The following is a serialized novel set in the year 2039. Wayne, the protagonist, is comfortably warehoused in a state owned late-stage senior facility where his aged but fertile synapses work out all the changes his nearly 100 years have witnessed.
Read Part One - The Year is 2039: Where’s The Beef
Next Part Two - The Year is 2039: Sepia Lives to Bark Again
In Part Two, we left off here-
…the rear door of the Ticky opened and out rolled a completely naked man clutching his left knee. He was on his back, rolling back and forth, grimacing in pain. Maybe in his forties, completely bald on top but as hairy as a chimp everywhere else, he managed to turn over on the asphalt. Now on all threes protecting his injured knee by keeping it off the pavement, he peers down the road looking for some clue as to what happened. What possibly caused his Ticky to slam on its brakes, slamming his knee into the console?
While balancing on two arms and one leg and groaning from the pain, he scans the side of the road for some sign of an animal leaving the scene into the prickly desert. Then he notices an old man sitting on a bench looking back at him with his mouth agape.
Not more than fifteen feet from each other, A twelve-year-old acting Wayne quickly looked away attempting innocence and too infirmed to offer assistance. He didn't want to appear…
Not more than fifteen feet from each other, A twelve-year-old acting Wayne quickly looked away attempting innocence and too infirmed to offer assistance. He didn't want to appear too interested in a completely naked man on all threes holding a leg up as he were a dog peeing on the rear tire of the Ticky. Nor did he want the naked man to think he had anything to do with his Ticky screeching to a smoky stop or his sore knee, which now appeared to be bleeding. He did briefly consider that he should render some assistance. The nakedness of the man bothered Wayne so he sat tight. Why would a man be naked as a jaybird in the back seat of a blacked-out Ticky? Does one help such a person? And how? Wayne had neither a band-aid nor an extra set of clothing. Wayne was making thousands of calculations. He thought or hoped the poor fella would just get back in his Ticky, put some clothes on, and continue to his merry way.
The poor naked fella noticed too that he was bleeding. He looked at his hand and then back at his bloody knee then back at the old man on the bench. The look on his face morphed from grimaced pain to vengeful anger. It had to have been the ole-fart that made his Ticky attempt to stop on a dime sending his knee into a collision with the center console. Must have caught an edge. He looks at the blood dripping off his knee again as he makes thousands of calculations. Should he crawl over and choke the old punk geezer till he confesses? What commands could he tell the Ticky for it to run over the old dried-up turd? Should he claw his way back into the back seat of his Ticky? He decides to interrogate.
“Hey, Radi?” ‘Radi’ is what old near-centenarians were called by those younger. An expression of derision from the word ‘radical.’ It was easier to say than ‘Neanderthal’ or ‘old-school,’ whatever that meant.
“Ya- you, Radi! What did you do to cause my… my car to slam on the breaks? Huh?”
Wayne quickly looked away. He had committed to just sitting as if entirely innocent. He'd catch a glimpse of the poor fella. His face, the hairy nakedness, and the blood scared him. It was not his intention to cause injury. But why was the dude nude? No one else popped out of the back seat to check on the injured fella. Must have been by himself.
Thousands of new calculations were being made by another Ticky rapidly approaching from behind which started the naked man's Ticky to begin making thousands of new calculations. For this unique set of circumstances, it was ill-prepared. Hundreds of sensors were telling it the passenger had exited the backseat and was alongside the car appearing to be peeing on the rear tire. An approaching Ticky is coming quickly from behind. What it sees confounds its computers. A car is definitely stopped ahead with a possible four-legged hairy creature standing next to it. Very likely a big dog.
The standing Ticky has found only one logical decision branch from its millions of lines of computer code as to what to do next. It accelerates quickly to avoid being rear-ended, leaving the hairy creature standing on all threes next to it on its own.
The poor naked hairy fella quickly sees the dilemma he's in. His Ticky is leaving and another is bearing down. It's in full brake mode but not changing lanes believing that it’s a four-legged animal. Its algorithms are set to brake for the dog but stay in its path- to veer neither left or right. The naked man scrambles to stand upright to get off the road and then runs full steam like a locomotive into the desert thick.
