image by al-hayat
Here’s a short story – I wrote the main part in the mid 90s and added the epilogue in 2009:
Melvyn found the Fountain of Youth in his backyard. He wasn’t even looking for it—he had just intended to do some weeding. The little trickle of water was dribbling out from between some rocks underneath some unremarkable low plants. He was quite surprised—he had not noticed it before.
Melvyn was feeling rather thirsty on that hot afternoon, and he thought about having a drink from the little stream. He was not normally given to drinking water he found in the backyard, but this time he thought “what the hell”, and scooped a couple of handfuls into his mouth. The water was cool, and perhaps a little salty, and it did the job… Melvyn didn’t think much about it and went on with his weeding.
A while later Melvyn was feeling tired—even drowsy—and he decided he had earned a rest. He stretched out underneath the apricot tree, sinking into the lawn that was due for a mow. He had no idea how, but somehow, while lying there, he got the idea that drinking from the water he’d found could make you young forever, if that was what you wanted.
The idea was compelling. All sorts of strange feelings came rushing through him. He felt very heavy at first… he was really thinking about death itself for the first time. He had always brushed the idea of death aside—after all, he was only not quite 30 years old. He knew people died and had always assumed death was a natural part of living, so growing old and dying would be alright when the time came. But he had never really thought about it. Now, thinking he might have options, the idea of death hit him like a dark force, swirling and horrible, more powerful than him. And he decided it was an outrageous idea that his life could be ended against his will.
At the same time he was noticing a shimmering, glimmering ocean of possibilies spreading out around him, and feeling a growing sense of steady excitement welling up inside. A wave of certainty came across him… aah… he had known there was more to life.
Melvyn did a lot of resting under the apricot tree over the next few days, refreshing himself now and then from his small stream. He started to realize what an amazing discovery he had made, and began to feel very excited. “Isn’t this what everyone wants? All I have to do is put the water into nice little bottles and I can give them away to anyone who wants them. “I won’t sell them” he thought (Melvyn was very idealistic, with socialist tendencies).
What made him happiest of all was the thought of giving some to his mother. He knew she would be as excited as he was (and he would not have to worry about watching her grow old and looking after her, or worry about speaking at her funeral).
Two months had gone by; the leaves on the apricot tree were starting to turn golden brown. Melvyn had not mentioned his find to anyone—he thought he would wait until he was more sure of himself. He had no doubts about the mysterious power of the water, but was not sure how he could explain it to anyone. He had started buying a collection of interesting small bottles—there was quite a craze on for perfume and essential oils, so they were easy to come by. He had a good salary with his clerical job at the Storemans’ Union, and spared no expense.
One day Melvyn came in from the garden, as a storm was brewing, to find his mother looking ashen-faced. He asked “what’s the matter, are you OK?”
“Oh, it’s only my arthritis playing up again, but it’s getting worse… don’t worry, I’m just getting old.”
Melvyn decided to take the plunge. He went and got a small green glass bottle filled with his water. “Look Mum” he said, “I’ve found this water… if you drink it, it will make you young forever!”
“But why would I want to live forever?”
This was not what Melvyn was expecting. Sure, a protest that it could not possibly be true—it could not be done. But it was not what she wanted? He was so perplexed he did not say anything, and he put the bottle back with the others, on the shelf in his room.
That night he plucked up courage to ask her why—why didn’t she want to try his water?
“Well everyone’s got to die sometime, dear, and why would I want to go on living forever, I’d get so bored! Growing old is part of the natural cycle of life.” And with that she finished applying her triple-hydroxy-hypoxy-fruit-acid rejuvenation cream, and went to bed.
Melvyn was disappointed in his mother’s response, but as for himself, he felt like he was flying. He felt like he was on the Big Dipper at Luna Park, except it was whizzing around in the air. He was having constant revelations, tumbling out and over each other like boulders falling down a mountainside. All those things he had been doing so he would have something to remember in old age. All those times he had got up early because if he didn’t fit as much as he could into the day he would end up having had an empty life. He realized he had plenty of time, he could afford to find out what he really wanted to do—what really satisfied him. Although he felt like he was moving faster, he slowed down, relaxed a little, and took his time.
Melvyn had a girlfriend, Alice. They saw each other once or twice a week. Alice was more politically conservative than Melvyn, which annoyed him a little, but she was good fun and they enjoyed doing things together. She was in a choir that was going to perform Handel’s Messiah that Easter. She sang alto.
One afternoon they were hanging around in her bedroom and Melvyn told her about his water.
“But why would you want to stay young forever?’ was the response.
“Why don’t you?” countered Melvyn.
