Short Stuff

By Lee Rector


♦ ♦ ♦



A Dog’s Tail


Spotch was a dog friend of mine. I called him Spotch because he was half spaniel, half Scotty.


Spotch and I used to meet each other on the way to school. He belonged to an old man that lived down the street.


Old Spotch used to walk along with me to the gate of the schoolhouse. And he would always be there when school got out. And he wasn’t even my dog.


But one day Spotch wasn’t at the gate and I was afraid that he might have been hit by a car or something worse. I walked toward Mr. Kirby’s house a little faster that day.


Mr. Kirby was an old man with white hair that used to always wear overalls and red plaid flannel shirts. Even in the summer he wore long underwear because he would roll up the sleeves of his flannel shirt and his underwear would show at his wrists.


When I got to Mr. Kirby’s house I ran up onto the porch. He was sitting there in the swing.


“Where’s Spotch?”


 Mr. Kirby knew who I meant, but he called the dog Pooch. I would have called him Pooch took, but I forgot his name and so Spotch was what I started calling him. Spotch was my special friend; see, because my mother wouldn’t let me have a dog. And Spotch was just like my own dog. I guess I spent more time over at Mr. Kirby’s after school than at my own house when the weather was nice.


Mr. Kirby looked up at me and frowned. “Isn’t Pooch with you?”


“No, Mr. Kirby. I was wondering why he wasn’t at the gate.”


“Well, I haven’t seen him all day. I figured he was up at the school.”


Mr. Kirby took out his pipe and slowly packed it full of tobacco. I was standing there looking at him wondering why he wasn’t excited or something.


“I wonder if he was hit by a car,” I said.


Mr. Kirby took a kitchen match out of the top pocket of his overalls and raked it on the side of the porch swing. He put the match to his pipe and puffed a few times till the bowl was glowing. Slowly he shook the match till the flame was out and tossed it on the porch.


“Do you think that something has happened to Spotch?”


Mr. Kirby got up and put his hand on my shoulder. I knew that something was wrong.


“I know where Pooch is, boy. Come with me and I’ll show him to ‘ya.”


I just knew that Spotch was dead. Mr. Kirby guided me off the porch and around the corner of the house. We walked along the garden where he grew vegetables in the summer and around to the back of the house.


Mr. Kirby went to the door of the tool shed and pulled it open.


“Old Pooch is in here.” He pointed in the shed.


I didn’t want to look in.


“Is he dead?”


“She, my boy. Take a look.”


I looked in the tool shed and there was Spotch. Old Spotch looked up at me with her big brown eyes and had something like a smile. Spotch was lying on his side in a pile of white rags. Attached to Spotch were four little puppies.


“But I don’t understand, Mr. Kirby.”


“Well son, Old Pooch wasn’t what you thought he was.”


“You mean Spotch is a girl?”




After that I didn’t see Spotch as much anymore, ‘cause I had a dog of my own. You see, my Mama let me have one of  Spotch’s puppies.




♦ ♦ ♦



The Critic



“Just how influential is Mr. Goldfarb?”


“He is the master critic in the country.”


“Oh, is that so?”


“What’s that?”


“Mrs. Grashner knows him personally.”




“Yes, dear. We might have a chance after all.”


The man’s wife looked at her husband. A certain gleam, much like that of well-lit gold began to shine in her eyes.


“The Producer estimated $500,000, honey.”


She turned from her husband and walked toward a chair by the fireplace.


“It would mean that we could move up to 32nd street.”


Her husband was silently watching her as she made a circle around the room.


“We could have an apartment on the 25th floor looking out over Central Park.”


“Honey, don’t get too excited now. We don’t know anything at this point.”


“The man’s wife looked at him and said, “Mrs. Grashner owes me a favor after all I have done for her. She could introduce us to this man. We could become friends. He would be sure to give you a good review. I could get what I wanted and you could have your play produced uptown before long. Five hundred thousand dollars. Think about that honey.”


