It’s Still Good
Copyright © 2014 by K. Albasi
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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About noontime on a humid August day George Mirner decided he’d much prefer not to be alive any longer. He was pacing back and forth in his kitchen, accompanied only by the sound of his footsteps and the hum of the refrigerator. On his table sat a birdhouse, of which he had just finished painting the trim.
George was one hundred and forty seven years old. One hundred and twenty years older than he expected to live when he was an early-twenty-something with an unhealthy romanticism of rock stars whom died young. He’d burned through three bucket lists, including travels to over two hundred countries (some of which no longer in existence, some of which thanks to his part), leaving the Earth’s atmosphere twice on business, earning doctorate degrees in philosophy, political science, and late 19th century metal work, falling in love, learning instruments and languages, buying a home, and, most recently, building a birdhouse. With each crossed out goal he found the spaces between them grew further apart. As he set the birdhouse down, checked the screws on the pipe flange, he could not see the faintest glimmer of another on the horizon.
In preparation George made sure his credit cards and utilities were paid in full and packed his belongings so his estate lawyer could easily decide what was to be done with them (sorted by dollar value). He decided he might as well wait until the next trash day, so as not to leave a rotting mess for anyone to clean up, and marked it on his calendar.
In the days preceding he continued his usual routine. Woke at 6:00am, ate a VinoSan supplement bar with coffee, hour of exercise, shower, ex vitro eggs over easy, hour of xdtube, walk, lunch, hour of xdtube, whatever project he had for the week (or another hour of xdtube), dinner, whiskey (neat), half hour reading, whiskey (neat), cigarette, hour of xdtube, bed at 10:00pm. The only deviation was one afternoon writing “thank you” notes to professional associates to show appreciation for the time spent working together and to recommended colleagues in his place, if applicable.
The day he marked was a Tuesday, and when it arrived George woke early (5:00am) and made a quick breakfast of eggs and toast before putting on a nicer pair of chinos and a button down shirt. It seemed customary to leave a note, so he dug out a pen and a pad of paper, but since he had no friends or relatives worth mentioning, no one desperately needing of an explanation, he simply scrawled:
There’s ground beef in the freezer. It’s still good.
Attached he wrote out a check for three-months rent plus an extra month for any moving expenses. Then spent an hour finishing the book he’d been reading. And smoked a cigarette.
He did a final run through of the house, unplugging any unnecessary appliances and checking that all the windows were shut and locked. As he stepped out the door he made sure he had everything he needed. His driver’s license was taped to his chest, he had his phone, considered whether it was too warm for a jacket. He checked for his keys but didn’t feel them in any of his pockets. George rushed back inside, power-walking from one end of his home to another. Halfway through tearing open a box he realized he wouldn’t really need them anyhow. He simply left the door unlocked in the off chance of a change in plan.
If George had filed the appropriate “Petition for the Relinquish of Life” forms and waited the mandatory four weeks he would be heading to the local APAC (At Peace Assistance Center) for a lethal injection of painkillers in a mood-lit booth playing a song of his choice. Instead he was on his way to a bridge that connected this state to the next. He felt there must be some amount of emotional toll operating the APAC booths, and did not want to bother anyone if at all necessary. After last night’s rain the river would surely carry him out to sea.
It was a fairly unremarkable day. The sky still overcast. He tried reading the blank faces of those he passed and wondered what his might say about him. It was rush hour and so the streets were so dense they flowed as a single stream. If he met eyes with anyone he smiled. At one point he was lock step with someone who when pulling out his holophone stumbled into George’s path and almost knocked him over.
“Sorry,” the man and George said simultaneously.
As he continued along something started to build in him. He tried his best to push it aside but it would subside only to come back stronger. Anticipating this moment he ran through countless combinations of emotions from fear to relief to apathy. He thought he’d considered everything, but not this. Nothing quite like this.
He had to shit.
If he could he would have kicked himself for not going before he left. He even thought of it as he laid out all his important personal and financial documents, but had apparently forgotten all about it after scrubbing the sink. In some sense it felt appropriate though. The discomfort would make the jump even more of an unburdening.
