MacDuffy Suite

by Tom Ray

This is part two. Read the suite from the beginning.

MacDuffy at the Wedding Reception

Seeing a fourteen-year-old getting married still bothered MacDuffy, even though he recognized the necessity of it.

He hated wedding receptions. In his younger days he could at least get drunk, but now the booze didn’t sit so well on his stomach, and the morning-after hangover wasn’t worth the temporary lift. Sitting sober at this reception, he felt out of place among the younger people.

Good manners required him to seek out his friend Weaver, the great-grandfather of the bride. MacDuffy finally went across the room to his old buddy.

“Duff, you son of a bitch, where you been all night? I was afraid maybe you’d ducked out. You need to freshen your drink? What is that, rum and Coke?”

MacDuffy’s plastic tumbler of ice and Coke (no rum) was three-quarters full. It was like Weaver to be pushing the alcohol.

“No, Weave, I’m good. I been over in the corner, waiting for you to come greet me. Since you didn’t have the good manners to do that, I finally decided I’d have to come to you.” A little good-natured ribbing. In fact, he’d been avoiding Weaver, who tended to get you off to one side and start long, depressing discussions.

“You liar.” Weaver turned to a woman of about 17 standing next to him, a baby in her arms. “I’ve known this guy for 80 years, and I can tell when he’s lying, ‘cause his lips are moving.” The woman smiled politely.

“Duff, this is Janice. Janice, Duff.” They exchanged greetings while Weaver took a long draw off his whiskey and water.

“If you’ll excuse us, Janice, I need to talk to my old buddy here.” He took MacDuffy by the arm and steered him away from the girl.

MacDuffy said, “Who’s she?”

“A great-granddaughter-in-law. Married Cody. You were at the wedding.”

“Oh, yeah. Thought she looked familiar.” Actually, he remembered the wedding, but neither the bride nor the groom.

When they reached a spot with nobody nearby, Weaver drew close. “Did you hear about that study at Johns Hopkins?”

“Yeah, that Richtler thing, like three years ago. I thought they said on TV it was a dead-end.”

“No, not Richtler.” He squeezed MacDuffy’s arm and shook it. “A new one was on NPR this morning. They think it might pan out. They got a kid who lived to 30.”

“Proving what? I know of a couple of kids who made it to 29, and I think maybe 30. When Johns Hopkins gets a kid to 36 I’ll think they’ve got something. This sounds to me like propaganda to quieten down the talk about changing the Constitution.”

“You think so?”

“I’d bet on it. There’s a lot of octogenarian politicians who’ll be out of jobs if 20-year-olds can run for Congress and for President.”

“Yeah.” Weaver sounded deflated. “I guess I knew it was too good to be true. Something’s got to give, though. If they don’t find a cure in the next 10 or 15 years, there won’t be anybody left old enough to run for office.”

“They’ll figure it out. We may not be here to see it, but they’ll figure it out.”

“Hey, Weaver.”

MacDuffy looked down to see a boy eight or nine years old looking up at them.

“Hey, Nathan! What’s up?” Weaver’s enthusiasm had returned.

“Do you guys have superpowers?”

Right away MacDuffy disliked the kid. He wore a slight smile which MacDuffy thought meant he was laughing at them, and he spoke with that phony voice of kids on TV coached to be cute.

Weaver laughed. “Oh, I don’t know. What makes you think that?”

“My dad says you’re a mutant. All the superheroes are mutants.”

Weaver laughed again, but looked puzzled. “I wouldn’t mind being a superhero, but I don’t have any superpowers. Why did your dad say I’m a mutant?”

“Because you’re so old. That’s not normal.”

Weaver laughed again, then pursed his lips.

Before Weaver could respond MacDuffy said, “You know what a mutant is, dude?”

Nathan looked uncertain, finally saying, “No.”

“A mutant is somebody whose DNA got changed for some reason to make them different from other people. Me and Weaver’s DNA hasn’t changed from normal human DNA. What’s happened is, there’s a virus that makes people sick. Once a long time ago everybody between the ages of 25 and 35 got sick and died. People who were already over 35, like me and Weaver, kept on living. But everybody born now lives to age 25 or so and then dies.”

“So people younger than you are mutants?” The kid looked thoughtful rather than mocking.

Weaver said, “No, Nathan. People like you, and your mom and dad, are normal. It’s just that they get sick in a way Duff and me don’t. How old are your folks?”

“Mom is 21 and Dad is 22.”

“That’s good. The doctors are working on a cure for this disease. They’ll have it by the time your folks are 25 years old.” 

“Oh.” Nathan stood there for a second as if trying to think of something to say. Then he just walked away without so much as a good-bye. He headed back to a couple of other kids, who MacDuffy guessed had egged him on to ask Weaver about being a mutant.

“Rude little bastard. And what’s with that bullshit about a cure for his parents before they reach 25?” MacDuffy knew he sounded mad, but he didn’t mean to.

“Why not?” Now Weaver sounded angry. “It doesn’t help to have him worrying about losing his parents in a few years.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Does he have any grandparents? By the time my current batch of great-grandkids dies, I’ll be dead already. Who’s going to raise their kids then?”

Weaver looked like he was about the cry. “I’m his great-great-granddad.”

Duff felt bad for Weaver. He had a rum and Coke with him to make up for sounding hateful before.


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