“I think you’re getting a little dreamy, honey. You can’t make plans like that. The show hasn’t opened Off-Broadway yet. And you are fully aware of the reviews that it received in Washington. What’s the matter with where we live right now, anyway?


“It’s not up town enough for me. I’m sick and tired of the Village and all of those hippie people.”


“Oh, come on. You’re not that high society yet, are you?”


“Honey, it’s not a matter of being high society. If we want to move up, and I think we do, then we’ve got to make some moves towards doing so. Now if we can butter up Mr. Goldfarb to write a good review, we’re on our way.”


“Honey, would you like Mr. Goldfarb to write something he didn’t believe. After all dear, criticism is for the masses.”


“You’re contradicting yourself, my darling.”


“OK. But the show is going to go ahead and open here even after a bad review in Washington.”


“That’s what I’m talking about, for God’s sake. If the show is reviewed badly by Mr. Goldfarb you can bet on the fact that it will not stay open very long in New York. Swallow your goddamn pride for a minute and let’s get a dinner date with the man. Like I said, if you’re going to move up, you’ve got to make the first move.”


“I can just see his review now: ‘After a wonderful evening last week with the playwright and his drooling wife, I still must conclude that this is the worst play of the decade.' Would you call that swallowing your pride?”


“Do what you good and well please then. I’ve had all of this I can take. If you want to sit around and write all the time why didn’t you marry a poetess or something? I thought we were going to have something to live for.”


“Don’t you think that you’re carrying this a little too far?”


“No, god damn it, I don’t! You’ve had me running errands for long enough. I’m sick of living here in this perverted end of town. I’m sick of you being at the theatre half the night and then coming home and changing the goddamn scripts all night long. I’m sick of your spending two and three months away while you’re doing those silly rewrites. Now either you make a move to get me up where I want to be, or I’ll make a move away!”


“I don’t think that I’ve ever seen you act like this before. What do you want? To love me, or to be married to a man whose name may someday be big?”


“Love you? For God’s sake – love you? What do you mean, love you? That’s just exactly what I’ve been talking about, except in reverse. You’re never here to love me. The only thing you love is to labor over some goddamn typewriter in the back of the theatre somewhere. I can’t love you till you love me.”


“Then what in the hell was all this talk about 32nd street?”


“All the talk about that was to get me somewhere that I could do something. If you are not going to be with me, then let me move somewhere that I can find a man who will.”


“What in the hell do you mean?”

“I’m tired of waiting, that’s what I mean. It’s time for me to start looking.”


“God, you are a bitch.”


“Honey, my problem is that I’m not impotent.”


“So you think I’m impotent, huh?”


“Yes, and until you prove me different, I will continue.”


“How can you expect me to have that on my mind with all that’s been going on around here recently?”


“I don’t expect you to have it on your mind. You never have.”


“God, woman. That’s an evil thing to say.”


“Prove it wrong.”


“I don’t have to prove it wrong. But I would like to know what you do during those cold winter nights that I’m away. Ah ha! Something I’ve never suspected until now. Who is he? Huh? Someone prove to be a better lover than I, huh?


“I’m going over to Mrs. Grashner’s.”


What for, huh? You’re not going to …”


“For a little consolation, and perhaps some hard core sex!”




♦ ♦ ♦



He Traced the Steps of the Sun


Soon after the sun had risen, and before the sprinkled dew on the grass had evaporated and disappeared, Walter was again out on the road.


He only lived six miles from the landing so it did not take him long to launch his boat into the morning water.


The crystal lake was standing in her eternal resting place and enjoying the kiss of the crimson lips of the son. Walter unloaded his small fishing pram and primed the motor readying himself for a prosperous morning of fishing. The motor started with a roaring buzz and he put it into gear. Slowly he began to edge out of the cover of the landing towards the main channel.


Walter increased the speed of his small boat and perched his head high in the air to let the cool, moist morning wind of the lake rustle his hair about. With the breath of the lake and the bow of his pram cutting new paths into the still water, Walter was once again beginning his every day.


