Fontaine de Jouvence Undone
The Fountain of Youth Undone
The following is merely the first half, or third, of a short story that I was working on the other day. I apologize for not writing earlier but I had some travel to accomplish and moving to do, so I look forward to being a little more prolific in the future--however, I will not sacrifice quantity for quality--I do hope you enjoy this introduction to Dr. Sterling Alexander--which has just been re-edited for the sake of quality once again--December 10, 2010)
As he shuffled through the trellised walk to his terraced garden at the rear of his heritage home, Doc Sterling felt the familiar pinch in the middle of his chest that tweaked with regularity if not given the right dosage of nitro-glycerine to flow through his collapsing circulatory system. The death knell, the final tolling, of his bell was coming.
His white stand of stiff hair arrived prematurely at age thirty, but after sixty years, the thinning hairline was accompanied by sagging buttocks and a drooping abdomen—wrinkled, ragged valleys marred the once smooth cheeks and forehead—but alas, his days had been full and even though they were now numbered, for so he had been told by his own physician, Dr. Sterling Alexander continued to shuffle forward into his precincts of vegetation—the promised land of pollen and petals; his land flowing with milk and honey.
The blooms upon the family estate never seemed to stop. It was a peculiarity that Doc Sterling had overlooked for his vision was failing, much like his heart, over the course of the last twenty years. The cataracts encouraged foresight to maintain his self-induced solitude. His purchase of the expansive property had brought with it some necessary modifications for the surgeon lived with no man or woman—his was a life of solitude. The hired staff contractors, that arrived at specified times on specified dates, were the rare few who would have witnessed the magical blooms of Dr. Alexander—but these were mere mortals that serviced air conditioners, underground pipe, dust and detritus built up on a weekly, monthly or biannual schedule—they were not judges or botanical professors.
An automatic watering system, installed upon his arrival, nourished the entire realm of his floral forest allowing for little need of gardeners, or worse—meddlers—that would meddle in the affairs of a man who wished to share no affairs, but for the beauty of his blooming familia with his own faltering heart.
Each day the short shuffle through his garden paradiso would bring with it less joy as his heart palpitated stutteringly and his eyes dimmed—and on this day, he thought—it may be my last .
He struck out into the garden for his daily stroll and reaching with his atrophying left arm to clutch the stair rail, a sudden shooting pain of what he thought could only be a sniper’s bullet struck. Dr. Alexander took to the stair railing with both hands, crumbled and wilted to rest upon the stone stair tread as his pupils dilated and rolled up behind flickering eyelids and his body tumbled into a bed of green, gold, chimera red and rhapsodic blue.
A slithering hiss came from pursed lips and the solitary surgeon drooped, as though, to sleep.
At precisely 2:30 on this afternoon, tea time for any properly civilized soul, the automatic sprinklers misted their magic elixir of aquifer fluid and splayed the splendor of cooling moisture upon the petals and stems of majestic beds of flora and portions of a tired, wrinkled old man's corpse.
He awoke promptly upon the sprinkling’s end. He stretched his goose-fleshed, spindly legs and grasped for the stair railing to right himself from the awkward positing he’d received so ignominiously; what he fuzzily recollected as his final shedding of this mortal coil. He noted a renewed strength in the digits of his right hand and forearm, as he clasped hold of the white rail, and rose from his quashed bed of plants.
I’ll be replanting a few casualties I can see, he mumbled to no one but the garden--not realizing the renewed acuity in his vision minus the obstruction of cataracts.
As he shuffled once more to the rear entrance of his magnificent home his dry, pleated khaki slacks rustled betwixt his thighs hollowly as he glimpsed a reflection of his face in the leaded glass insert of the oak door. The mansion was built twenty years before his own birth, ninety years ago, at the turn of the twentieth century. A slice of black shimmered in the glistening glass and dashed away as he pushed the heavy oaken entry open. He turned quickly thinking a crow had fluttered directly behind his head--but there was no black bird, no raven, and no mocking crow.
Fur traders, trappers, government agents, Oblate Missionaries, European royalty and peasantry (of various ilk and provenance) had populated the long north-to-south valley of the Okanagan at a place called L’Anse au Sable during the early and middle stages of the nineteenth century.
The small Missionary settlement would grow from a place of the sandy cove to become the bustling, small city called Kelowna. Dr. Alexander had researched this place, for the purpose of his golden years, through the historical societies, and their reports, and found its genesis coincided with the time of his own birth in the early 1920’s. Through his studies he’d discovered the obscurity of the unique valley and recognized the value it could be to him during his waning years.
The old man stared, upon entering the large portico, into the full-length looking glass—the long oval mirror was swathed in a deep, cherry mahogany patina of fluid oak, like all of the moldings and furnishings, that he had purchased at a local antique mercantile to decorate his heritage hearth in his expansive home. The visage that returned its astonished glare had white strands, not unlike late-stage photos of Einstein, spiking skyward on the left side of his head while thick, rich, black swaths of hair seemed to wave in a non-existent breeze on the right side of his, now wrinkle-free, skull. Shards of dead scales draped beneath shocked eyeballs—and renewed shades of long-lost jade gawked from revitalized irises at this strange vision before them.
What’s going on? The elderly surgeon queried. Am I dead—is this heaven—or hell?
