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Title: The Downhill Side of Thirty
Author: Shockley, Virgil F.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Downhill Side of Thirty" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                      THE DOWNHILL SIDE OF THIRTY

                         BY VIRGIL F. SHOCKLEY

                _Health was no longer a problem for the
               aged. All they had to do was ban sex and
                tobacco to those over thirty-five...._

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
              Worlds of If Science Fiction, August 1958.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Chuck Dane patted shaving lotion on his face, enjoying the second of
vicious sting. He closed the medicine cabinet and stood for a minute
examining himself in the fluorescent lighted mirror. He was lean and
hard and, of course, tanned. A few grey hairs flecked the sideburns,
but he didn't think that he looked thirty-five. And, damn it all to
hell! he didn't feel thirty-five!

He opened the bathroom door, and hesitated. He dreaded to walk through
the photoelectric beam and set off that odious disc! Sometimes he got
down on hands and knees and crawled under. But he felt so damn silly!

Well, he couldn't stand there all day. It was Monday and they would
expect him at the office.

He squared his shoulders and walked into the hall.

    "Lung Cancer, Heart Attacks!
    Heart Attacks, Lung Cancer!
    Beware, old man, Be ... ware!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The tinkly message followed him up the hall. "I could jam the damn
thing!" he thought, "but they'd only repair it at daily Gov-Apts
Inspection and report me again!"

He pushed his hands into his pants pockets and walked into the dining
ell. He slouched in his chair, and watched Sally swish back and forth
from the kitchen as she set the table. She was in blue nylon pajamas
and fuzzy blue mules. Her red hair was tied up in a provocative pony
tail.

She felt him watching her, gave him a devilish grin. "Sleep well last
night, dear? In your own little bed?"

"You know damn well I didn't!" God, he wanted a cigarette. After two
years he still wanted one! When would the hunger for them ever stop?

"You knew where I was sleeping. The door was unlocked!"

She came to him, suddenly compassionate, and sat on his lap. She pulled
his head against her. He felt, on his face, the slickness of the nylon,
and underneath her firm body. She whispered, "You know honey, no matter
what the government says, I'm not made for sleeping alone!"

"And I'm thirty-five and not 'spose to!"

"Thirty-five and eighty-nine days! How well I know! The toast!"

She scooted off his lap and ran into the kitchen. How she managed to
burn toast in an electronic toaster beat him. By sending it down twice,
he suspected.

He picked up the paper by his plate and unfolded it. The first page, as
usual, was devoted to the Propagandists. Headlines proclaimed: "375
died this weekend doing _you know what_." The second line asked: "Will
you be next?"

It made a good story because only three hundred deaths had been
predicted. The bottom half of the page was filled with pictures of
the victims and the spouses who "lead them on, knowing at the time
that over forty percent of the heart attacks in men and women over
thirty-five are brought on by sexual relations."

Sally was leaning over him, serving his plate with scrambled eggs and
ham, but he tried to ignore her and turned to the next page. Here was
an editorial by the Department of Health. He scanned it. Same old
thing. Sex to be avoided like poison by all persons, male and female,
over thirty-five years.

Chuck forked a piece of soya bread, and swabbed the last of ham grease
and egg from his plate. He sat drinking his soya hot chocolate, and
wanting a cigarette.

Sally finished eating, stretched, and the nylon threatened to rip. She
went and got his suit coat and hat. At the door he tried to kiss her
goodbye in his best "big brother" manner. But she clinched in close,
and suddenly he didn't feel like a brother.

She whispered in his ear, "Come on back. I'll call and tell them you
caught a virus!"

He almost took off his hat. Then he said, "You know it would show up
in my weekly S-Count!" He shuddered just saying the words. God! how he
hated that! He continued, "And if I slip once or twice on that, you
know what they do."

Feeling sorry for her, he added half-heartedly, "But you're only
thirty. And I wouldn't blame you.... Lot of people do, you know."

She leaned back, still in his arms, and laughed up at him. "No, I'll
wait and break you down!"

"Even knowing what they're likely to do?"

"But surely! Then at least the temptation wouldn't be so handy!"

He walked rapidly toward the office. Other groups walked along talking
and laughing. Here and there someone called to him.

He came to U.S. 75, a deserted graying eight lane strip. As he started
across, a bike came over the rise and he dived into the ditch. But
it was only a Catholic priest pedalling furiously along on a girl's
bicycle. Then there had been another clash! He climbed out of the
ditch, and walked a ways down the highway. There it was. The priest was
just climbing off the bike, and there was a motorcycle cop.

Chuck Dane walked up the highway to the scene and stood watching. The
priest was kneeling, his black bag open, administering last rites to
the two youths.

The cop, fat and redfaced, came over and stood beside Chuck. "Two less
Teenagers!" he grinned.

"Dying, eh?" Chuck asked.

"Dying or dead! These damn kids!" He said it with just a tinge of envy.

The Father snapped his bag shut, and pedalled away. Chuck went over
for a closer look. Both of the kids were on roller skates, the powered
kind. Chuck Dane noted with satisfaction that they were Airex skates.

Both of the kids had on the regular uniform, black leather jackets,
and leather belts eight inches wide. Mounted on the center front of
the belts were the regulation three foot razor sharp spears. Only now
there was not much of the spears to be seen. Because neither kid had
chickened. The shorter boy had caught a spear in the lower chest, and
the taller one caught it in the guts.

Funny, Chuck Dane thought, staring down at them. Even in this cotton
batting, vacuum world of 1990 the Teenagers could find ways to kill
each other off! He envied them their spirit!