Walter was a retired business executive from the city who moved out to the wilderness at the death of his wife. He built a small cabin and spends most of his days working on his motor, boat, or preparing for his daily fishing. But his biggest preoccupation was waiting for the pension check that faithfully came every month.


Walter turned into the main channel of the lake and his boat swiftly moved across to the other side. A crane lifted his wings from the surface of the water and trailed his tail through the glassy mirror disturbing the perfect stillness of the morning. Walter slowed his boat to a crawl as he move from the channel into his favorite fishing arm of the lake.


The water was sitting there perfectly motionless beaconing to the small boat and the fisherman who controlled her. Walter cut the engine of his pram and the boat glided silently deeper into the cover. Walt took out a paddle and cautiously swirled it through the water giving the boat a slow forward thrust, disturbing not even the ducks floating by or the soft shelled turtles on the logs.


Again Walter’s mind wondered off from the lake, and way above the sky as he kept his rhythmic propulsion motion going. He was again thinking of the days back in the city, which he so very much missed. In his daydream he could almost smell the buss odors and gasoline fumes stimulating his nostrils. He heard the roar and squeak of the trains and the whines of police sirens. Horns echoing in his memory’s ears to break the solace of the quiet stillness of this place.


He had almost reached the back of the cove when he brought in his paddle and carefully laid it into the bottom of the boat. Walter grasped hold of the fishing rod that was strategically placed beside him and reaching into his tackle box he lifted out his champion lure and secured it to his line. There still had been no sound in the cove until his hideous looking lure slapped the water and sat undisturbed. Walter twitched his line and the lure sputtered and patted on the surface of the lake.


At that precise moment a boiling came from below the lake and a roaring splash echoed from tree to tree. Walter felt his line tighten. He gave the rod a sharp jerk and the hook was set. Out of the water came a streak of silver and brown that looked deliciously fierce as it caressed the mid morning sun and returned into his home with a fighting pull.


Walter kept the line tight and played the fish until he could feel it tiring. Closer and closer to the boat he dragged the competitor on the other end of the line. Both fighting for their lives, both living for their deaths.


Walter reeled the fish up to the side of the pram and stood up reaching for his landing net. He took the net and dipped t into the water and moved it under the fish.


With a violent surge of power the fish reared back on his tail and threw himself high into the air. Walter lost his balance. The pram was capsizing dreadfully fast and Walter shifted his weight to the other side. But the boat shifted with him and he felt his shirt grow damp. Opening his eyes he saw his tackle box chasing him to the dark bottom of the lake, and following it was his pram and motor. The sounds of sirens grew faint and distant like an ambulance driving away.


On the surface of the cove was a paddle floating across the water and meandering towards the shore.  Walter’s champion lure, trailed by the line to which it was so carefully tied bobbed aimlessly.


A crane had come back to the cover for her evening meal and behind her gliding wings and feet reaching for the glassy surface of the mirror-like cove the crimson sun kissed goodnight to the lake.




♦ ♦ ♦


The Ways of the Barge


Last night as a shadow of loneliness fell upon my body I decided to take a serene walk through a corn patch. I walked down a dirt roadway and passed a crane that looked up at me and, detecting no threat, continued to gather its meal from the swampy marsh.


The evening sun was peeking through a growth of birches on the horizon. Above it was a buttermilk sky and I could make out faces in the floating cotton.


As I continued the road become more wild and narrow.


I passed row after row of corn looking down the furrows and I grew dizzy as I saw the green stalks past as I seemed to stand still on the roadway.


The loneliness had left me for now I had many friends to enjoy and to share my problems with. The crane, the cornstalks, the clouds, they all seemed to greet me as friends.


When I reached the end of the road and the birches were at my fingertips, I turned around to see the land that was now behind me. There was the conr field, and beyond a rolling hill colored a deep evening green. The leaves of the birches were quaking and fluttering in the breeze.


Behind the birches lay the great and strong Missouri river. I walked to the edge of the birches and the river seemed to beckon me to join her. My feet scrambled down the dirt bank to a levee where large boulders had been stacked by men to combat erosion. I climbed through the rocks to the water’s edge.