“It just isn’t natural, we are meant to grow old” she replied, “and besides, I believe in life after death.”
Melvyn dropped the subject, and they chatted on about something else. Then he spotted a jar of alpha-hydro-romeo-quadruple-stomatal youthing cream on her dressing table. “What’s this for?” he asked.
“That’s to keep my skin looking young” came the reply.
“Uh-huh” he muttered. “Do you want to catch that film tonight?” he enquired.
“Yep… can you pick me up at seven o’clock? I want to do some practice for choir, first”.
“Sure”, he said, as he closed her bedroom door and headed for the kitchen to grab a glass of water. On his way out through the front door he heard bursting forth from her room: “Even so in Christ, shall all be made alive… ” He shrugged his shoulders, rolled his eyes and went home.
A few months went by and Melvyn made only some fleeting references to his water, more as a stir than anything else. The life-insurance salesman was puzzled by the strangest rejection he had yet encountered, and “life’s too short” comments were likely to be met with an enigmatic challenge. Alice totally forgot all about it, although she did admire the collection of little bottles in Melvyn’s room.
The TV chat show
Somehow, through an extraordinary set of circumstances, Melvyn found himself one evening a guest on a late-night TV chat show. He had mentioned his water to someone in a cafe, the word was passed on, and it had taken the imagination of the TV show host.
So there he was in the TV studio, armed with two of his little bottles, reclining in a comfy chair and trying to look worldly.
“So tell me about your water, the water you found—is that it there?” began the cool and very amusing TV chat show host.
“Yes it is” replied Melvyn, “I have several of these bottles full at home, and more where that came from in the garden.”
“And this water has special properties, you say?”
“Yes, I am absolutely convinced that drinking this water will make you live forever.”
Melvyn and the host both drew deep breaths. Melvyn was not stupid, he knew how ridiculous his claim sounded. The host wanted to make the interview entertaining without making a fool of his guest. They both looked out to the audience, who by now were yelling, almost in unison “WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO?” The interview ran on for several more minutes, with a series of amusing exchanges. Melvyn was quite pleased with himself—the pressure brought out a talent for wittiness he had not quite realized he had.
As Melvyn was driving home, running the interview over and over in his head, he realized that neither the host nor the audience had scoffed at his claim about the water’s powers. But they did not want it. They thought living forever was a crazy idea.
Most of the audience went on to the pub down the road from the TV studio, and many got blind drunk. They liked that—it made them feel invincible. Then they went home and went to bed, most of the women remembering to apply their scientifically-enhanced replenishing face creams.
Melvyn found it perplexing that no-one was interested in the bubbling little stream in his backyard, but it did not worry him greatly. He was more contented and sure of himself these days and was enjoying life. Eventually he came across some people who had their own special water supplies, with properties the same as his own. He discovered he didn’t have much in common with them on the social level, so he only saw them occasionally, but it was nice to know they were there.
Many years later, Melvyn found himself surrounded by people who had their own special water supplies. His relationship with Alice hadn’t lasted—he was with Yvonne now, whom he met at a peace rally. Yvonne hadn’t understood Melvyn’s water at first, but after a while, she thought “why not?!” and she started sharing Melvyn’s supply.
Melvyn and Yvonne had 6 kids, and they brought them up to see themselves as living forever. Yvonne became a successful mommy blogger, giving tips on how to raise children free from fear, and Melvyn got into developing software for running Windows programs on Macs.
Many of Melvyn’s friends had their own special water supplies by now—it was the norm, in fact. It wasn’t that big a deal to them, in the end… they simply thought living forever sounded like a good idea. Even Melvyn’s mother decided to go with the water—her life had been getting better and better and she felt like a kid inside, anyway.
The TV chat show host became known for his excellent TV series where he interviewed interesting people, giving them “enough rope” that they could really share themselves.
Well if you’ve got as far as the end of this, it’d be great to hear what you think!
Actually, I am wondering what to do next with this blog. When I leave comments on other people’s blogs, I feel I am sort of “asking” them to look at my blog. But I feel a bit uncomfortable doing this, because of the subject matter. I never push these ideas onto anyone in real life (I rarely mention them) and I don’t wish to do that on the internet. I would however like to share these ideas with anyone who is interested, and am enjoying the blog platform very much.
I am aware these ideas can be upsetting to a person who is grasping them for the first time—eg paragraph 4 of Melvyn’s story. And I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. I feel that connecting with other bloggers is the only way to grow a blog, realistically, so I’m in a bit of a quandary. If anyone who has been reading this blog has any perspectives they think might help, I’d appreciate it if you let me know about them either in the comments section or in an email. Thanks!
Cheers – Robin