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"Food for Thought"
"New Dogs, Old Tricks"
The following is a work
Of allegorical fiction. The
Author makes no claim as to the
Relative authenticity of the material herein.
He watched her for the longest time, the old woman inching her way down the promenade, bowed down with the weight of the world. . .baby steps, reaching out with her cane as it shook slightly with each advance. A gray scarf covered her head and beneath it, a dark wig with blond ends cropping out over her brow. A plus-sized tan overcoat--stained, tattered and an obvious discard--fell almost to her ankles.
"Good grief!" the old geezer called out. "Is that you, Iillary?"
"You'd best be talking to yourself, you old codger!" the woman cried back as she snapped perfectly upright all of a sudden, throwing a burning gaze in Geezer's direction. "There's nobody around here with that name!"
The geezer remained unpersuaded.
"You're supposed to be up there on the midway speaking at the political rally," he said, maintaining his air of astonishment. "Folks is yelling and clapping right now this minute. If that ain't you a-speaking, who is, for God's sake?"
"It's my look-alike, whad'd'ya think! she blared. "Now shut your mouth before I come over there and shut it for you!"
"That's kinda dishonest don't y' think, Iillary?. . .having a double do all your dirty work?"
"Oh, grow up. Nearly everyone in Fun City has a double, didn't you know that?" she asked, looking furtively up and down the promenade. "How do you suppose we attend rallies and speeches while being inside the causeway at the same time?"
"I dunno," the geezer replied, "I always assumed you folks never reported for work, considering how little gets done."
Then with almost comic incongruity, she suddenly lifted the hem of her long coat and scampered toward the empty seat alongside Geezer.
"Oh, pooh on that. Look, I need you to help me complete my cover. And stop looking at me! Don't keep glancing around. Just keep on reading your paper and act natural."
"Act natural?" the geezer asked, staring blankly into her face only inches from his. There's gotta be secret police behind every bush, no? How d' ya expect me t'. . .?"
Ah-hah! Well, if that's what's bothering you, you're right--the answer is no," she cackled in response, followed by a round of laughter as she reared back in her seat.
"Sh-h-h-h, Iillary, that laugh!" the geezer croaked, pressing a finger to his lips. "For God's sake, don't lay an egg!"
"Just look at me!" she went on heedlessly. "I'm incognito, can't you tell? When did you ever see the secret police around someone dressed like this?"
"Maybe never, but I jus' don't wanna be accused of kidnapping a candidate out of the upcoming election. When people find out. . ." the geezer began, but pulled back while still puzzling over the bizarre situation in which he'd found himself. "What're you doing here in the first place, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Okay, you look like someone I can trust," she said, quickly lowering her voice and switching to an air of confidentiality. "To tell you the truth, I never would have entered this race to begin with. It was all my husband's idea."
"Your husband?. . .you mean. . .?"
"Yes, of course. I only have one husband, you know," she replied with her round eyes popping. "I think I should be the one to tell you that he's certainly nothing if not ambitious."
With the day starting to warm up, Iillary began to work the heavy coat off her shoulders as Geezer reached behind her to assist in pulling her arms free.
"Well, we can't just sit here like two bumps on a log, now can we?" Iillary said, using the sleeves to snug the coat around her waist. "What's in the paper these days?"
"Well. . .you are, Iillary," the geezer replied, the bewilderment plainly evidenced on his face as he opened the fold and drew up the paper.
"Oh, for heavens sake, we certainly don't want to spoil this lovely day talking politics, now do we?" she chimed as she began thumbing through the back pages. "Ah-h, here's one. Let's see what kind of lies they're spreading about me now."
"I've read that article, and, uh-h-h, you're not gonna like it." the geezer said, his face softening into something like acceptance of the situation.
"Nonsense. I read hundreds of articles every week. Here," she went on, turning the paper in his hands. "Read it to me; I forgot to bring my glasses."
"W-well, it says here. . .that is, it begins with Iillary Hinton--that would be you, I guess?. . .talking to reporters about a single-payer health care plan and you're quoted as having said there are 'problems with that.'"
"I think my record has been pretty clear on this issue."
"Yeah, well then the columnist goes on to say, 'The problems, though, aren't with Joe Average American. The problem is with politicians worried about seeing the big health care providers go under. . .having to fold their tents and leave town.'"
"And as you can see," Iillary said, waving a finger of concern, "it's precisely this kind of yellow journalism which focuses almost exclusively on these kinds of personal attacks that makes running a clean campaign almost impossible."
"Begging your pardon, ma'am," the geezer responded, his eyes narrowing as he lowered the paper just enough to catch her gaze. "The statement came across as pretty tame in my book."
"That's because he's so very good at what he does. Notice how he picked the word, 'problems,' out of my statement and used it completely out of context. Then if you're still not convinced, go ahead and read the next two sentences."
"The next. . .? I'm sorry, but with all due respect, Mrs. Hinton, could we establish the fact that you've already read this?"
"It's possible," she said with a wave of the hand. "As I said, I read hundreds of articles a week. Read on."
"So, you see," the geezer began reciting after a brief pause, "that's how we know it isn't our jobs the slobs back in Fun City are concerned about. It's the fear of what might happen to them if they don't appease their bosses over on 'J' Street."
"Is that what they think we are?. . .slobs?"
"It's just a manner of speaking, Iillary. I wouldn't take it too personal if I was you."
"Ah-h, but wait until you see where they're going with their filthy little hatchet piece. Don't bother to read the whole thing. . .skip down about halfway where they try to equate mandated auto insurance with universal health care."
Dutifully following instructions, the geezer searched for a new place to start.