He waved at the cop, who was calling in a report, and walked back up
the highway. When he got to his usual place, he started to cross.

"Olá!"

In that frantic second, he saw only the black leather jacket bearing
down upon him. And the bike with the spear mounted on the handlebars,
the tip sparkling like a diamond in the sun. It swerved, and came
straight for him. Chuck dived into the ditch, even as he felt it prick
his coat.

The kid yelled, "Cock-a-doodle-do!" and pedalled on.

Chuck climbed up out of the ditch and ran across the highway. Then
he straightened his clothing, dusted himself off. This was damn
undignified! He hated the kid, wanted to kill him with his bare hands.

He walked along, thinking how it had all come about. First it had been
the highway death toll. When it had reached over two thousand on week
days, and ten thousand on weekends, the government had stepped in.
Their solution had been simple and foolproof. They simply taxed gas out
of sight. Now the oil companies exported their total output, and were
making more money than ever.

Then some fool in the A.M.A. had pointed out that almost as many people
were dying of lung cancer as had previously fallen on the ribbons of
death.

At first Congress had passed a bill to ban the manufacture of all
cigarettes. But the black market flourished and the psychiatrists
yelped. They yelped that the approach to the problem was all wrong,
due to the fact that they hadn't been consulted. This was warping
personalities and making martyrs out of cigarette users. The way to do
it, they said, was to have tobacco products available, but to shame
people into giving them up of their own free wills.

They theorized that a cigarette smoker is really a frustrated person
unable to cope with the adult world. When he puts a cig between his
lips he is really searching for his mother's nipple. Therefore, the
thing to do is to force him to out-grow this, rather than take it
forcibly away from him. Same way with a cigar smoker or pipe smoker.

The psychiatric lobby prevailed and the government repealed the
tobacco bill. And replaced it with another. Now it was the law for all
cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco to have an hallucination inducing
drug, Xlene 91, in them. Also, as was compulsory, all cigars, pipes and
cigarettes sported rubber filters shaped like nipples.

Then, Chuck Dane reminisced, with lung cancer dropping off steadily,
they had started in to curb heart attacks. And taken away the only
pleasure a guy had left!

He was in sight of his place of work now. A huge half-circle of
plexiglass that was Airex Roller Skating Factory. Chuck thought as he
entered the building, that four hours was a hell of a long working day,
especially doing material control posting all that time. He hoped the
bill to change working hours to three hours would pass soon....

       *       *       *       *       *

At two o'clock in the afternoon, Chuck lined up with the rest of the
office force to walk single file past the hidden electronic camera. Out
of habit, he held his right hand in salute position, palm toward the
camera. These deals had been interesting when they first replaced the
old style time clocks, now they were routine.

As the queue neared the door where the company's three psychiatrists
stood, Chuck got more and more nervous. Suppose they could read his
mind, or something!

Sure enough, Doctor Benton wiggled a finger for him to step out of
line. He took him to one side, and peered into his face. Chuck tried to
look into the green eyes, so calm and assured, but he had to look away.

"You okay, Dane?"

"Sure! Tired, that's all. Helluva long day!"

"Yes. Well, you come in and see me tomorrow. We'll have us a little
talk."

Rapidly, Chuck left the building. He muttered, "Like hell we will,
Headshrinker!"

Furtively, he left the usual road home, and walked into a corner
drugstore. He stood around with his hands in his pockets, until all the
other customers cleared out.

"Puffies," he said.

The big man behind the counter tried to hitch his belt over his paunch.
"Sure you know what you're doin', Bud? Have to take your number you
know."

Chuck didn't answer. He pulled his right hand out of his pocket and
laid it palm up on the glass counter top. The man wrote down the id
number and handed over the cigarettes.

Chuck walked on home, with the Puffies a guilty lump in his jacket
pocket. He felt sure everybody he met knew what he was up to.

At home, Chuck stuck his head in the kitchen and said "Hi" to Sally.
He resisted patting her. He went to the den and locked the door with
trembling fingers, then sat at the desk and took out his knife. He cut
off the realistic red nipples from all twenty cigarettes, and made a
pyre of them in the middle of the glass top. Then he set fire to them,
not minding the acrid smoke.

He put a cigarette to his lips. Still he hesitated, fearing the
hallucinations, about which he had heard but never experienced.

Suddenly he grinned and leaned back, lit up and closed his eyes. The
parade of pictures began in front of his eyeballs. First a picture of
human lungs, and slowly the cancer virus invades them and eats them
away. Then the parade of men and women clutching their chests, writhing
in death throes. Chuck Dane smiled, enjoying each hallucination.
Pretending that the unlucky victims were the Propagandists.

He lit another cigarette from the butt of the first one, and leaned
back, feeling his lungs pleasantly saturated with smoke.

When ten cigarettes were snubbed in a row on the glass top of the desk,
he stopped and mused. Now, he guessed he would die of cancer for sure.
He wondered how long....

Then another thought hit him. With two temptations, he wondered why he
had given in to the cigarette first.

He lit another Puffie and leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes.
A perfect technicolor picture of Sally crossed his mind, swishing the
pony tail provocatively. He got up. Left the den. Went to the kitchen
and leaned in the door watching her.

Tomorrow was Tuesday. His day for S-Count. But he wouldn't submit to
that again. Or have that little talk with Doctor Benton. Tomorrow,
going to work, when he crossed U.S. 75 he would give some Teenager a
hell of a thrill! But tonight ... tonight....

"Come here, baby!" he whispered harshly.





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