December 9, 2023

No News From Doodlebug Island…by William F Jordan


When Dylan Thomas wrote: “Do not go gentle into that good night; old age should burn and rave at close of day; rage, rage against the dying of the light,” it’s unlikely he had in mind a group of older men meeting to rail against advancing age and its load of ills, but whether or not he did, a group like that has formed here on Doodlebug Island, and they carry on in a fashion that Dylan would most certainly approve. They call themselves, “The Railers,” and they meet the first Wednesday of each month unless one of their number has a doctor’s appointment on that day or is incapacitated somehow.

Any resulting scheduling is iffy from that point forward to the next month. To be honest, members of the group originally wanted to call themselves the “Raunchy Railers,” but their behavior somehow never rose to that level, nor could memory ever supply them with a time it had. “Well, maybe we should call ourselves ‘Porcine Purveyors’ since many of us are grossly overweight,” suggested Fats Brannon. But that got all the attention of a Trump supporter at a think tank. “This isn’t an oversight committee,” said Mike Brannon, Fat’s brother. “We don’t have a ‘say’ in the matter; we’re leadin’ a protest movement!”

“Then call it “Porcine Protestors,” insisted Fats.

“Was there ever a time your conversation or your attention ran to anything besides food?” asked Mike, laughing. “I believe any protest you’d be interested in would spring from the idea that eating isn’t necessary in an afterlife!”

“Now that you mention it, any such consideration doesn’t generate much tolerance on my part,” replied Fats, laconically.

“Lets see, Fats, you’re lactose intolerant so you can’t have dairy products’ you’re allergic to anything with gluten in it; you don’t care for fruit and vegetables; I don’t believe the word ‘tolerance should form any part of your vocabulary, or am I missing something?” Mike continued to needle him.

“Well, if you are, let’s hope it’s not dinner tonight at your house. And remember, my vote is for meat, potatoes, and you’re wife’s sugar-free apple pie.” There was a look of happy contemplation on Fat’s face, and a note of hope in his voice.

“Yeah, I forgot that along with everything else you’re diabetic; and as for supper, forget it! We’re
eating out.”

In the end, the group agreed to the name first mentioned, and simply settled for whatever prerogatives old age had in store for them which, it turns out, are blessed few given the temperament of Island residents, who pride themselves on what is locally called “stoic placidity.” This is shorthand for a universally-held conviction that fate rather evenly distributes aches, pains, infirmities, and the like, so what’s the point of a lingering sympathy over one’s own plight or that of others?

One’s job is to suck it up and get back in the game. Of course, that doesn’t include catastrophic events—those deserving
sympathetic understanding.

But there remained the questions of exactly what to protest and the means of carrying it out. Since no solutions occurred to them—perched as they were, fishing from the banks of Oak Creek—the group adjourned to Barney’s Tavern to consider the matter in detail, for on some unconscious level they understood that if solutions to life’s problems are difficult or are not to be found, it’s just as well to consider them amidst the ambiance of familiar and comfortable surroundings.

Now, lest it be concluded that any resulting decision was attributable to drink and a raucous departure from sobriety, let it be stated that not one member imbibed anything stronger than ‘coke.’

Not that members were asserting a moral authority of any kind, one that could earn them the admiration of other Islanders. No, it was simply that each one had his own health-related reason for laying off the grape. (Several of them wondered if forced rectitude counted for anything in some final reckoning?) At last, they hit upon the idea of holding a fireworks display every Friday night. It would have the double-barreled effect of entertaining other Islanders while expressing their hostility-laden resentments regarding encroaching old age. It was kind oaf an ‘in-your- face’ answer that appealed to them.

“Besides, it might help us get used to the smell of sulphur!” reasoned Fats.

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