I sat there gazing at the water, and was dizzied with a twirling sensation as I followed sticks, bottles and debris that was circling in the eddies of the master. My attention was distracted by a piece of paper that circled round and round.


Yes, the river was master. Master water dividing one world from another: A strong and formidable obstacle separating banks and taking sides.


The far bank was characterized by lowlands. A at the water’s edge there also was a stand of birches. Willows too were switching at the cool breeze that was yet another companion that I accepted with open heart.


The river was dark. Muddy. Yet somehow it was still inviting. I had an urge to jump into one of the hypnotizing eddies, yet was aware of the river’s power and danger.


Around the bend there was a humming sound, and as I looked up I first saw the river roll and part into a boiling wave of mud coming. It was followed by a huge mass of rusty brown metal. The rumble grew and magnified. Rounding the bend came a tug, pushing with great floating engines belching black smoke through deep metallic vibrations blasting its message of determination, muscle and pain.


I thought to my self how faithful the engine is to its master, just as the river is faithful to the land. Although assaulting what was previously peaceful and pastoral, the roaring engines almost became warming to the ears. It was a demonstration of dedication: A machine of man, or a creation of nature, both steadfastly holding true to the mandates of their masters.


Man is a master.


Master of himself.


How different we are from those other creations.


How untrue we can be to our courses.


How destructive can be our courses as we round our river bends.


The barge edged closer, not faltering , not slowing. It just kept coming true, and held faithful to the pilot at the helm.


The river kept churning. Forcing its power downstream against the upstream course of the barge. It curled and succumbed. Eddies disappeared under creeping steel measuring out its slow upward course.


When the barge was opposite me, it was so close I could have thrown a rock on deck. I sat on the rocks and marveled at the river’s unyielding attempt to stop it and turn it back. But the message from the three smoke stacks was clear. They sang a song of progress, and nothing the river offered could have the power to turn them away. It was a sound of power. A sound of overpower.


But was this really overpower? Yes, for now, but how long?


The runs, will always run, has always been and always will be.


So one could say that the engine is overpowering the river, but only until it runs out of fuel, or waters are no longer deep enough to keep it afloat. And when the fuel is exhausted, when the fire is extinguished, the great powerful engine and the long, long, barge is powerless to the might of the river.


As the stern of the tug passed, a mountain of water plowed up by the props left a fierce and mad river. The scars of the barge took long to wear of, but the river never faltered. It still ran its course and the water still flowed. Soon eddies began to appear again and the water smoothed out. Sticks and bottles spun and bobbed.


I wondered if barges were as men in the eyes of God: Arrogant and determined to bully his way through the universe proving his great mastery of that which is there.


I wondered if men stirred scars on the river of God, as they do in the hearts of others.


But the scars in the river soon settled, soon calmed, and all was soon quiet as it was before the invasion.


If man like the tug, slowly pushing his way upstream, were to change direction and to follow the course of the river imagine how different it would be. Throttles would be backed off, the black smoke would diminish to puffs and struggle would turn into swift, effortless progress.


It is a choice – which way we go. It is our choice.


The water had now returned to its solemn wondering. In the distance one could hear – up and around the bend – the churning of the barge.


And the river?  It stood faultless ready to face all comer with confidence.


I looked to the far bank to take a final view of the settling darkness. Mosquitoes were out and had broken the spell of the peace.


Downstream a light was searching the shoreline. There was a rumble behind the bend. Another barge was coming. I climbed up the rocks to the road and started walking through the dark rows of corn….from my field of friends back into loneliness.




♦ ♦ ♦


Kite Weather


I was sitting in German class taking an examination I had no business taking. It had been a long time since I had studied the subject and I was facing a situation of flunking gracefully, or disgracefully.


The professor said, “Herr Rector, offen das fenster.”


I got it. I actually recognized the words as meaning, “open the window.”


I stood on my chair to reach the latch, self-consciously knowing that the classroom was watching to see how gracefully the shortest guy in the class could stretch up on his tiptoes, extend his arm and manipulate the latch on the high window of the century old classroom. I was now worried. I knew that I could accomplish the feat without difficulty as I had been called upon to do it many times before.


