really need the wheelchair, of course, not yet Ė I can get along on my own, more or less Ė but itís still a convenience. When you get to my age you appreciate anything that could save you effort, because the simplest job of yesteryear becomes as difficult as climbing Chomolungma.

Iíd just finished trimming a camellia bush when I felt someone was there, and with a touch of the button on the arm-rest I swung the wheelchair around. Sure enough, he was leaning against the wall of the house, looking at me.

"Dad," he said without preamble, "I want to talk to you about this...this choice...youíve made." He made a face as he uttered the word, as though it tasted bad in his mouth.

"I thought weíd gone through that years ago," I said, taking off my gloves and dropping the shears into the bag at my side. Obviously, there wasnít going to be any further gardening done today, now that he was here. "I explained my decision at the time, as you remember, right when the thing started."

"This...Dad," he said, coming towards me, "you have to think it over again. You know how many have changed their minds. You could, too."

"Why should I?" I steered the wheelchair round him Ė it was tricky in that confined space, but I managed it all right Ė and through the kitchen door. "I donít see any reason I should."

"Bee and I both think..." he broke off, looking around the kitchen with disgust. All right, I know Iím not the neatest of people, but Iím neat enough to suit me and besides we old folk donít have the energy to keep cleaning.

"Bee and you think?" I prompted him. Bee is his nickname for his wife, a ludicrously twee name for a bossy little woman I canít stand and whoís never hidden her distaste for me. "What do Bee and you think?"

"Itís the children," he said in an almost apologetic tone. He and his wife actually have children, a rare thing in this day and age. "Itís an embarrassment for them in school, you know." He was squirming with discomfort, hoping I would make it easy for him.

"What is?" I answered, as though I didnít know. "Why donít you sit down and tell me whatís troubling your children?"

He sat, gingerly, on the one chair at my kitchen table. I was, of course, still in the wheelchair. "Itís like this, Dad," he said in a rush, "Bee says itís a blot on the family, having a, a, you know..."

"A...?" I asked, with malicious pleasure. "Come on, tell me."

"Someone who hasnít agreed to the transfer," my son temporised. "The kids get teased in school by the other children, they say, that their grandpa is crazy. And Bee, I mean, she said it might hurt our and the kidsí careers if this situation persists, so you need to agree to the transfer."

"Hold it!" I said. "In the first place, each person has a right to agree to the transfer process or not, as you know. Itís entirely a personal decision, and the law says nobody can discriminate on that basis."

"The law, yes." He leaned across the table earnestly. "But you know as well as I do that the law isnít everything."

"And itís not even as though itís you or your children who made the decision," I pointed out. "Itís only I, and Iím of the old lot, the very oldest. Your familyís free to make its own decisions."

"Nobody thinks logically, do they? Not always. Dad, at least can you tell me...why?"

"Why?" I struggled out of the chair to make some coffee. Coffee is one of my few real pleasures in life, and I buy some of the best. "You ask why?"

I glanced at him over my shoulder, and saw that he really wanted to know. For a moment I had a sudden stab of pity for him. A successful professional in a business suit, he is these days, but at that moment he was still the small boy who came running to me with a hundred questions, eager for information. "A better question would be, why not?"

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:Science Fiction
Type:Short story
Rating:7.51 / 10
Rated By:45 users
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