That Last Door is a Killer

There were three doors for old Maddy Wilsawl to choose from, and all three of them exited into territories his seventy-five years had not prepared him for. Actually, he thought, there wasn’t much choice. He had come in one of them. Beyond it was a country in which cars drove themselves, people hired thieves to run their country, boys married boys, and everybody had an ippodoodle (or whatever they were called) attached to their right hand. Through the second door was Wendy deBrodian who four days ago, at Maddy’s 75th birthday party, had told him he was the only man she knew worthy of a woman like her. Then she leaned lusciously, though boozily, into her parting birthday kiss. Wendy was sixty-three, twelve years a widow, nearing retirement as the PIDC (Patient Information Data Clerk) for Bennings Memorial Medical Center, and frantic, no doubt, about the doors slamming shut behind her.

As he waited the call that would drag him through his third door, Maddy was tempted to open the second door, the one marked PIDC, peek in, take up where Wendy’s boozy kiss had left off. But what was there in that. She wasn’t the fountain of youth, and whatever her loneliness might see in him, he knew enough of what was coming, enough about the nagging ache in his bones, to know he was not her ease into Senior Citizenship. It was a country he knew well; it was a place where Romeos always died and Juliets were left with their choices. He did not have it in him to bring a lonely Wendy deBrodian there.

And so he waited until a pert young girl wearing a white smock and blue jeans opened the third door, glanced down at her ippodoodle and said cheerily into the waiting room: “Maddy?”

It was that door he went through, thinking “Only one more door, now, Maddy, old boy. And it’s marked ‘exit’.”


Foreign Middle English foren, forein, from Old French forein, forain, based on Latin foras, foris ‘outside’, from fores ‘door’. The current spelling arose in the 16th century, by association with sovereign.

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