The International Writers Magazine: Dying Young
not going to die on me, are you Gramps?"
I tried not to sound worried; that wouldnt do.
course Im going to die boy, Im a hundred and seventeen years
old. I cant hold on forever, and I dont want to anyway."
He let out a string of weak coughs and wheezes. His wrinkled hand touched
a white cloth to his lips. It came away smeared with bright red blood
spots. "This bodys been good to me, but Ive got about
all the use out of it that Im going to get. It wore out before
my brain did; Ill have to file a complaint with the home office."
He was right about that. The old fart was still as sharp as ever. That
just made it harder for me to see him go.
"It should be raining." I said. "The weather isnt
It was midday, and there were no clouds.
"Yeah, youre right. I always thought it would be raining
when I died. Close the blinds please. Thank you. Now sit down over here,
and stop looking so damn sad. Ive had one hundred seventeen years,
and a lot of them werent too bad. Thats more than enough
for anyone, besides Im tired of looking at you; you look too much
like your mother."
"I dont look anything like Ma, Gramps."
"Dont contradict me boy, Im dying here. Now listen
close, because Ive lived a long time, longer than most people
live these days, and I need it to count for something. Do you know what
I thought for a while, but couldnt come up with anything.
"Today is the one hundred year anniversary of the first time I
made love to a woman. I tell you now, the only regret I have is that
I didnt start sooner. There is nothing in this life more valuable
than the love of a good woman. Remember I said that boy; there are a
lot of things I could tell you, but thats the first, because its
the most important. Dont spend any more time alone than you absolutely
"Ok. Ill remember Gramps." Gramps had outlived three
wives, each younger than the last. I hoped that his stamina was genetic.
"When I was the age you are now," he continued after a short
fit of coughing "the world was a very different place. Ive
seen two world wars, and damn near three. I saw people shot into space
after years of hearing how impossible the idea was. I lived to see an
animal cloned, and human genetic research developed at an impossible
rate. Understand, boy, that there are things that exist now that were
known to be impossible when I was born. Even as we speak, there are
remotely controlled machines creeping across the surface of Mars. Mars,
for the love of God!" He was too excited. He coughed for a long
time, and I rushed to get him some water.
"Take it easy Gramps. I think I get the picture."
"Yes. I suppose you do. Youve been listening to it for long
enough. Thats all right; youll only have to hear it once
more. Im running out of time, so Ill get to the point. All
the things you see, you can know about; someone, somewhere has written
it all down. All you have to do is look it up, and looking up information
gets easier every day. You can have my books. Theyre in storage
downtown, and the nurse has an envelope with the key and some other
things for you. Take care of them and theyll take care of you."
He coughed some more and took a moment to catch his breath. "Thanks
Gramps. Ill take care of them."
He nodded and wiped the cloth across his mouth again. "I havent
left much of a mark on this world, except for you. Youre all thats
left to remind the world that I passed through. Ive tried to teach
you all that you need to know, and I know youre a smart kid. All
that I ask is that you set yourself apart from all the unthinking fools
that surround us. All the hapless sheep who would rather be lead than
be responsible for themselves will only slow you down or hate and kill
you. You know how to think, thats the biggest advantage you have
over them. You may find one in five thousand or so who can relate to
you, but the rest will despise you for telling them things they dont
want to hear, and showing them things they dont want to see.
" You cant hate them back, because we are them. We just had
someone to teach us how to think, but we cant make them think,
and there are only so many who can even be taught to think. Far too
many of them will believe anything that theyre told as long they
dont have to try too hard to understand it. Thats one of
the reasons religion is such big business, even today. We live in an
age of miracles boy; we are surrounded by them. Its oh so easy
to take them on faith, but I tried to teach you better than that. Their
secrets can be your secrets, if you want them. There are only two sins
that I have known of in all my days. The first is the unnecessary harm
of another. The second, is to take the miracles for granted."
He was getting weaker. His breath was more shallow and labored.
"Ok Gramps. Ok, I understand." I took the cloth from him and
wiped the droplets of blood from his lips.
"One last thing boy." The words came slowly, and I had to
lean close to hear them. "Measure
your days in love
of your days
thats all that counts."
His eyes were already closed, and his breath stopped. One final exhalation
of life, and he was somewhere else. Someplace where he didnt need
his body anymore. I covered him with a sheet, and closed the door behind
After the nurse gave me the things he left for me, I set out to make
my life worth something that could be measured in love.
© Brodie Parker April 2004
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