Monday, August 24, 2009


‘No one will ever tell me what I can say or not say or what I can think or not think. I still live in a free country!’ Those had been his words only a few weeks before today. But today he had been to the pharmacy. They could not—would not—fill his prescription for blood pressure medicine. When he had objected that he was paying cash for his medicine instead of using the state program for older persons, he had been told that no medications could be dispensed outside of the guidelines of the program. In other words, he had to subscribe to the state’s program or do without.

He had known the pharmacist for years at this store, but his friend no longer worked in the pharmacy. He had been retired a few weeks earlier because he had objected to the guidelines for dispensing medications. One of the pharmacy clerks caught up with Johnson as he left the store and quickly whispered that his friend the pharmacist had taken some of the final solution. The clerk expressed her disbelief in his acquiescence to its administration. Johnson would not find any information in the state run newspapers since obituaries were no longer permitted.

A few days later, even though his head was pounding, Johnson had decided that he had to go to his favorite all-in-one-stop store to buy a few groceries. This store had the motto ‘As Joe’s Goes, So Goes the Nation.’ Today he would have to walk or ride a bicycle to the store. He could no longer buy fuel for his small vehicle since the state had declared a moratorium on unnecessary travel and fuel consumption due to a sudden loss of markets overseas. Johnson would be able to buy only what he could carry the five miles back to his home.

No vehicles had been in the enormous parking lot at Joe’s. A few bicycles had littered the grass near the islands that floated on the sea of asphalt. A sign on the door of Joe’s had declared that its doors would reopen from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. on even days. It had been Wednesday at 2 p.m. when he had arrived, exhausted but proud of his vigor at his age. Then he had attempted to look inside the glass doors to see if he could find anyone to talk to him. Only total darkness within the building had convinced him that his trip had been futile. This had been his only hope for food since all other local stores had been closed.

The grass along the highways had not been mown in some time. Somehow Johnson had remembered that his mother had pointed out the salsify plants that had bloomed and produced tiny helicopters when the seed pods were ripe. The roots of the plants were supposed to be edible. Johnson had begun to look for blooms or even the thick stalks that would give away the location of the roots. It had not been the right season.

When Johnson had returned to his home, he had found several new occupants. He had already begun to accept the new ‘Fairness Act’ that provided each individual with one room within the new government housing projects, but he had been totally unaware that ALL homes had been declared part of each area’s projects. Private ownership had been declared unfair to everyone who had not been able to acquire the means for affordable housing. Johnson’s home of 50 years no longer belonged to him. He had been assigned an area to share with another older man.

Johnson’s death had been expected. The mediations he had been taking had been gradually adjusted by the manufacturers so that the older generation had been easy to remove from the government rolls. Nothing he had owned remained, and his ashes had been among the many that had been mixed into a new organic compound used for pavement patches. Now he would truly support his country.

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