Title: Acts of Convenience
Author: Alex Craigie
Imagine, if you will, a near-future where governments adopt policies that suit them rather than the people they were elected to represent. Imagine a near-future where old age and chronic problems are swept away with expedient legislation. I know; it's an unlikely scenario. However, it's a scenario in which Cassie Lincoln finds herself. It's a scenario that compels her to take action. It's a scenario that leads to despair and danger.
During the months following the Doug Henderson affair, public opinion remains divided and, even though a majority of the country are in favour of the legislation, there’s a significant vocal minority who call it cruel and senseless. As a groundswell of protest develops, the Health Minister, Christine Eccles, makes a carefully worded appearance in Hyde Park, that’s broadcast on the television and repeated on the online news.
‘To those of you worried about this new legislation, I want to speak to you both as a child and as a mother. I want everyone in our great and caring country to understand that we are all in this together and I do understand your worries and concerns. Of course I do. My parents, Hubert and Veronica, have both been diagnosed with dementia and I reacted initially as all children do to the thought of them no longer being here for me – I protested. I wanted to keep them here with me for longer but we’ve had a long talk and I’ve decided to share with you what they said to me - how they feel about this.’
She turns and beckons Hubert and Veronica onto the platform with her. Hubert is a tall man with a tattoo of a lion on the right-hand side of his neck and face. He also has a history that involved labouring on the floor in the steel industry. The Health Minister has made much in the past of her humble origins and this isn’t the first time she’s drawn attention to her father. He’s been a useful pawn to counteract allegations that government reforms were not in the interest of those lower down the social scale. Veronica is, in comparison, a slight and timid woman who flinches at each flash from the massed bank of cameras facing them.
‘I think it’s best if I let my parents tell you in their own words what they’ve told me.’ She nods at Hubert who smiles and turns to face the crowd.
‘Me and Veronica were surprised when Christine told us she was unhappy about us leaving before she thinks we’re ready to leave. We expect to die before she does; that’s the natural order of things, isn’t it? We’ve both been told we have early symptoms of dementia and we’d rather go now while we’re still the same people and coping. We can’t face the idea of hanging on and suffering the humiliation and misery of this awful disease.’ He smiles down at his wife who smiles back.
Cassie thinks that there’s something a little strange about the smile and this is reinforced by the fact that it remains on Veronica’s face throughout the speech - and beyond.
‘We’ve lived full and fortunate lives and now the time’s come to hand over that good fortune to the next generation. This new act’s a blessing to people like us. We like our independence and welcome the chance to leave with our spirits and minds still mainly intact. It’s good to know that those we leave behind will remember us as we’d like to be remembered. We love each other, Veronica and me, and don’t want to see each other decline. We want to go together.’ He looks down at Veronica and smiles fondly, raising a sympathetic aww from the assembled throng.
‘These are hard times. The change in our weather patterns has had a devastating effect on recent harvests and we know that our children and grandchildren are facing a real struggle. The moving on of people like us will free up desperately needed resources and Veronica and me take great comfort from that.
‘For those of you unsure about this new Act, I can honestly say it sounds ideal for us, for our family and for our society. Dementia’s a cruel illness and we don’t want to suffer its growing horror. If you’re facing a similar situation, accept this Act, like we do, and then us ‘oldies’ will be doing our bit, not only for ourselves and for our families but also for our country. We’ll have the opportunity to repay some of the many, many benefits we’ve reaped over the years.
‘This is a good act. No, I’d say this is a great act, and I encourage all of you like Veronica and me to follow your hearts and do the right thing.
‘Thank you for listening to us. You’re all in our thoughts and prayers.’
A huge roar of approval goes up. A protester from Disorder later suggests that people had been planted in the crowd to cheer and applaud and that those around them had simply followed suit. His claims are dismissed and condemned as a failed attempt to whip up unrest. Indeed, when the footage is shown later, everyone appears to be fully behind the sentiments expressed by the parents of the Minister for Health. She, in turn, beams with pride and delight.
The following week Hubert and Veronica have a magnificent send-off that’s attended by many prominent members of the government. All those interviewed afterwards are upbeat and positive in their comments on the selflessness and public-minded spirit of Christine’s parents. The media praises them as a shining example for the rest of the country.
Within days, enormous posters of the smiling couple are pasted on billboards everywhere. Hubert is standing sideways on to the camera, giving his lion tattoo prominence, and his muscular arm is curved protectively around a genteel, pearl wearing Veronica. The inspirational message beneath declares, ‘We’ve had our time, let’s do something positive while we still can.’
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Alex Craigie is the pen name of Trish Power. Trish was ten when her first play was performed at school. It was in rhyming couplets and written in pencil in a book with imperial weights and measures printed on the back. When her children were young, she wrote short stories for magazines before returning to the teaching job that she loved. Trish has had two books published under the pen name of Alex Craigie. Both books cross genre boundaries and feature elements of romance, thriller and suspense against a backdrop of social issues. Someone Close to Home highlights the problems affecting care homes while Acts of Convenience has issues concerning the NHS at its heart. Someone Close to Home has won a Chill with a Book award and a Chill with the Book of the Month award. In 2019 it was one of the top ten bestsellers in its category on Amazon. Book lovers are welcome to contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org
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