Cavern put the phone down slowly. After thirty years on the job, he didn’t need telling a summons to the White House wasn’t good news. When crisis after crisis hit, protecting the quality of drinking water suddenly became an important job.
More than an hour into the meeting, the cards were finally on the table. The president was instructing him to introduce antidepressants into the water-supply.
Cavern looked down. “It won’t work.” he said quietly.
“How do you know that?” the President asked. “You haven’t tried it.”
Cavern could hear his voice from a distance. “They did. Nearly thirty years ago.”
There was a stunned silence. The Defence Secretary was the first to recover: “So what was their solution?”
Cavern swallowed. “Soda,” he said weakly, “they put it in the soda.”
He would learn later that he was in a hospital and an accident with the wiring had erased his memory. In the beginning the doctors were hopeful his memory would return, but in the meantime he needed to start from scratch.
He was a quick learner. Walking, eating with a knife and fork, and brushing his teeth were a breeze. He loved mathematical puzzles, and once he had mastered “See Spot run”, he quickly became an avid reader.
When the doctors pronounced him as good as new, he went home to his family and his job. He did his best to settle in, to do the things he was told to do. But as often as not, he didn’t see the point. He hated the noise, and was puzzled by the empty conversations.
One day he took a boat, and sailed for the horizon.
Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle,
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared.
It all started with a science project. Angela Goodfellow set up a website, and crowd sourced her experiment. People registered, volunteered for a group, and returned to answer questions. There was the “Friends and Neighbours” group, the “Strangers only”, “Secret”, “Wear a Badge”, and various others.
Officially the project ended, but the test subjects stayed on. New volunteers showed up every day, and similar sites started popping up. The results were overwhelming. All of the volunteers – except the control group – reported they smiled more, felt less stress, and their relationships were better. After three to six months even their health improved. It did turn out to be addictive, but nobody really minded.
It seems obvious to us nowadays, but back then people really didn’t know: even if you do them in secret and for strangers, random acts of kindness make you happier.
I inched forward, holding my breath. Don’t look, don’t look. My eyes flickered downward, and I gave a little lurch. I was falling.
Get a grip! a little voice inside me growled. People are staring! I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. Everything’s fine, the voice breathed.
After a while the idiocy struck me of standing by one of the most spectacular sights of the world – with my eyes screwed shut. Come on, the little voice coaxed. With an effort I opened my eyes: first one, then the other. I looked at the cliffs opposite. Breathtaking.
The holiday season. You could smell it in the air. The spices, the cakes, and the candy. Wrapping paper crackled and tinsel sparkled. There was a general air of anticipation and fun mixed in with frantic holiday shopping. Everyone was awash with mulled wine, goodwill, and charity.
Not everyone was happy, to be sure. Jody and Fred spent the days huddled together in wordless misery. Nobody had told them, but they knew.
One of them would be for the pot.
* * *
A bit of a downer for a holiday? So how do I turn that round? Well, maybe Jody and Fred will follow this example.
as usual our family has enjoyed an eventful year, and we’d like to share our news with you all.
As some of you already know, our house was repossessed earlier in the year, due to an unfortunate misunderstanding with the tax authorities. Happily we’ve found the perfect little family home, and we’re currently parked just 3 miles up the North Road. Grant attached it to a power line with his usual technical skill. Later in the year he was fired from his job, but not before he got hold of some choice bits of information on several members of the board. We are looking forward to a comfortable retirement in the near future.
Our pride and joy Sharon failed the entrance exam to the new school, but with her usual courage she’s decided to soldier on and try again next year. Her charming new boyfriend Dwight is very successful in the pharmaceutical line, so let us know if you need anything. Our dear son Steven was arrested (his first time!!!), but we’re confident he will get off on a technicality.
After our move, Rover went missing, though we believe he may still be in the area. We have heard of a number of chickens disappearing, and he always did love chicken. Ginger on the other hand is thriving – and providing us with regular fresh meat: the local butcher has a cat-flap.
As for me, I’ve got my little flask, and am fine as always.
We wish you all a Merry Christmas and an equally successful 2013.
Is there still time for hot chocolate? Riley asked.
The-End-is-Nigh guy blinked. Ah, maybe, I don’t know.
― Jana Oliver, Forbidden
Why, thank-you, dearie. I never say no to a biscuit. And what’s your name, young lady? Louise? The old face cracked in a smile.
Do I believe what? That the dragon is coming and the world will end tomorrow?
Now, when I was your age, the world was always coming to an end. Left and right people were predicting disasters. I think it’s because they want the world to change. And right they are! But no, I don’t think the world will end tomorrow.
The dragon, now, that’s a whole other story. The old eyes twinkled. I’ve seen it myself, you know…