"Well, le'ssee, 'Driving's a privilege--not a right', is that the place?"
"Read on. Go, go."
"Yeah, well, it says here, 'Driving's a privilege--not a right, according to the politicians when they pushed for mandatory auto insurance. They argued that if you don't like the rules, then don't play the game. We're not depriving you of your rights, so you really have nothing to complain about. '"
Lowering the paper the geezer's jaw went slack as he turned to his seat companion, who had reached into a coat pocket, withdrawing a pair of knitting needles and some yarn.
"Well, I read this, too, Iillary, and I know where they's going," the geezer said. "People ain't stopped driving and they ain't gonna stop driving. It's just that now they's driving without licenses 'cause they can't afford insurance. The government's gone ahead and made criminals outta millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens."
As he was talking Iillary began mouthing the words, "Knit one--pearl two."
"Mebbe you think that kind of logic extends over in-ta health care insurance, the geezer went on.”Mebbe you think living a long, healthy life free of disease is a privilege--not a right. But the people who can afford privileges make up what we call the 'privileged class,' forgetting the fact that we's all born into the same world in the same old-fashioned way. Where's the privilege in simply living a happy, disease-free life?. . .answer me that."
"Well the difference is that no one knows who will fall ill and succumb to disease," Iillary replied looking up briefly from what had been intense concentration. "Only God knows. Contracting cancer is essentially the same as being struck by lightning--an act of God."
"Now y'see, that argument's immoral 'cause it's a cop-out an' it invokes the name of God," the geezer objected as he slapped the paper with the back of his hand. "Those who likes to use the pejorative term, 'socialized medicine' is the same ones what are covered by a government program thesselves, an' are more often than not members of the Bible thumping party, who suddenly don't believe in the infallibility of the Bible when it comes to being their brother's keeper."
"You're making me lose count here. . .knit one--pearl two."
"It's like nobody wants t' raise taxes. Nobody wants t' pay for somebody else's health care," the geezer railed further. "If I don't have kids, should I refuse t' pay school taxes? Well, didn't somebody else--who mebbe didn't have kids--pay for 'my' schooling?. . .so who are the folks trying' out for a free lunch here?. . .lemme ask y' that."
"No one's making that argument. . .knit one--oops. . .pearl two."
"Okay, have it your way. But what's gonna put the bigger squeeze on our wallets?. . .a progressive tax, or insurance premiums to money-hungry insurance companies? Everyone's gonna pay anyways," the old geezer ranted as his voice began to rise. "So who d' ya wanna pay it to?. . .greedy big business? And over a lifetime, who's gonna collect more of your hard-earned money?. . .lemme ask y' that."
"It's really all about stability in the marketplace. Knit one. . ."
"I don't s'pose you ever had the experience of filing a claim on your auto insurance, and then having your rates go up."
". . .pearl two. . .as long as we keep inflation under control, of course."
"Folks has even skipped filing a claim just to keep that dreaded ol' rate increase from kicking in. Whad'd'ya think's gonna happen when you hafta use your major medical insurance? It's gonna be 'one strike an' you're out when you hafta start paying high-risk premiums."
"So what's your solution?"
"Expand what we got already," the geezer said pleadingly. "Every senior citizen is covered and it ain't no dole out either. We pays premiums for Senior Care. . .lottsa folks ain't aware o' that. Now if Senior Care was managed properly and covered everyone, there wouldn't be no wondering if the payments was gonna increase month-to-month. Increases would have t' come from the legislature, an' you know who that is. It's us, not them."
"We can't afford it."
"What we can't afford is mistakes, Iillary. Like the two wars of adventure we been through in the last 35 years. If we hadn't a-wasted the money, just the one war we're in woulda been enough t' set up the whole program."
"We still can't afford it."
"Is part o' that because you folks in the legislature wouldn't let the government bargain for lower drug prices?" the geezer asked with sarcasm rising in his voice once again. "Y'see, with the new program of Managed Universal Care they would manage costs along with some rationing of services, mebbe. An' if folks wasn't flooding the ERs for free health care, then hospital costs might even go down for the rest of us, whad'd'ya think?"
"I think my record has been pretty clear on this issue."
"I even heard the current president say everybody's already got free health care. He called it, 'the emergency room.' When I heard that I got so sick to my stomach, I thought I might hafta go t' the ER for a free dose o' the pink stuff."
"Well, yours is certainly a minority view on the issue of health care, thank God."
"An' that's 'cause it ain't no longer a 'give-and-take' society. It's a 'take-and-take' society. . .take- take- take, jus' like spoiled brats, an' the rest o' the world knows it," said the geezer with a clear degree of disgust. "Y'see, I'm old enough to remember, 'Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.' That idea could extend t' all o' us if each person truly was his brother's keeper."
"We're still the most generous nation on Earth, don't forget."
"An' we's losing that distinction, too, y' know. Contributions is down and they's been going down for a quarter century, mostly 'cause charities has turned in-ta big corporations and folks can't trust 'em. Nah, I'm afraid the other guy is right, Iillary. You're in bed with big business--insurance, drug companies. . .even the lawyers who would lose billions in lawsuit reductions if we had sensible single-payer heath care in this country. You're a lawyer yesself, ain’tcha?"
Quickly she began gathering up her things, grabbing her cane and folding her coat over her arm, only to begin picking her way one careful step at a time toward the promenade.
"Oh, Iillary. . .wait! Before you go, could I ask you a favor?" the geezer called after her. "When you get elected president, would you ask your husband to pardon my nephew?. . .wrongly convicted of cooking the books at his accounting firm?"