THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR: Last Words of Print

NPR has a contest for three-minute fiction, in which they provide a picture, and you must write a story about the photo that can be read in under three minutes. I entered once. The picture was  of an open newspaper at an empty table. It seemed sad. So I decided to write a story from the perspective of the newspaper as it contemplates the twilight of its existence.

This was that story.

It isn’t fair what happens as we grow old. The way we slowly fade from relevance as the
world changes around us, even when we’re still useful. The way our families slowly drift apart, leaving us for exciting new opportunities far away. The way we are left alone to languish in their absence, our individual pieces slowing down, growing progressively more anemic and useless until they serve as little more than decoration. The way our children gleefully forget their proud heritage, pissing on the world we built we built for them.

From the petulant and immature, the abandonment is almost to be expected. But even our friends, our peers, those we rubbed elbows with for decades leave us when we are weak, afraid they will be dragged down in our wake.

Only our lovers remain. Those absurdly romantic diehards intoxicated with the way we
feel on their fingertips on a Sunday morning. Our smell. They stand by us even when
that touch grows dry and brittle, when we become moist and stained, our bold fresh smell mutated to a pungent chimera of rot and whatever we were soiled with. But inside we know that they too are on their way out. That they called are cranks and luddites. That behind closed doors, even we occasionally cast aspersions on their character. We are absurdly aware of our own mortality. Some might even call us obsessed. At this point, all we can really do is pray we will go before our lovers do, so we don’t have to suffer the limbo of their absence.

It wasn’t always like this though. Age used to be a mark of distinction. With it came
respect, admiration, reverence. No one can say exactly how or why things changed, only that they did and we must now face that reality.

I don’t know where you’ve gone, or for how long. Only that I am lonely here without
you. Once a friend to all, I now sit alone and forgotten, my legacy trivialized as a
stepping-stone on the path down which progress marches ever onward. It isn’t fair. I
deserve better. We all do.

Please come back soon. Though I know my end is inevitable, I still am afraid to die
alone.

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