Beating the Odds

The Eureka moment when Ron Ronaldson discovered how to live to 113 was quickly followed by endless hours agonizing over how to handle his discovery.

Should he divorce his wife? He had promised to love Moira “till death do us part,” but that was when he expected they’d die at approximately the same time. Now he had discovered how to live another fifty-eight years, but his wife, who never followed his advice, would likely die within the next thirty. Much as he loved Moira, he wondered if he should divorce her when he still had a chance at another long-term relationship.

The monetary possibilities also concerned him. Should he make a quick buck or take the high road and share his discovery freely? In the past, when he shared his insights with his drinking buddies, they scoffed. If he didn’t impart his new found wisdom, however, and his pals dropped like flies, when he reached 110 he’d be laughing in his beer at a table for one.

It was the day of Jimmy’s funeral that Ron’s discovery hit him like a bolt of lightning, albeit not as painfully. He’d wrangled the afternoon off from his pizza delivery job on the pretext that Jimmy was a high school buddy. As the funeral music faded, Ron had slipped out the church door and hightailed it to the pub.

It was there, perusing a week-old newspaper, Ron read that if you stopped smoking you would live longer. Jimmy had been a smoker, and a heavy one at that, so it was no wonder he was pushing up daisies. Actually, Jimmy had been cremated but same idea.

Then Ron remembered reading the week before that if you ate less of some kind of fat you would live longer. When he put two and two together, he was on a roll. After supper, perhaps the last time he would eat such a life-sucking meal, Ron sequestered himself in his den. Sipping his coffee (still to be determined if this was a year cutter), he perused the pile of newspapers stacked in the corner waiting for him to clip significant articles.

Often the research was fuzzy. It started out bravely suggesting that years could be added to your life if you did such and such, but as the story progressed there seemed to be a lot of ifs and buts. Ron regretted he hadn’t done his math homework in high school. Statistics weren’t his strong point. Still, from what he had read, Ron figured that each plus should be worth at least a year. Even on his first run through, he had built up a good number of easily achievable years.

Being of a scientific bent, Ron ignored things that didn’t apply. For example, he read that aardvarks didn’t get leprosy, but he couldn’t see how that would help most Canadians so he ignored that data. Apparently, Andorra had the highest life expectancy at 83.5, but Ron didn’t know where that was so he couldn’t in all honesty recommend moving there. From a personal point of view, many of the dos and don’ts didn’t seem difficult. He got a few years for being a Caucasian male. Being a woman would have improved the odds but he held the line at a sex change. He lived in British Columbia so that gave him the highest life expectancy in Canada and in a city, which was better than rural life for years earned. Owning a pet gave you a boost and cats were easy to come by. Moderate drinkers lived longer so a heavy drinker like himself should be even better off. Churchgoers lived longer and he had been to church just the day before. Married folks lived longer and he had chalked up thirty years on that front.

Moira, who knew nothing of good health, would attest he was a complainer. Research proved complainers lived longer. Six or seven hours’ sleep gave you an advantage and on weekends — given half a chance — he slept ‘til noon. Those with a healthy sex life lived longer so he would cut out the late night horror movies and join his wife in a tumble. His discovery had put him over the moon, which was win-win as being happy gave you bonus years.

It was past midnight when Ron finished clipping and sorting. He planned to get up early the next morning and head for the library. The young librarian, Betsy, was a whiz at finding information on the Internet. He wanted to ensure his information was reliable and the more he knew, the better, but he was pumped with this initial research.

Why hadn’t someone else caught onto this? Forget the fountain of youth. It was a case of following his checklist. He would call it Ron Ronaldson’s “Live Forever Diet.” Well, no, that was exaggerating. Not “forever.” And he’d avoid the word “diet,” which was worn thin. Thin? A pun, maybe he could use that in his speech. “This is not a diet, it is a die not yet.”

Fame was in the cards. Just like the guy who was bonked with an apple and discovered gravity (and who scoffed at that?), he’d made a scientific breakthrough. And this was a very important one: how to live at least fifty-eight years longer.

There was a book in this, for sure. Of course, a magazine article would be quicker but you probably didn’t make much from magazines. More importantly, unless you wrote a book you didn’t go on speaking tours and they brought in large crowds who in turn would buy your books and videos. He could see the billboard already: “Ron Ronaldson speaking tonight on How to Live to 113. Limited seats available.”

Would $75 be too much to charge? He would certainly have to get folks to keep his formula secret or the dollars would bleed away.

That evening, glancing in the mirror as he washed his teeth — good dental care, surely a few months for that — Ron wondered whether he should get a hairpiece. The camera flash made him look slightly bald, and that wouldn’t look good on his book cover or promotional materials. Raising his upper lip to study his reflection, Ron considered getting his front teeth straightened. Of course, as a celebrity he’d count on soft lighting and professional makeup like T.V. broadcasters used to help his image. Luckily, all these improvements could be chalked up to business expenses, but he needed a sharp accountant and soon. His mind was still spinning as he hit the pillow.

When his wife passed him his plate of bacon and eggs the next morning, Ron winked and said, “Not for me, love. I’ll take soy sausages if you have them.”

“Soy what? What do you think I’m running, a health food store?”

Ron vetoed the coffee, checked the label on the orange juice, and informed his wife that he had to head to the office.

“What office?” she asked.

“I’ll be using the library for my office until I get set up.”

Moira popped on her glasses. “Why’ve you got your good jacket on? Has someone else died?”

“No, I can’t look too casual in case someone takes photos.”

“Since when?”

“Since my first day as an upcoming celebrity,” Ron said, soaring out the door.

“Celebrity at what?” she shouted. “Have you got another wife and family somewhere?”

“No way,” he called back. “I’m sticking with you. I’m not like one of those lottery winners who drop their wife at the first million.” He was ashamed he’d even considered leaving Moira, she was a grand old girl.

“You’ve won the lottery?” his wife cried, running out after him. “We’re rich.”

“No, I didn’t win the lottery, but as good as.”

“Is this about Jimmy’s death?” she called after him and caught his cry.

“Right on,” he shouted, ducking around the corner without slowing down to explain.

On that happiest day of his life, Ron skipped down the street, swinging his umbrella and, as Mrs. Burton later informed the reporters, clipping her gladiolas. Twirling through the possibilities, he burst onto Main Street failing to notice the No. 7 bus swing round the corner. The report on page three of the local paper noted that had he not risked his life by jaywalking, Ron might have lived for thirty more years.

~ Melodie Corrigall

Originally published at: The Writer’s Tribe Review. Humour Issue. page 38