Welcome to the Medicare Years
by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter
When I was still 64 years old last night, I fell asleep in the naugahyde recliner in front of the television set while Sam Spade was saying "if you actually were as innocent as you pretend to be, we'd never get anywhere."
He wasn't talking to me.
At midnight, my answering machine picked up an automated message from the "Happy Birthday Asshole" software that publisher Marcus Cash installed on the Star-Gazer's intranet system rather than giving any of his loyal employees a raise last year:
"Happy 65th birthday, Mr. Jock Stewart from your family at the newspaper office where you can purchase a Star-Gazer classified to sell your old car, your lawn mower or the stuff your girl friend hid in the basement while you were drunk on bottom shelf Scotch for only 94 cents a line. With this greeting, those of us sitting over your head on the fourth floor want to welcome you to the Medicare years and remind you to send pertinent information to the government before you get sick and/or hurt, which ever comes first."
Pica, my teddy bear who was enjoying "The Maltese Falcon" when the phone rang, reminded me that first- and second-floor newspaper employees aren’t honored with birthday wishes from the boss man.
"Thank you for reminding me how special it is to be entering the Medicare years as a third-floor investigative reporter even though I'm too young at heart to feel as old as the Imperial U. S. Government claims I am."
"You can still fool the first- and second-floor chicks with natty clothes, a touch of Grecian Formula on the roof and a stock pile of Viagra in the basement, but between you, me and Sam Spade, you're so old, you probably don't remember the halcyon wonder years days of your youth any more and so you can’t possibly miss them."
I sipped my Scotch pensively as only an ass-kicking, not yet over-the-hill reporter can do.
"Halcyon? Where'd you find that word?"
"I read it in a book," said Pica.
"What kind of book?"
"Chick lit, you know, one of those romance novels where people desperately need to BE with each other every few minutes just to prove they care."
"Care about what?"
"Lust," said Pica. "You're too old to remember lust."
“If I’d married Winnie Cooper, I wouldn’t be asked questions like that.”
“My halcyon wonder years crush. Every guy has a Winnie Cooper in his life and they make your remember a lot of things long after they’ve forgotten who you are, or else if you marry them, they hit you with a ton of alimony down the road when things don’t work out since marriage wasn’t supposed to be in the script.”
While Pica pretended to gag at such sentiment or sediment, the phone rang, and the caller ID showed me it was Marcus Cash.
“Good evening, Marcus, you remembered my birthday raise.”
“No baby, it’s Bambi. I wanted to be the first to wish my former cutie a happy birthday.”
“Why thank you, but, er, hmm, won’t Marcus hear you.”
“Hell, Jock, after he finished first as usual, he went out like an oven full of cold Thanksgiving turkey with a busted pilot light.”
“I’ll come over, for old time’s sake, you remember don’t you?”
“That’s because you were always drunk and yearning after that Cooper broad,” she whined. “Just say the word and I’ll give you a better raise than Marcus. My overnight bag is packed and ready to go—Spanish fly, condoms, Viagra, hydrogen peroxide, bandages and splints.”
I knew the hydrogen peroxide would help heal the inevitable claw marks, but the rest of the supplies were preparations for making war rather than love and/or whoopee.
“What are the splints and bandages for?”
“Oh Jock, at your age, you’re likely to break or sprain something,” she replied with more candor than I ever heard in Winnie’s voice during those long, chaste walks home from school. “I’ll need to Xerox your Medicare card before things get rough to make sure you get all the coverage you deserve.”
“Good night, Bambi, but thanks for the thought that counts on a night like this.”
Pica stared at me like a teddy bear in the headlights or teacher trapped in front of a remedial English class.
“I’m proud of you,” said Pica, for once in your life, you turned down the worst medicine a guy can take when he turns into an old duffer.”
“You’ve got that right,” I snapped. “I think her true aim was to put me in the hospital since I can now afford to be there compliments of my fellow citizens in this great land of ours.”
Pica frowned at that news and responded by turning up the TV volume just as Brigid O'Shaughnessy is going to jail and Spade is telling detective Tom Polhaus that the falcon contains “the stuff that dreams are made of.”