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John Bowe (ed):
Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs
Gail Simone:
Birds of Prey
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Take the Cannoli
Howard Zinn:
People's History of the U.S.


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Thursday, January 02, 2003

A bit of fiction

Just 'cause I love y'all - I present to you a happy little New Year's story. Because nothing says Happy New Year like the kind of stuff I write. *g*

Comments welcome. This is rough but strange, a crazy little b-side that's found a place here, at least.


Year After Year

The more things change, the more things stay the same. That's been his experience so far, at least.

When they proposed the procedure, someone was at war with someone else. The young men and women who had danced on his bandstand were now dying on national television; bombs exploded, the President lied, and there were no answers. Only confusion.

"You're an icon," they told him. "You're going to live forever, in the hearts and minds of the American public. But this way, you'll be around to see it."

He'd asked questions, wondered out loud about what could possibly go wrong. But they smiled and explained, with clipboards and lab coats and smiles that shone with idealism.

"Imagine the possibilities," they said. "Imagine."

But there was no need - they'd already imagined everything. They weren't even surprised when he said yes.

It was so simple, really. He just went to sleep, and they woke him when needed. The whoosh of the cryo-chamber's hatch replaced his clock radio, and he'd rub the sleep from his eyes, crack his knuckles, start smiling like he meant it.

At first, it was once a month, maybe even twice. He'd defrost, stretch out, eat breakfast, handle some business, do a radio show or a television appearance, answer some fan mail, then curl up in the cryo-chamber after a long hard day. For a while, he thought that he might miss the simple things - laundry, sex, newspapers, mattresses - but all he missed was his dog. And when he mentioned it to a lab tech as she prepared the chamber for another long night, she smiled and jotted something down on her clipboard. The next morning - at least, that was how it felt - his dog's sweet face was the first thing he saw.

He learned not to ask too many questions, learned not to notice his attendants' increasing grayness, the wrinkles creeping around their eyes. And in turn, they made sure that he got his half-grapefruit right after the final frostbite check, that he always got a chance to walk his dog. Even when his dog stopped recognizing him. Even when his dog started looking just a little bit different than it had the day before.

Time passed by, and it didn't take him long to realize that they were waking him up less and less. When he asked, the attendants - some of them worn dull with age, some of them shiny as new pennies - told him that they'd discussed it, and what would he think about limiting his appearances to once a year? "The most important day of the year, of course," they said.

"Is there something wrong? Something wrong with me?" he asked.

"Of course not. You'll live a long and happy life. We just want to make sure that it lasts as long as possible," one of the new people - a bit younger, a bit brasher than he was used to - said.

In the end, he shrugged. He had no reason to argue.

One day to wake up, stretch his legs, play with his dog, and do his show. More than enough.

He hadn't been such a good man, once upon a time. But every day was a party now. Every day was a fresh start, a second chance.

How much life does a man really need, anyway?

He was aware of the years as they stretched by. How could he not be? But the numbers stopped mattering after a while - one after another after another. He started feeling like a five-year-old, trying to count as high as he could, straining to make it a little further.

One after another after another.

The faces were definitely changing - after a while he started needing the teleprompter and half an hour with an attendant and flash cards. There were other ways to do it, things they told him were just like computers, but the teleprompter worked just fine. After ten shows or so, they stopped asking him to introduce the artists performing, which suited him just fine. The names were getting harder and harder to pronounce.

He knew that they were doing things during the year he slept - smoothing wrinkles out, whitening his teeth. Keeping him fresh. He'd fought over it, but in the end it wasn't a hard choice. His forehead was cool to the touch, smooth as a plastic bag - but the new attendant had cried that morning. She had been so thrilled to meet him. She'd grown up with him.

The project had originally been a secret. But he didn't think it was such a secret anymore. People didn't really seem to mind.

New music, new buildings. New fashions, new hair colors. New slang, new beliefs. New people.

He stopped asking about current events - what's really current, one day a year? Instead, he would feel the vibe in the room, guess in under a minute whether this was a good year or a bad one. He knew how to read an audience. He knew how to read a nation. He knew how to smile, how to comfort, how to spread good cheer.

He was good at what he did.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. One year after another, and he's still there, still smiling and laughing, still playing with his dog every morning, because the beat will never really die. Not as long as he's around.

Every day is the same. Every day is great. And every night, near the break of dawn, he lies in the cryo-chamber, waiting for slumber to find him. He has one song stuck in his head, the one song that never changes.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

How many people get to do what they love to do? How many people get to do it forever?

The last thing he sees is the sunrise peeking through the windows, a yawning attendant sealing his chamber.

Dick Clark sleeps.


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