"Are you enjoying your football, Mr. Gonsalves?"
"Ah! The plays! The drama! The big scores! I love it!"
"Is your grandson coming to watch the game with you today?"
"Not today. He's gone on a fishing trip to Wisconsin. He's quite an angler, that grandson of mine."
"Remember when you had legs you could use and you weren't stuck in that wheelchair with that feeding tube coming out of your mouth? Remember when you were useful, Mr. Gonsalves. Why don't you just die?"
"I saw a beautiful woman once in Paris after the war. We made love while the city was being liberated and I never got her name."
"She's probably six feet under by now, you pile of shit."
"I think she's still alive."
Mr. Gonsalves has spent twenty-three years in the Bethany Death Center. This was a place where death was encouraged and moved along, a place for people who had seen the sunny side of their life come and go with no hope of a return engagement in sight. Most people did not live through a month of the care they received at Bethany. Medication was withheld, people were emotionally beaten down and sometimes they were left out in the cold or where they could easily be hit by a large truck. This was not a place that masqueraded as some kind of rehabilitation center. This was a tomb.
He ached inside. After all these years he felt no closer to hearing the words he had waited a lifetime to hear. No one had ever spoken those precious words. No one had ever told him, "I love you, Mr. Gonsalves."
This would be the struggle and the commitment Mr. Gonsalves took upon himself when his daughter shipped him off to the Bethany Death Center to finish him off. She had never said the words. She never even liked Mr. Gonsalves, even though Mr. Gonsalves was her father. She just wanted him to die. She just wanted the world to be done with him and for Mr. Gonsalves to be done with the world.
"That woman from Paris. I wonder where she is now," Mr. Gonsalves asked himself out loud as one of the teenaged girls that worked part time as a resident assistant roughly brushed his tense, wirey gray hair.
"You need to die, Mr. Gonsalves. Your family has a plot and coffin picked out and they are having to pay extra the longer you stay alive. Why are you so selfish, Mr. Gonsalves?"
He did not answer her. He was involved in watching the game on television, a small and ancient black and white portable they chose to consign to Mr. Gonsalves because it had a loose connection and would lose the picture and sound from time to time. It was all about encouraging him to die. Too many people were heavily invested in his death to allow him to live comfortably.
"A selfish man like you will never get into heaven, Mr. Gonsalves. Do your family a favor and just die. What good could come of you living like this? No good at all. Your life has been one big waste, hasn't it, Mr. Gonsalves?"
"I have had a good life, but I have things yet to do."
"They are going to remove the ligaments from Mr. Jefferson's knees, you know. The night orderly caught him walking to the bathroom. Do you think he'll still be so selfish after they remove his knee ligaments?"
"I remember going to a football game once. I think it was in Buffalo. I don't know why I was in Buffalo, but I think it might have been a business trip and the company had seats in a luxury box. It was very nice."
"And now it is over and you need to die, Mr. Gonsalves."
"Not until it happens."
"Until what happens?"
"You are too young and too pretty to understand."
"Are you horny, Mr. Gonsalves? Are you looking at me and imagining what it would be like to be young and able to actually function again? Old, selfish people like you give me the creeps. I like young, exciting guys who know how to live, not piles of old rags like you."
"No. I don't get those feelings any longer."
"That's good to know. When Mr. Fisher got excited when I was giving him his bath, the doctors removed his balls without using anesthetic or washing their instruments. He died of a very painful infection within days. I enjoyed watching him die and seeing his selfishness melt away."
"I bet you did."
"You look at me as if I am cruel, Mr. Gonsalves, but you just don't get it. The world is for the young. You had your time and you need to die so you can stop using our precious oxygen. Even a filthy sewer rat has more right to life than you do, you sickening fossil."
"There were rats in the trenches during the war. We killed them and sometimes we ate them to stay alive. I've been through quite some adventures in my life."
"Save your stories for St. Peter, you imbecile. I can't stand when you selfish relics start rambling on with your stories. You know, if it were legal, I'd stab you in the eye with this pen just so I could watch how much it hurt you. Now, sit quietly so I can give you your medicine."
"I haven't been on any medication lately. What is this medicine for?"
"The doctors say it will slowly eat away at your nervous system. It should quicken your death. If it works that will be good news for all us young, hard working people who are sick of dealing with you, Mr. Gonsalves."
"I thought they tried that a few years ago and it didn't work."
"This is new shit. I hear it is extra painful. It comes it a syrup. Open your mouth so I don't have to get an orderly."
Mr. Gonsalves opened his mouth and accepted and swallowed the medicine from the spoon. He shrugged and slumped down in his wheelchair, hoping for some solitude and some sleep at the end of another long day.
"Are you ready for your bath, Mr. Gonsalves?"
"I was hoping to take a look at my mail first. Did anything come for me today? I was hoping to get my issue of Field and Stream today for lookin' at."
"The administrators are checking your mail now, Mr. Gonsalves. They only let certain things get through to you, for your own good. I think a letter came for you, though."
"Did they destroy my magazine?"
"Of course they did, you selfish old bastard. Would you like to see the letter? It is from a group of high school students who really wish you would die. They are getting ready to enter the world of opportunity but how can they when old sacks of bones like your sorry ass are still taking up space in their world?"
"I don't want to read it."
"Well then, stop asking for your mail. Would you like your bath now, Mr. Gonsalves? I would like to get you in the tub before the meds hit and I have to drag you. It will be fun to see you try to keep your head above water."
"I never even kept a picture of her..."
"Of course you didn't, Mr. Gonsalves. You're old and useless and don't deserve anything."