With ease, I snapped the latch and then sat back down in my seat. Reaching through the sharp metal blades of the Venetian Blinds, I raised the window about eight inches. The blinds made a metallic cracking sound as they snapped back into form.


I felt like I was going to have to put my jacket on, because it was cold outside.


The duty was one of the boring little things that I hated about sitting next to the window. But it had its advantages too.


As the breeze came across the furnace register and the odor of freshness hit my nostrils, I suddenly snapped awake. To my surprise, however, the air was not cold at all, but it had the alertness of spring.


I looked out through the bars of the windows through the naked treetops.


I was thinking about how it could be spring, as long as I held my eyes above the snow covered ground.


It didn’t really feel like spring, but more like the first day of kite weather. You know, when most of the snow has melted off and the ground is moist and cold. It is on these days, when the sky looks warm, that a person can capture the feeling.


It’s a Saturday morning and two friends and I are on our way to the corner drug store.


We know well what we want because we saw them there Friday after school. We each have fifty cents we’ve taken from our savings. We jingle the nickels and pennies in our pockets on the way.


For a while we’ll run, but we have to stop (sooner or later) to tie the laces on our high-top tennis shoes.


It always seems warm when we first go out, but soon it gets chilly and we wish we had the jackets that our mothers had urged us to take.


Finally we arrive, rosy-cheeked, at the drug store and laughingly go inside. We notice, along with the smells of magazines, candy and medicines, that it is much warmer inside.


Today we walk past the candy rack to the toy counter where we all go to the bottom shelf. Lying on the shelf are a bunch of lonely looking paper kites, just waiting to be unrolled and freed to the wind. I saw a yellow paper one that I wanted. I got my kite and a spool of string and then went to the counter to pay. My friends soon followed with blue and red kites. We all had enough money to gaze at the candy counter wide-eyed, and then to all buy bubble gum and a candy bar.


We were ready now. Outside we went running for the vacant lot by the highway.


Soon there, biting our tongues, we assembled our flimsy kites.


I had stuck some rags in my pocked and pulled them out to tie together for a tail.


Tommy forgot his, so I gave him half of mine.


Eddy broke one of his sticks, so we wrapped it with string, and it held, barely, for a while.


I got a stick and slipped it through the hole in the ball of twine. I was ready to go. Tommy was slow, but I waited, tossing the kite up in the air and piddling around.


Soon we were all ready.


Tossing our kites and thrashing through the dried winter weeds with our little legs…we ran away, pulling our kites into the air.


Eddy’s collapsed and almost tore.


Tommy and I were running together…mine was low and his as high. Then he took a nose dive and almost wiped out. Mine just stayed low.


“Come on … come on,” I teased the line.


Then all of a sudden, as if someone had grabbed it, my kite soared up and the line reeled out. She was up!


I let out more line. Higher and higher she flew.


Out of breath I dropped to the cold ground and rolled over on my back.


The line was near its end, and I tied it to the stick.


Now I could catch my breath.


I looked up at the kite, completely forgetting my friends. I was up there with that kite.


I liked the yellow against the blue and puffy white sky.


I was free.


I was in a sort of unobtainable flight.


But there was this string holding me back.


My kite was up and far away. I wanted to be that kite. I wanted to see her fly free.


I looked at the stick.


I was the holder of the string.


I held the kite, my kite, back from free flight.


I wanted to watch the kite fly away free, but I wanted to keep my kite.


If I keep my kite, I can pull it back to earth and have the illusion over again.


What I really wish is that the kite would pull me up and into the far away.


But now matter how I stretched my imagination, I knew that the kite could not pull me away. I could not depend on a paper kite in order to receive free flight.


I laid there on the ground with the moisture from the soil wetting and staining my clothes.


How I wanted to let my kit go. I wanted to see some one, or some thing in free flight.


Maybe I would like to be the kite and have someone else at the helm. That way I would not be deprived of my possession when the controller let go of the string. I would be released into free flight.


