Friday, January 1, 2010

The Decade Sleeps

The old man put the other old man to bed. Then he walked the row of beds, nine more old men curled up like ancient fetuses, staring up with senile eyes. The earlier ones showed some amazement that he had finally grown as well. To the later ones, he’s always been old.

There was a knock at the door. He marched dutifully into the lobby. He saw in the front room the boy was brooding over the baby in its crib.

“Did you hear the door?” he asked.

“You know what it’s going to be. I don’t want anything to do with it.”

“Well, you do have something to do with it. Go make sure the cribs are made.”

Cribs and beds. All anybody did was sleep.

He opened the front door and sure as clockwork there were two infants, bundled in baskets. He tried to see if he could determine which was which. He couldn’t. Babies are babies. It would take time.

He scooped up the baskets and brought them to their room. The boy was still at the other babies crib, his arms dangling into the cage. The boy looked up at him. “He doesn’t ever get any older.”

“I used to think that about you. But look at you; you’re almost a man now. And I’m old. You’re going to have to put me to bed and start looking after things.”

“I don’t want to.”

“You have to. One day you’ll be an old man and one day the baby will be an old man. Eventually. That’s how it works.”

The boy digested this, and then moved on to a new concern. “Everybody’s mad at me.”

“They were mostly mad at me and the other old man. You’ve got plenty of time to win them over. You’ve got to stop being so violent.”

The boy scowled and ran off. It was hard to manage that one. Soon it would not be his job. He chuckled meanly at the hypocrisy of his advice: he had so much blood on his hands.

“No more violence for me,” he thought. He climbed the stairs, shuffled through the ward with the sleeping old men. He went into the empty ward, with ten empty beds, and climbed into the first bed, put himself to bed. Time for sleep.

--Dan Kilian

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