The Lunger

When he was only thirty five the consumption came roaring back and wasted his body away. He went to the doctors at the VA hospital, though he knew what they’d say. They gave him six months, maybe a year, and then… ffft. The idea of death itself didn’t really bother him – the war and his work for the agency had more or less made death an old and uninteresting acquaintance – but he was nagged at by the feeling that he was only now starting to do really good work. Knowing when his ticket was due to be punched took the savor out of working, somehow.

He went out and got drunk. Riotously, viciously, hilariously drunk. He was tall and prematurely gray. The drunk made him mean; not physically – he was too frail for that – but emotionally brutal. He ran into a cop he knew from the agency days and delivered himself of a thirty minute dissection of the rottenness of society in general and the police state in particular that ended with a black eye and a cracked rib. He didn’t care. What did any of it matter?

He drank through his savings and all the money that was still trickling in from his golden days, then sat back and waited patiently to die.

Twenty years later he was still waiting, and the pages on his desk were thick with dust.