Short Story

“Par-tay! Par-tay! Par-tay!”

The chanting continued as people streamed at their leisure out to the streets.

“I like the garlands; the mix of flowers and leaves are beautiful!” I exclaimed. “How did you get them so high?”

“We made a pole with a hook. It’s got lots of extensions like my walking stick so we could just keep going as high as we need.” Matari was always ingenious with his inventions, although this was a fairly straightforward one.

“We wanted balloons that say ‘100’ on them, but couldn’t work out how to make them,” someone interjected.

I nodded in sympathy. Balloons had been outlawed many decades ago when it became clear how much damage they were doing to the sea life.

“I appreciate the thought, garlands are much better for the environment.” I shuffled closer behind Trekkie to touch them. I loved how they’d be reused in the veggie garden.

“And they’d only get one use if you’d put 100 on them.” I suggested. Murmurs of agreement from everyone in earshot.

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***

It’s not everyday someone in our society has a hundredth birthday. Everyone had turned out to help me celebrate and enjoy the day.

There was pandemonium. The screams and cheers reverberating through the streets. Everyone was so excited and they were making noises as if they were teenagers. There was spring in many people’s steps and light in their eyes, something we hadn’t seen for decades.

They created lines and made me walk through. Everyone wanted to shake my hand, kiss me or hug me.

“Do you still name your walker?”

“Of course, I couldn’t get anywhere without Trekkie.” I patted my walker affectionately.

“Satoshi! So good to greet you on this auspicious occasion. Our last baby, ever, turning 100.” Marnie spoke the words no-one else was able to bring themselves to say.

“Everyone has to grow up sometimes. It’s good to see you here, too.” Do we really need reminding how society has changed so much?

Sometimes those personal words took a long time. I tried to be patient, but standing was a challenge. For some people I just turned Trekkie around and sat down. I was so very tired by the time I got to the end.

The more mobile pushed wheelchairs for those unable to walk. Taeyang looked so gorgeous in green and pink. I was surprised to see him still alive.

“Taeyang, you look fantastic. Thank you so much for coming!” Would this be the last time I’d see him alive? Would we next be celebrating his life with a wake? He’d had a good run with his cancer, but his skin was wafer thin. Being outside was taking its toll.

“Sakura, may I sit with you?” Her support group looked on with pride, with little movement left it took all of them just to get her from her sleeping bed to her mobile bed.

“No!” she exclaimed with the biggest grin. “Give me a couple of decades and I’ll think of a good reason. In the meantime we can talk.”

“I’m so pleased you haven’t lost your sense of humour.” We all laughed at these jokes of hers. Knowing she wouldn’t last long made every joke more poignant.

“I’ve lost almost everything else, I’m not about to lose my sense of humour. What would be the point in life without it?”

Mutters of agreement while I turned Trekkie round and sat. It was good to get the weight off my back.

One quiet sentence reached my ears, “have a longer visit tomorrow”. I acknowledged this with the tiniest nod. This was always the signal for the end, my mother would breathe her last soon and her support group were giving me permission to enjoy her company as much as I could.

Someone had painted her bed chair red to make it go faster. It also made it more visible, I appreciated being able to sit and talk with her. Very few of us have parents left alive, I was one of the lucky ones.

The latest version of The Zimmers were coming through the knot of people.

“We got to fight for our right to par-r-r-r-r-rty!”

I laughed. “Party or fight, which do you want? I can’t do both.”

“Par-r-r-r-ty!” came the chorus.

Thuy stepped forward from the pack. I’d asked for no presents and been overruled, being the youngest meant sometimes acceding to their demands, we have a very democratic society but there were odd occasions when I had no say.

“We need to party. We are weary of the world and tomorrow may not be,” her voice emerging as if from within the music coming from the rest of The Zimmers. The harmonies of their humming interwove with her words.

“This music is your present. Those who can shall dance. Those unable may enjoy.”

I bowed my thanks to them accepting my present of intangible music with grace, Thuy was the oldest of our community. Hers was the example we needed to follow.

The Zimmers were a music group started in the 21st century. Made up entirely of people over the age of 60. They had originally shown how old age could be enjoyed with verve. They continued recruiting as they needed and wanted but this was to be their final line-up. There was no-one else who wanted to sing with them. The population would only decline from now on, infertility was the price we’d had to pay for such long lives.

We made our way over to the dance floor they’d decorated especially for me. The weather was lovely so the market square was where we’d enjoy the celebrations. There was a dance floor for those who could and plenty of seats around the edges for those who needed, with space for those to come close in their mobility chair of choice.

Birthday rituals, love them or hate them as you choose. The throne in the middle of the dance floor was for me to use when I needed. Our society was built around old age and although these things were necessities we made them look good. I didn’t enjoy being the centre of attention but this was the only place I’d be allowed to sit for the duration of the party.

They sang as they’d never sang before. We danced as if tomorrow was a myth and maybe it would be for some of those at the edge of their lives. Enjoying our life had become more important than ever, we accepted death with the equanimity garnered from long experience. The garlands decorating the entire space connected those who danced or sang to those who couldn’t. The party continued till the small hours as The Zimmers sang their entire repertoire.

Food and drink flowed like never before. I was the youngest alive, this our last ever hundredth birthday party. It was a lot to celebrate. We wouldn’t live forever, but with our lives being so long it felt like forever.

 

Suzie Eisfelder has been blogging about books for eight years at www.suzs-space.com. She decided there had to be more to writing than blogging and is currently studying Professional and Creative Writing at Deakin Uni. She is very grateful to Deakin Writers for publishing her first written creative pieces since high school.

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