I wonder, though, if I were a kite…wouldn’t I miss the person who released me to the freedom of the world? And sooner or later the string is going to wrap around something, or the wind will stop, and then I would be without a controller and fall…


No matter how I looked at it as a kite, I had to had to have some outside force to control my destiny. The holder of the string, or the strength of the wind.


I don’t think I want to be a kite right now. And I won’t let my kite go, either. It’s not because I’m so stingy that I won’t give my kite freedom, but because I want to help it get back down.


I was controller of the kite. It was my responsibility to bring her safely to earth.


But was there a controller … for the controller?


It has been a hard day at play and we three boys were tired and walking back home to get in out of the twilight cold. I was the only one left with a kite.


Mom ran me into the bathroom to take a hot bath.


I got up from my seat and handed the test paper to the professor. Half of the questions were left unanswered, half of the problems left unsolved. I knew that I should have tried, but I really didn’t care.




♦ ♦ ♦


The Waterworks


It was morning at the metropolitan water works.


The highly polished concrete floor of the main hall in the water plant stretched endlessly. A dullness glowed from fluorescent tubes regimentally strung on straight conduit pipes hung from the ceiling.


Huge green water pipes rushed the current past the dynamos that spun out  a sleepy whirr.. The white-clad engineers were spaced up and down the hall with clipboards checking gauges.


The giant hall had a metallic smell similar to that of chlorine. At the far end of the car a giant metal door, actuated by an electric motor, separated the cave-like chill of the water plant from the sunshine and warmth outside.


A specific alertness echoed from end to end.


At precisely eight o’clock (as they did every morning) the grind of the motors cued the engineers to face the door and snap to attention.


The large doors slowly cracked and sunlight began to squeeze through the barriers to temporarily violate the antiseptic chamber.


The front of a dull blue military personnel carrier became visible. Bleached concrete stretched behind the vehicle and disappeared between two sandstone bluffs.


Finally the doors stopped with a sharp thud and the armored truck inched into the great hall. As it rolled past the uniformed engineers, their elbows bent up into a sharp salute and again snapped back to their sides.


As the truck moved toward the end of the hall, one quarter of a mile away, the heavy doors began to close, sealing the water plant from the outside world.


The motor of the stuck stopped. There was no sound in the hall, except that of the dynamos. A lieutenant stepped out of the armored door in the back of the truck and stared down the hall.


The heavy clank closing the doors prompted the lieutenant to shout, “Carry on gentlemen.”


The engineers again turned to their gauges to attend to their business as before.


Three more officers inconspicuously stepped out of the vehicle. They formed a squad and stood at attention waiting for “the man.”


Approximately ten seconds houred before the dark figure appeared in the doorway of the personnel carrier. He was in a business suit and carried a black brief case. A sharp salute was presented by the small squad facing the truck.


Another ten seconds passed.


At last the man returned the salute and called the men to ease. He stepped down from the truck.


“Well Lieutenant, shall we proceed?” the dark figure said.


“Yes sir,” was the lieutenant’s smart reply.


The lieutenant broke ranks from the squad and walked to the side of the dark man. The two officials then walked over to a valve stemming off of the main water pipe and stopped.


The lieutentant unlocked a box and threw a switch which abruptly stopped the whirring of the water works.


The man placed his briefcase on the floor beside him and began to unscrew the access to the valve. The dark man removed the lid that gave access to the valve. Some water boiled out of the pipe and beaded up on the freshly waxed concrete floor.


Out of the valve the dark man pulled a glassy cylinder about five inches long.


He looked at the lieutenant.


“Well sir,” he said, “If the research is correct, the entire metropolitan area will have received the treatment within 48 hours…”


“True, sir,” the lieutenant agreed, “this is probably going to be the greatest advancement in government since the internet.”


“It will be, lieutenant. I t will be so,” the dark man replied.


He opened his briefcase and replaced the glass cylinder he had taken out of the valve with an identical one filled with a clear thick liquid.