He continued eyeing the eerie figure and noticed that one forearm was larger, in musculature, than the other. His legs were as spindly as ever, he noted, as he dropped his drawers to the hard terra cotta tile by quickly unlatching the Velcro belt that expedited matters when quick, and oft repeated, urinary issues arose, or dribbled, as each trip to the lavatory seemed a different adventure. Doc Sterling deemed his fluid intake the issue in this area of aging.
He shed the remainder of his attire and found that the entire right side of his upper torso seemed ten years younger than the left. The swatch of black atop his head was accompanied by a fuzzy, thick layer of bristles along a renewed, straight jawbone, but only on the right side of his face.
He continued to blink in amazement at the century-old mirror thinking—occasionally looking up at corner moldings to see if angels perched above him waiting to deliver final judgment—of course, for him, a god of the operating room, it was not a belief he tended toward. He had seen no evidence of ethereal being or extraterrestrial existence of any kind. His life had been dedicated to the dead and dying—spiritismos was not in his repertoire of thought.
He shuffled to the kitchen, after picking up his pants and shirt, to wash his face and come to conclusions—resultant logic—or simply, an easy explanation.
He laid his khaki slacks out upon the large island at the center of the expansive kitchen and, taking the collared polo shirt from beneath his armpit, he spread the shirt out above the waistband of his pants, as though laying out his wardrobe, as he did each morning after a cold shower.
He turned to the deep dish of the kitchen’s basin and filled it with cold water plunging his entire head into the center of the white ceramic bowl. He reached with his strong right arm for the fleecy, absorbent towel, usually reserved for dishes, to dry his polarized scalp to see if any of the absorbing black would wash out of the right side of his head. Only bristles of tired white fell to the floor—there was no fading of color from the thick obsidian-shaded side of his head.
He returned to the island and analyzed carefully the way the water from his automatic sprinkler system had cascaded across his clothing. The right side of his polo shirt seemed drenched. He tried to recall his body’s positioning in the bottom of the bed of petunias and begonias that he'd collapsed upon.
MY LEGS WERE OUT! He yelled at the beige pants that only seemed slightly damp around the right side of the expandable waistband accompanied by suspenders should Velcro fail and elastic band burst. GENNAO—I have accomplished a rebirth—I am born again, Senor de Leon! He cried, the heavy teardrops detaching remnants of the dead cataracts from his lower eyelashes, with tears of joy at his revelatory recovery from a sure death.
He stumbled slightly as the grandfather clock chimed three times indicating the heart of the afternoon.
I AM NOT FINISHED—I HAVE YET TO BEGIN! He screamed and his booming baritone resonated with echoes through the empty chambers, above and below, of Chateau Alexander.
He remembered an older, long dead cousin who had cultivated his own brand of immortal, theo-philosophy, claiming elitist right to the possession of birthright and he, Sterling Alexander could now claim his own voice crying out in the wilderness--delivering immortality. His cousin had claimed he could not die without Christ’s soon-coming return—it had been another false claim from just another false prophet.
But for Dr. Sterling Alexander—he had found the fountain of youth--eternal truth in youth. It’s something in the water, he whispered. He didn't have to worry about a second-coming--he had fallen into the pond of perpetual vitality.
He peered once more into the rear foyer’s large mirror and shuffled with urgency to the extravagant gardens to discover if, indeed, his water supply was the fountain that all would desire. All would pay--all would pray to the altar of vanity. Beauty cream could go the way of the dodo bird and Dr. Sterling’s Magic Elixir could join the snake oil market, minus the snake oil, and with his ambrosia of the gods return all things that were once beautiful in the glorious days of youth. Dr. Alexander could unfurl the shriveling petals and buds of an aging population. They would be only too happy for a return to youthful glory and eternal mortality.
The nearest water spigot was attached to the home near the patio—so he quickly unraveled two links of the flexible hose and turned the tap to deliver a maximum flow. He sat upon the chez lounge watering his toes, calves, aching knees, shriveling thighs and finally, the bitter root that hadn’t seen an erection in decades. He poured the cool liquid as though he were watering his precious rose bushes, his patient impatiens, and his hostile hosta, while softly, in a calming baritone, singing something from the years of Bowie and Iggy Pop.
I got a lust for life , and something about being worth a million in prizes warbled from the wrinkled lips while flesh beneath his chin jiggled, and wiggled, in a jello-like fashion. His tastes had always leaned to a metallic bent when it came to music and none seemed more appropriate for a man with a renewed zest--a resurrected thirst for living.
He poured for an hour and nothing happened. He stood in front of the lead glass and could easily see with his renewed vision that nothing was going on—his gait felt no strength and his penis lay limp as a banana peel discarded in the summer sun.
Something’s not working, he murmured turning away from what looked like the male counterpart of Cruella DeVille, leaning weakly to the left in the mirror. She was the only character he could remember in all of moviedom that had borne such a strange dye job atop her head—it was Cruella or one of the members of the Addams’ family—he didn’t care at this point.
It MUST be in the water!
He placed his right hand into his still weakly, left claw and began a half hour of uneven wringing. He rose from his stupor and dragging his feet slowly as ever arrived at the linen closet located conveniently on the first floor for another section of fleece toweling to dry his unaffected parts.
His stomach rumbled and realizing, that indeed, he’d missed afternoon tea while trying to rejuvenate so much of his aging corpse—he stumbled to the large, silver refrigerator. He glommed on to some vegetables and meats to create a salad that would bring him sustenance to help solve the riddle—the eternal riddle.