Friday, September 13, 2013

Methusalah, Chapter 1, Part 5

Apricot Rugelach (from The Rugelach Man)
By the third week of recuperation Agnes began to feel better. Her tissues healed, her gums stopped bleeding. The beneficial effects of the injection began to appear. The doctor reduced her anti-rejection medications. Her reflection showed taut skin, no wrinkles. Along with the appetite effects of the immunosuppression, her metabolism went into overdrive and she lost weight. She felt lithe and energetic.

She moved to the first floor, where she was finally allowed to receive visitors.

Pulling a pale blue silk button-up blouse from her closet, she pulled it on and then grabbed a pair of silk pyjama-style slacks from the drawer. She was still feeling unwell enough that she wanted to wear something gentle. She stepped to the mirror and said, "Shirt. Fit. Loose." The weave in the fabric loosened so that it swung loosely from her shoulders, just grazing her breasts. "Sleeves. Billowy." And the sleeves loosened around her arms, coming to a close around her small wrists.

A pair of ballet flats and a few simple but dramatic accessories and she was ready to visit with her mother.

Mara had opted to be a fashion editor for this latest Sesqui. As a result, she was always well put together in that effortless way that some women have. A hair clip that pulled the hair back just so, an outfit that was probably just yanked from the cupboard but that somehow looked like it had been meant to be worn that way. But it was never fussy or aloof.

Agnes was sitting in the conservatory admiring the trees when she heard Mara.

"Mom!" she blurted out, "I'm going to have a baby." Agnes hadn't even decided - or at least she thought she hadn't, but suddenly, the decision was made. Just like that.

"Oh, Agnes! How wonderful! I'm so happy for you!" She handed Agnes the basket of Rugelach. "When?"

"Well," Agnes back-pedalled, "I'm not actually sure when. I mean, I've received my reproduction permit, but Glen doesn't have his yet, so it's complicated."

Agnes told her mother the amazingly short story while they nibbled on the pastries and sipped tea. Eventually, the conversation turned to Mara.

"So, Mom, aren't you due for a renewal soon?"

"Pot calling the kettle black, I'd say!"

"Yah, yah. But seriously. When? I want you to look like my sister again!"

Mara paused long enough that Agnes knew something was up. "I've actually decided not to do another renewal. It's just . . . I'm tired. Not physically so much. I know a renewal would fix that," she said. "But I'm soul-weary. I don't really know how to explain it."

It was not unheard of for people to decide that they didn't want to continue with renewals, that they wanted to allow themselves to age and - ultimately - to die. But it was not common either. Agnes had never known anyone to choose that path.

"Mom, if you're depressed, you know there's help. You're not alone."

"Oh, I know that. I'm not depressed. I'm just ready. I've done all the things I've ever really wanted to - and to the degree that I want to do them. Well, except for information technology, perhaps, and grandparenthood - an unexpected first! But really, at a certain point, I just think: I've had a good life. I've lived it to the fullest. I'm ready."

"Please, Mom. Doesn't my news change anything?"

Mara paused again. "I'm not sure I can now," she said. "I mean, I know I'm allowed to. I can. I just don't know if I want to. Honey, I've really thought about this. Some day you'll understand. My soul is tired.

"I'm sorry, Agnes," she continued. "My timing may seem dreadful. But to quote an old, old movie, 'I'm not dead yet!' I hadn't seriously considered being a grandmother, but now I can't think of a better way to spend this final Sesqui."


Glen was supposed to visit the next day, but he didn't show.

Over the following days she called him. She sent visi-messages. No reply. His social media account was inactive. His e-mail inbox was full (they each had their own accounts, of course, but they shared passwords with each other).

Increasingly desperate, she called his office: dead comm line. She contacted his best friend: he thought Glen had gone on a retreat somewhere. Then she checked his bank account: empty. It was as if he had disappeared off the face of the earth.

Then Marta called.

"Agnes, you look marvellous! It always amazes me what renewal can achieve," she quipped. (Gee, thanks, Agnes thought.) "Just wanted to check in and see how you were doing with your reproduction decision."

"I thought I had some time," Agnes stalled. She was still hoping to reach Glen.

"Well, yes, you do have some time. But we've received the report from Dr. Bundchen and I have to say, we were surprised." Marta read from something to the lower-right of her screen. "'Moderate damage to telomeres indicative of slightly impaired fertility.' That's pretty serious, Agnes.

"Agnes, I have to ask: do you want to have a child?"

Agnes nodded her head.

"Because you really can't delay this. I strongly encourage you to schedule your fertility procedures before you leave for your retirement. Your body won't be in this good condition for another fifty years," Marta picked no bones.

"Marta, do you know if Glen has received his results?"

"Unfortunately, Agnes, you know I can't answer that question without Glen's permission. I suggest you ask him."

"I can't find him," Agnes whispered.

"Then I would say you have your answer."



  1. This is great! I am really enjoying the story!!!

    1. Thank you, May-B. (May-B is annoyingly difficult to type on an iPad. I may just call you Bronwyn. Blame Steve Jobs.)

  2. erg...this week by week reading is killing me! Probably good to have something that is teaching me patience. Two somethings, actually.

    1. I know! It's like trying to feel full with nothing but appetizers!


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