“Quite simple, isn’t it lieutenant? Can’t understand why this wasn’t done decades ago,” said the dark man.


“Yes sir, and it’s much better than putting it in the milk. Everyone doesn’t drink milk, but sooner or later everyone takes a drink of water,” the lieutenant added.


“Perceptive of you lieutenant. But I think we had already considered this factor. This project is a result of 30 years of research.”


“Forgive me, sir?”


“That’s quite all right lieutenant. After all we can’t all be scientists. You see, by putting it in the water, it becomes a part of everything eventually. Irrigation will put it into the soil. Watering animals and plant materials will incorporate it into the foods we eat as well as the milk we drink, so you see, treatment is virtually inescapable.”


“It is truly ingenious,” the lieutenant commented.


“The government thinks so.”


The dark man smiled at the lieutenant, turned and placed the empty glass cylinder into his brief case.


Facing the lieutenant the dark man said, “Now sir!”


“Yes,” the lieutenant beamed.


The dark man reached into the metal box and placed his hand on the master switch. Clutching the handle of the switch he snapped his wrist and started the treatment on it’s speedy way into the reservoir.


“Sir, it is truly a privilege to be the one to do this act,” the dark man said to the lieutenant.” At last, it has been done.


Putting his hand on the lieutenant’s shoulder the dark man said, “How would you like to be the very first to drink?”


“Oh, sir, I would like that very much.” The wide-eyed lieutenant replied.


The governor and the lieutenant walked along the main water pipe to a fountain in the hall where the engineers drank.


“Drink up, lieutenant!” the governor said.


“”First fluoride, than polio vaccine, then smallpox vaccine, then cancer vaccine, and now this,” the lieutenant smiled.


“Yes lieutenant, we have virtually eliminated disease, and now we eliminate old age … we all shall stay young forever.”


The lieutenant leaned over the arc of water from the fountain and took a long noisy drink.


“Thank you sir, for letting me have this privilege.”


“All your ills are now cured. You are drinking from Ponce de Leon’s dream, the first real fountain of youth.”


“One thing I don’t understand, sir.”


“What’s that lieutenant?”


“Why wasn’t there a ceremony for this event?”


“Why? Now that’s a silly question, lieutenant. You know as well as I that this mission is top secret.”


“That’s what I don’t understand. Why is a mission of such great human importance, top secret?”


“We don’t want an uprising of the people.”


“But why would people be upset about something like this?”


“Some people don’t want to be taking any medication through the water. Some people actually believe that the government does not have their best interests at heart.”


“But, it’s for their own good?”


“Yes, lieutenant. We government officials know it is for the people’s good, but many of the people out there just don’t want to accept it.”


“I just don’t understand it,” the lieutenant puzzled. “Why would people not want to welcome this wonderful benefit?”


“The way the people will benefit most from this is the greater power it will bestow on the government,” the governor inserted. “There are many who violently oppose this, as you well know.”


“I’m still in the dark here, I just don’t understand,” the lieutenant said dreamily.


“So is most everyone else, lieutenant. That’s what makes it so wonderful. The people who have been in the dark for so many years have finally come around to the light. You see the drug we have released will eliminate all mental disease – particularly the one we are most concerned with – dissention.”


“What is it you are putting into the water, sir?”


The lieutenant was beginning to see a glimmer of understanding. There was a long pause from the governor that suggested omnipotence.


The lieutenant began to feel very small, standing next to the giant dark man. Curiously child-like, the lieutenant again addressed the governor. “What is in the water sir? What will it do?”


“It is the fountain of youth my good boy. It will make you feel young again. It will make you innocent,” the governor paused, “almost like a child.”


The great man looked down on the lieutenant and said in a gentle father-like tone, “It’s an altered form of lysergic acid diethylmide made expressly for this assignment, son.”


The lieutenant’s eyes were dilating. As he was finally beginning to understand, he surveyed the waterworks in a different perspective.


The governor turned from the valve and walked toward the personnel carrier.


The young soldier wagged closely behind.





♦ ♦ ♦






Last Edited: 7/31/2001 10:56 PM


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