The Ticky quickly recalculates with the new information and swerves to avoid hitting the two-legged human. Its default program to prevent colliding with a human is to always swerve to the right. It makes perfect sense. If two Ticky’s were to approach each other from opposite directions, each would swerve right and away from each other. But swerving right also sends the Ticky into the lane with sidewalks and bus stops and benches where young boys and old men sit idling away the hours. Wayne braces for impact. He hasn't time to pray or fast wind his life's greatest hits or make a deal with the Almighty.
For a moment, he thought the whoosh of wind that caused his eyes to flutter and his baseball hat flying was him accelerating through the atmosphere to his final destination. He'd soon be buzzing the clouds. But it was the Ticky whizzing by just missing the bench in an effort to avoid hitting the running naked hairy man. He clutched where he thought his pace-maker was embedded thinking it was making noises. Rattling maybe. His heart was racing. He slowly panned the scene looking for a naked man with a bleeding knee. Nothing. A Ticky with blackout windows. Nothing.
Wayne slowly dug himself back to the light of the here and now. He managed another peek out the window. The sun was just cresting the top of the Saguaro.
Wayne Calvin Decker, a gimped ninety-eight-year-old fart reduced to mumbling to himself and driving a two-wheeled walker with a handbrake, finds the handles and shuffles to the bathroom. He sets aside the walker to line himself up straight at the toilet. With his left arm held straight out against the wall holding himself steady, Wayne wills with all his might. But patience was never his virtue. So, he wills harder cursing with his lips. Harder. Here it comes. Ah... yes! Morning has broken.
With a plastic sphere as a head and blinking a few lights, Samson sits in the corner. “Good morning, Mr. Decker. Is there anything you need from me?” Samson asks with a chirpy but monotone enthusiasm. It’s hard for a robot to be genuinely enthusiastic. Wayne just grunts. He’s not ready to engage in a discussion with his ‘roommate’ just yet. Samson stays silently blinking occasionally rolling on wheels to keep Wayne in his sights.
After nearly ten decades of life in his rearview mirror, Wayne feels a bit worn out. Someone might pass him in the hall and say, "Hey Wayne, how you feelin?" and he'll always respond with, "a bit wore out," His grin tends to belie his answer. Wayne nearly always has a grin because he's a sunny-side-up sort of guy. Connected to his smile is a well-seasoned and reasoned emotional disposition. It is etched deeply into his face. And so is the result of spending too much time in the sun.
Wayne's got a big ole quarter-sized dark leathery brown spot on his left temple he calls 'Pinto.' "Just call it Pinto," he'd tell anyone who looked like they were staring at it. Pinto is a painted horse. White with dark brown spots. "Too much time in the sun, Mr. Decker," repeated his dermatologist as he gently probes around the edges with gloved hands. He's already had several removed with a laser, which left some craters you might see on the moon. And pieces of both ears. Like a dog nibbling on a piece of old leather, chunks of both ears have been carved out. But considering his age, too much time in the sun, and his everlasting smile, Wayne is still a good-looking chap to lonely women with macular degeneration. But he's not looking.
Reflexively, Wayne still flexes his muscles when seeing himself shirtless in a mirror. He's always done that maybe looking for some assurance that he was still a man; strong and independent, capable, and virile.
Curious as a cat in his ninth life, Wayne has never counted his lives, so he doesn't know that he might be near the end. The many lives of a cat are perfectly analogous to Wayne.
Two years ago, he was turned down by the 'Doodle' team for aggressive cancer treatment including an operation to remove a growth on his throat. Reams of Wayne's health data were plugged into a computer algorithm that hummed and then spit out a split decision. Maybe… maybe not. So, the 'Doodle' team, a group of warm-bodied folk picked by some health czar to play god, had to decide, and they said 'no.' 'No' meant no cancer treatment. “Go home and die like a responsible world citizen,” they said in not so many words.
But the team couldn't control Wayne or Wayne's cancer which was stunned into remission when Wayne made an illegal trip to Belize aboard a cruise boat. The cruise was perfectly legal, but while docked for the day, Wayne sat perfectly still held firm…
Next part next week.