Wholeheartedly (Fiction)

The fork penetrated the crisp skin, sinking into the softer meat below. Juices oozed out the side and pooled around the morsel. 

The man lifted the mouthful and bit down on the fork, sliding the food off between his teeth. Mastication transformed the meat into a mush that, when swallowed, lit up taste sensors as it moved down the old throat. 

He had to do this. It was how he stayed alive. 

No one knew his true age. Some said he was 146, others said longer. He knew his age, but wasn't revealing. 

An old, wrinkly hand cupped the glass to the left of the plate, swirling the dark red liquid within before placing the rim to dry lips. He drank long and swallowed. 

The old man saw six children pass, three wives. Brothers, sisters and cousins. So many deaths. But he had to keep going. As they died, he lived on. Through them. From them. Sacrifice for his perseverance. 

As he set the glass down, drained except for maybe an ounce at the bottom, a less wrinkly hand gripped the fork once again. The skin had smoothed out. One dark spot which was most likely cancer had disappeared. 

The man was 56 when his brother passed. The first of many.  The family had been very poor; food only rice with a sprinkle of salt for flavor. 

His brother's death began the ritual. The man had no choice.

He wiped supple lips with a napkin, tossing it onto the plate. A young body pushed up from the chair and went to the closet to choose a new outfit. 

Fresh and crisp, the man opened the front door, the sun shining in on fresh skin. 

At times he wanted to die. Many things in life need a beginning and an ending. In moments like these, he accepted his destiny wholeheartedly. 


William Marchese


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