What Harry Thought

by Grant Miller © 2002

Harry Reynolds and Bob Fielding sat on the shared porch of their retirement duplex. Despite the oppressive Florida heat and sweltering humidity, both wore long-sleeved shirts and heavy corduroy pants, trying to get a good sweat going. They hunched over a battered checker board, planning their next move.

"Damned Dolphins," Bob spat.

"You have a problem with dolphins?" Harry asked. "What did they ever do to you? You don't even go near the water."

"I ain't talking about no fish."

"Dolphins are mammals. They're not fish."

Bob ignored the comment and moved a black checker. He left one finger on the piece as he surveyed the board, looking for an error in the move. Apparently satisfied, he withdrew his finger. Harry made two jumps, removing Bob's pieces from the board.

"Damned Dolphins losing the Superbowl this year. It's all that quarterback's fault, that guy, what's his name, Johnson, Johnny…"


"Johnikins, whatever. His fault. We would've won it if it except for him."

"If you want to know what I think…"

"Guy's a bum," Bob continued, not concerned with what his friend thought. "Ain't got no grace. Throws like he's got arthritis."

Bob raised and shook one gnarled hand for emphasis. He laughed, but the laughter died as Harry continued to gobble up his checkers.

"And if you ask me," Bob said unasked, "it's high time we dropped some more bombs in the Mid East."

"So, it's the Middle East again," Harry mumbled. Bob ignored him. "Damned Iranians. Should have shut them down way back when they caused that thing, that Desert Storm. You know – when they invaded Kuwait." "I think that was Iraq."

"Fine – when they invaded Iraq. It's all the same over there. Why do they even have different countries? I say we pave over the entire place, turn it into a parking lot, and call it New Texaco."

Even Bob's dwindling supply of checkers wasn't enough to keep him from braying at his own cleverness. Harry thought to point out that Israel was part of the Middle East, and they might not agree with Bob's "It's all the same over there" axiom.

"If you want to know what I think…"

"You know," Bob interrupted, "I heard the damned Congress is talking about more social security cuts. I done paid into that stuff all my life, and now when I'm old and it's time to give it back, they don't want to let go. They're probably making a killing, taking folks's money, sticking it in banks, drawing interest, then only giving a little bit back."

"If you want to know what I think…"

That time, it wasn't Bob that interrupted Harry. It was a bright flash, literally a bolt from the blue. It struck Bob in the center of his chest turning it into a charred crater. He died with a look of stupid surprise on his face.

Harry then realized the bolt actually came from the sidewalk. He turned in his chair and saw the Florida Retirement Officer, resplendent in his knee-high motorcycle boots and polished helmet. He held an e-pad in one hand, an oversized blaster in the other.

"I pay my taxes," Harry babbled. "I bag groceries at Publix twice a week. I gave to the Humane Society last month."

"I know," the FRO said, holding up the e-pad. "It's in my reports. You're still a useful member of society. Although," he added with a malignant grin, "it's getting close. I'll see you later."

Harry didn't like the ominous way the FRO said that last bit. The FRO hopped on his Electra Glide, gunned the silent electric motor and sailed noiselessly to his next stop. Fortunately for Harry, it was over the next hill and he didn't have to watch.

Harry thought the Mandated Retirement Act of 2012 was unfair. Harry thought it cruel to force people to be useful all their lives. Harry thought he deserved to relax in his old age. Harry thought the body collectors should come with the FRO's instead of making their rounds at the end of the day. That's what Harry thought.

Harry jumped a checker, bringing his piece to the far edge of the board. Harry said "king me" to the corpse his former friend. Harry began to cry.

x x x

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