Some people sleep easy at night, safe in the knowledge that when they grow old, their kids will take care of them. Those are the rules: You feed and diaper your child, and when you get old, it’s payback time.
But some people don’t have kids, either by choice or circumstance. Some people do have kids, but those bundles of joy grew into self-centered ingrates who should have been traded to the circus for a trick llama. At least the llama wouldn’t have run away to Costa Rica to start a “surf band.” At least the llama could have been rented out for children’s parties. A llama would never beg for money because she spent her rent on a back tattoo of Katniss Everdeen and Edward Cullen locked in a cross-literary embrace.
My friend Kara and I don’t have children, ingrates or otherwise, so one day over a few glasses of wine, we made a pact to live together should we found ourselves old and alone. We were sitting on Kara’s porch, working out the details of our future spinster life together, when things got weird.
“House rules: No loud music,” I said. “I hate noise.”
“That’s fair,” said Kara. “And no smoking, even if we think it will compliment our Bette Davis ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’ makeup. Even when we’re really drunk.”
I nodded. “Deal,” I said. “And speaking of that, we have to take turns going out to buy wine. I hate running errands. Or we can play cards to see who shops.”
“Yeah, we can play cards for everything, like cooking and cleaning,” said Kara. “We’ll have to learn an old person card game, like Canasta or something.”
I laughed. “And if I start to lose my mind, you have to promise to put me out of my misery.”
“Absolutely,” said Kara. “But how? Guns are messy. And I’m not going to jail at eighty-eight years old.”
“Good point,” I said. “We’ll just hoard up a bunch of pills, and when the time comes the sane one will trick the crazy one into eating them.”
Kara thought about this. “That’ll work,” she said. “If you start acting crazy I’ll grind up the pills and mix them in cake batter to make a death cake.”
I sat quietly for a minute or two. Something about Kara’s last statement was bothering me. Putting me out of my misery had been a joke, but now it almost seemed like Kara was itching to bake me a death cake. How long had she been planning this??
“Waaait…” I said, finally. “What do you mean when I go crazy? How crazy? Old people can be a little crazy, you know.”
Kara shrugged. “You know, ” she said. “Crazy crazy. Cray cray.”
“But what if I’m not really that crazy?” I asked. “What if you’re the one who is crazy and your lunacy is making you think I’m crazy?”
We fell silent. There was a serious flaw in the death cake plan: crazy doesn’t know crazy.
“We need an objective third party,” I said.
“An objective third party to approve a murder?” said Kara. “And how do we know the third party isn’t crazy?”
“Damn,” I said.
Retirement planning was really hard.
“We’ll just have to trust each other,” said Kara.
I shook my head. “Hell no. First off, cake between us is already ruined. I don’t care if it is my birthday, if I see you coming at me with a cake, I am totally not eating it.”
“Me either,” said Kara.
“So cakes are out,” I said. “Now you’ve ruined all our birthdays. Nice going.”
“I didn’t ruin birthdays!” said Kara. “It wouldn’t even have to be cake! We could put it in fried chicken batter!”
I threw up my hands. “Great. Now we can’t even eat! We’re in our eighties, we’re keeping each other company, but we’re starving to death because we think we’re going to be poisoned.”
Kara grimaced, deep in thought. Suddenly, her face lit up. “If you’re crazy you won’t remember I was going to poison you.”
“Oh I’ll remember,” I said, once again nipping her murderous plans in the bud. “Plus there is still the chance you went around the bend and decided to poison me out of the blue. Like, because it is Thursday.”
“We’ll just have to eat in restaurants,” said Kara.
“Right,” I said. “Like you won’t sprinkle death on my food when I go to wash my hands or look at the wine list or something. Plus we’re retired, and you know neither one of us ever saved a dime. How are we going to afford eating in restaurants every day?”
Kara sighed. “I guess this whole living together things isn’t going to work.”
“Nope,” I said. “Too bad. It seemed like such a good idea.”
Kara stood. “I’m going to get some more wine,” she said. She put out her hand to take my glass. “You want some more?”
I looked at her hand and then back at my glass. I squinted at Kara.
“That’s ok,” I said, standing. “I’ll get my own.”
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