NO SHORT CUT

How far can we foresee the future? How far can we plan ahead? How much control do we really have with our lives?

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Then they got Jenny’s news. Jenny who had been at school with Sandy. And lived in the same neighbourhood. Where they’d grown up together. Jenny Robinson, who’d lived an exemplary life and who wasn’t that old really. It was bad news.

 

Jenny’s preoccupations had always been lot’s of fresh air, as much exercise as she could get and finding good, healthy, and if possible, tasty food.

 

She’d never experimented with tablets and pills. Her doctor knew she disliked taking medicines and would only prescribe them when absolutely necessary.

 

There was no stress in her life thanks to her rich-as-Croesus uncle who had conveniently died young, and even more conveniently, without any heirs except Jenny.

 

When she got the news, Sandy said, ‘We’ll have to go and see her. She’s on her way out it seems. I’ve known her all my life and together we’ve know her for a very long time.’

 

Jenny lived on her own on a small but opulent property just outside a very beautiful village. They were shocked at what they found, because she had difficulty working out who Andy and Sandy were.

 

‘That’s drugs for you,’ said Sandy when they were leaving.

 

Poor old Jenny. Who never drank, nor smoked. ‘Nor poked,’ Andy would always add - and he did so then.

 

‘Be quiet Andy. That’s so uncalled for. Why do you insist on saying that kind of thing? It’s really unnecessary. Now’s not the time for your smutty drivel. Nor is it ever, I should add, so don’t say things like that about Jenny. She’s my best friend.’

 

Although Andy felt a little embarrassed at Sandy’s strident reproach, he couldn’t help saying to himself, ‘If she was any good in bed, she’d have been more likely to have had a husband, and that’s it.’ He was careful not to say it out loud.

 

Yes, poor old Jenny, a debilitating terminal disease diagnosed at fifty five. With only nine months notice. That was all she had left to live, they said. When the Grim Reaper sends his calling card he’s anxious to put in an appearance as soon as possible.

 

Her neighbour, who was looking after for the moment, told them the onset had been sudden, and the prognosis was poor. They said she was going downhill fast, she said. She was due to move into a hospice shortly. For Jenny the end was neigh was the way she put it.

 

‘Well, at least she knows she’s on her way out,’ was Andy’s take. ‘Not many of us have that luxury. We just sit around waiting. Not knowing when or how. Or what’s in store for us. In blind ignorance of what will happen in the end.’

 

*

 

They tried to see Jenny once a week. Always a bad and depressing experience. Sometimes she was up, but most times she was down. Andy couldn’t help thinking that every time they visited her she has one week less to live. She was like a prisoner who scratches the days on the wall of his cell. Six verticals and then a horizontal scored through the uprights. Marking seven days. Representing the weeks he’s been serving. Waiting for his sentence to end.

 

But in Jenny’s case the end of the sentence meant something different.

 

‘Darling I know you mean well, but Jenny’s not in the right frame of mind to think about your radical ideas about ending life.’

 

‘I’m not sure that’s right. She’s got no future. But she knows how long she’s got. She knows things are going to get worse and worse. And one day it’ll be too late. She’ll have lost the opportunity. Lost control, if you like. Of her life, I mean. So there’s no point in waking up to reality when it’s too late. Because control is the most important thing. Never loose control. Of your life, I mean. Of what you’re going to do with it. Especially when the writing’s on the wall, so to speak.’ He thought about the man locked up in jail again.

 

‘Yes, darling, I know all that,’ said Sandy. ‘We both do. We’ve discussed it for years. For far too long perhaps. Sometimes I think we talk about it too much. But comparing Jenny’s life – or what she’s got left of it - to putting a dog down… Well, I’m not sure that was the appropriate thing to say.’

 

‘In a way she’s one of the lucky ones, don’t you think? She’s been told when she’s going to die. She’s been given a date. She knows how much time we’ve got left. We don’t.’

 

Andy said no more. They both lapsed into silence. He was thinking about what he’d said to Jenny. He remembered doing it. Even though it was years ago, it could have been yesterday. What he’d done to the family dog. What he’d had to do. Because her time had come. Just like Jenny’s, he thought.

*

 

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