Continuing along, squeezing, he tried his best to take his mind off it. He focused on the clouds which seemed unable to decide whether to be white or gray. But it was clear that if he did not relieve himself soon he’d be stepping up to the plate already soiled. Onlookers would hold their noses and ask if he would please just jump already.
He would never make it back to his home in time. Looking in every boutique he found only signs stating, “Restroom for Customers Only.” If he didn’t find one soon he might have to resort to squatting behind a tree in the sidewalk.
In front of him laid a napkin, cutlery, and a placemat lined with advertisements for automotive repair shops and hover chair services. It was mPapr and when George touched each ad they expanded to the full width of the mat. One featured an old man, slight wrinkles, looking up with his wife coming up from behind, her arms draped around his shoulders. “Make the last day live up to a lifetime,” the copy said and listed a number for the Assisted Suicide Hotline.
“Hi, how are we today,” a woman asked and he turned to her. She was young. He could tell by the eagerness in her smile despite the shadows of her eyes.
“Can I start you off with anything to drink?”
“I’ll have a cup of coffee.”
“Alright. Any cream or sugar?”
“Black’s fine. Where’s your bathroom?”
“That’ll be straight on back to your right, can’t miss it.”
He went straight back and to the right. As he opened the door a florescent light flickered on. It didn’t have to flicker, but some liked the aesthetic. Normally George took great care to ensure the sanitation of the seat but it now felt superfluous. On the stall wall it was faintly scratched, “was here.” The name now illegible.
When he came out he sat down at his booth and the waitress dropped the cup of coffee in front of him.
“Do you know what else you’ll be having?” she asked.
“I hadn’t really thought of it.”
He thought of asking what would be good last meal, but didn’t want to put that on her.
“What would you recommend?”
“My favorite is the seafood salad sandwich, which is a spread of shrimp, crab, bananafish, and celery on multigrain VinoSan bread. It comes with a side of alfalfa chips.”
“Sounds good,” he said and handed her his menu.
His meal came out quickly. He finished it just the same.
“Will we be having any dessert? More coffee?”
“No thank you. I should be going.”
“Big day today?”
“Well, yeah. I’m running late as it is,” George said. He paused. “Big presentation at the office.”
“Good luck. I would be a wreck if I had to do something like that.”
“You do em’ so many times it stops feeling really like you’re doing anything.”
She brought him his check. The bill was three hundred dollars. George pulled out his wallet and left sixteen thousand. When he stepped outside he was trying to figure out the quickest way to the bridge when he heard a call from behind.
The waitress came hobbling over to him, legs restricted by her apron.
“ I just- thank you.”
“It’s nothing,” he said. “Really.”
She threw her arms around him, pinning his own to his side so that he couldn’t return the gesture. After what felt like an hour she wiped her face and returned to the restaurant.
George stood in the alleyway. No indication of moving one way or another. It slowly settled on him that he had no choice but to turn back home. The girl might later hear of his fall and feel conflicted about the gesture, wondering if her excitement blinded her to his suffering, knowing that it was born less out of generosity. For a second he thought of going in and explaining things to her. That this was what he wanted. Or rather this was his lack of wanting. In any case that she shouldn’t feel bad. There were ninety-eight billion other wanters in the world and there wasn’t room for anyone without a stake.
But there was nothing he could say to make her not want him to live.
So he started towards his house, finding some solace in that when he returned he would be able to watch Reanimated Celebrity Boxing. When it came into sight he saw his front door was open. Inside his boxes were ripped and spilled. Many missing. The guts of his refrigerator were strewn about the floor and his ground beef was open and collecting flies.
George shook out a trash bag and got to work.
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About the Author
K. Albasi is a writer of short stories, novels, screenplays, irregular blog posts, tweets, grocery lists, and unfinished to-dos. He graduated from Temple University and currently resides in Philadelphia, PA with his cat Emperor Palpatine.
"About noontime on a humid August day George Mirner decided he’d much prefer not to be alive any longer." In a world where science has finally cracked the secret to living forever, one man decides to die. "It's Still Good" is a short story exploring what happens when immortality gets old.