It’s time for another story! I wrote this short piece back in May. I originally intended it as a longer work, possibly novel length. I may in the future or I may leave it as it is.
With the population of the US growing older and policies enacted by the government to cover all sorts of medical needs, I thought about what that might mean. As my mind tends to wander, I considered there might be a covert government organization charged with easing this burden. Of course this organization couldn’t be normal or legitimate!
What that means is an interesting, dark story for you!
I’d appreciate any and all comments. Feel free to share. Thanks!
The knuckles on Gene’s fat fingers were white as he gripped the steering wheel. Perspiration dripped on his forehead though it was only mid morning. His head pivoted back and forth, scanning the street for trouble. He looked up at the light ahead, wishing and hoping for it to turn green. Off to the right he caught sight of her. She was about eighty years old and walking with a cane, though Gene didn’t think she looked to be in too bad shape. His intel proved correct as the intersection of Lorain and West 130th, the intersection he now waited at, was precisely where he spotted her, right down to the exact minute she was supposed to be there. The light turned green. With the back of his chubby hand he wiped his forehead. It was go time.
Despite all the alcohol abuse in his past and the spotty memories it created, Gene could pinpoint exactly the moment he got involved in his current profession, if one could call it that. He had gone to his weekly AA meeting at Annunciation Catholic Church on the west side of Cleveland. It was mid-winter and all the talk was about the terrible weather and the burgeoning cost of healthcare because of recent legislation. To be honest, Gene didn’t give a damn about stuff like that. The weather, sure, but all the rest…it was beyond him. Staying sober was his primary concern.
He’d been an alcoholic for years, vodka being his weakness. The cheap availability of the stuff allowed him to sink deeper and deeper into a life consumed by alcohol. He tried his best to drink his life away. Eventually, his mom of all people, convinced him he needed help. At first he grumbled and went to his first meeting just to shut her up. Fortunately for him, there was a hot redhead there and he decided to come back the next week just to see her again. It wasn’t the most noble of intentions, but it did get him there and in time, he took the meetings seriously and cleaned himself up. By the time he went to that fateful mid-winter meeting, he’d been clean for about eight months.
At that meeting, there was a newcomer, a sharp dressed man in his thirties. Short hair topped his head and his suit was black and trim. It reminded Gene of the suits from the movie Men in Black. He thought for a moment that maybe an alien would jump out of nowhere and the man in the suit would shoot it with some kind of cosmic death ray. His mind had a way of going off on tangents like that, more now that he was sober. Of course, no alien emerged and no cosmic death ray gun was brandished, but the man did change Gene’s life almost as much as if he did.
When the meeting was over and they stood around outside smoking, the man approached Gene.
“So…vodka huh?” the man asked. Gene remembered him introducing himself as Allen, and he indeed worked for the government, but he never did say in what capacity.
“Yeah, it’s been my nemesis for a long time. And…” Gene thought for a moment, trying to remember what Allen said in the meeting, “Whisky and mouthwash, right?” he said with his thick fingers lifted to his chin as though in deep thought. Reflexively he rubbed his beard.
Allen looked down to the ground. “Yeah, that’s it,” he said quietly. He looked up at Gene. The dark, cold night made Allen look menacing to Gene. He didn’t know why, but it just did. A strong urge to have a drink, something he hadn’t had in a very long time, grew inside him like a cancer.
“Say, what do you do for a living Gene? I don’t remember what you said in there,” Allen asked.
Gene shook his head. “That’s cause I didn’t. I’m unemployed at the moment. You could say I’m ‘between’ jobs right now. I’ve done a little bit of everything over the years though.”
Allen smiled. “Do you know how to drive?”
Gene screwed up his face, “Well, yeah of course I do. Why?”
“I have an offer for you Gene. How’d you like to work for the government?”
That was the moment everything changed for Gene. He followed up with Allen and in no time, he was on the US government payroll. Officially he was part of Health and Human Services. His official position was as an inspector charged with making sure those he enrolled into Medicare and Medicaid under the direction of the recent legislation were not bilking the system. With the millions of expected enrollees, he had to make sure everything was legitimate. Millions of families all across the country were signing up meaning more and more money was needed for the younger families signing on.
Unofficially he had a much greater purpose. Under Allen’s directive, he was told to save the government money. There were just too many elderly people that weren’t contributing much to the economic welfare of the nation that were a burden on the system. With the influx of younger families, that money was needed elsewhere. And Allen promised a bonus for each one.
That’s when Gene stopped going to his meetings.
Gene slammed his foot on the accelerator. The tires screeched, leaving a trail of smoke. The old lady with the cane had been about halfway across the road when she looked up because of the noise of Gene’s car. She dropped her cane, her arms shooting up. The last Gene remembered was her face twisted as if screaming. He smashed into her, her frail body thudding loudly on his car. She flew up in the air, tumbling over the roof and he watched in his rearview mirror as her body crashed madly to the road, her legs and arms twisting in gruesome ways. He drove on, narrowly missing a bus crossing the road.
He reached to the floorboard and pulled up a bottle of vodka, its contents almost empty. He finished the last of it, tossing the bottle out the window, smashing into a thousand pieces on the street, much like the old lady he just ran over.
“Another one off the books!” he yelled out loud. He’d need to report to Allen soon in order to collect his bonus. His last one lay in tiny glass shards on the street behind him.