THERE IS A SEASON • by Peter Wood

Dr. Juan Suarez, the inventor of eternal youth, stepped from the Rolls Royce and studied the cinder-block church. Father Pablo Suarez, the priest who greeted the inner city parishioners after mass, was not happy to see his own father.

Dad finished off a mineral water and handed the empty bottle to a bodyguard and walked up to Pablo. He was over 150 years old, but looked about twenty-five, with a body-builder’s physique. “What are you trying to prove?” Dad asked.

A couple of parishioners frowned. Pablo hoped they didn’t start an argument. His Nobel laureate Dad was not well liked.

“It might be better for you to leave,” Pablo said to his father.

Dad dabbed sweat off his brow with a polka-dotted handkerchief. “You were almost impossible to find.”

After the door-slamming fight fifteen years ago the priest didn’t think Dad would ever want to see him again. “Maybe I didn’t want you to find me.”

A teenager, one of the countless Indonesian eco-refugees, strutted out of a boarded-up barbecue joint across the pot-holed street. When he approached the Rolls, one of Dad’s goons unbuttoned his Italian suit and brandished a semi-automatic. The youth scurried away.

Dad pointed at the graffiti-covered chapel. “You’ve made your point, working in this dump. But, why refuse rejuvenation? For God’s sake, you look middle-aged.”

Pablo scratched his grey beard. “My congregation can’t afford the treatments.”

“You know we have to ration longevity. The world couldn’t handle it if everybody were rejuvenated.” He sighed. “I don’t want to talk about your damned congregation. I’m not here to debate politics again.”

Pablo wiped sweat off his brow with the sleeve of his robe. It was over a hundred already. He had dim memories of cool April mornings as a child. God. What would summer in North Carolina be like?  “You haven’t been to church in a while, have you?”

“Nope.”

“Does all that talk about dying and the hereafter depress you?”

Dad shook his head. “It doesn’t have to happen.”

A drunk urinated on the other side of the street.

“It’ll happen to people around here,” Pablo said.

“It doesn’t need to happen to my son.”

“I don’t expect you to understand my thinking. I’m happier now. Freer. I was dreading another treatment. I drank all the time. Thinking of living forever, watching most folks get old, it made me a nervous wreck.”

“You just needed to dry out,” Dad said.

Pablo glanced at the now-empty sanctuary. He pulled the remote from his pocket and activated the force field around the church. The days when churches were open all day for prayer were long gone.

“I went through rehab. I was supposed to make amends to those I had wronged,” Pablo said. “You know, AA — the twelve steps. I realized almost everybody I’d harmed was dead or really old. And it hit me. Why was I still so young? Why was I special?”

“Killing yourself isn’t going to help them.”

Pablo’s voice rose. “I’m not killing myself. I’m just living like most of the world. Nobody in your little club does anything important. They’re on vacation all the time.”

Dad crossed his arms. “They’ve earned it.”

“They’re frat boys, afraid to graduate. You ever think maybe that the only thing that makes life worth living is the fear of dying?”

“I can’t say the fear of dying’s ever did anyone a whole lot of good.” Dad exhaled loudly. “Do you realize how this looks? The son of the company CEO turns down the process. People are talking.”

Pablo laughed. “Is this about the bottom line?”

“That’s not what I meant… I’m sorry.”

Pablo didn’t believe him, but saw no point in arguing. “My church doesn’t even know I’m your son.”

“Are you embarrassed?”

Dad’s question stung. “No, I don’t want the church to become distracted.”

Dad let out a dry little laugh. “So, you preach about salvation and eternal life and how Jesus died for our sins and you’re afraid to talk about real eternal life?”

“That’s not it.”

“The hell it’s not. Sounds like you need a little bit of faith yourself. You don’t think the Church can compete with what my company offers.”

Pablo brushed back his scraggly gray hair. “The Church welcomes everybody. Can your company say that?”

“You’re spouting the same old bull religion’s peddled for two thousand years and you won’t talk about science? Are you afraid of what your flock might say if they knew you were 125?”

“The Church isn’t about me. It’s about salvation for everybody,” Pablo said.

“Jesus Christ, you — ”

“Don’t say His name like that.”

“I’m sorry. You’re right I shouldn’t have sworn,” Dad said. “I think you don’t have an answer for why eternal life on Earth isn’t what — ”

“Earth isn’t heaven.”

Dad’s eyes misted. “If you want to be fifty for the rest of your life, that’s fine. It’s a good look for a priest, I guess. Just don’t let yourself die. My process is always available to you.”

“I’ve been on this planet for longer than I deserve.”

Dad’s voice cracked. “You know I love you.”

Dad hadn’t said that in fifty or sixty years.

The words came easier than Pablo expected. “I love you too.”

A bodyguard opened the Rolls for Dad. A minute later the car vanished down the street.


Peter Wood is an attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina where he lives with his surly cat and patient wife. He has had stories published in Asimov’s, Daily Science Fiction, Stupefying Stories and Every Day Fiction. “I have no clue where this story came from,” Pete says. “It must be the muse.”


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Every Day Fiction

  • Let bygones be bygones, not the ending I was expecting. This has such potential for one of those comic book hero wind ups you know, flash bam boom? Oh well

    • Pete Wood
      Good point about the ending. Endings and titles are tricky and, in my experience, take the most rewriting and often still are problematic. Thanks for reading! Pete
      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
        Seriously, Pete--endings and titles are tricky? Writing a good story is tricky. Making the whole thing work is tricky. No wonder the kids only want to write nano-fiction these days--any fragment can be a postmodern story, or something. This is, like, the writer's job. No bonus points for filling in every bubble...
        • Cranky Steven
          *ahem*, Sarah, you have some points but I would like to state that wriing nano-fiction is not as easy as it looks. My old drinking buddy, Ernie Hemingway published a six word piece once that was good and I recently published a piece that is all of seven words long and better. I call these "extreme flash fiction" but I like your "nano-fiction" description better. But try writing a story in seven words or less and you'll see what I mean. Good luck. Really.
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            A debate on this topic can go on until we're long past saving with a rejuvenating serum. But I'd call that famous Hemingway piece an epigram. And while I really don't believe anyone can impose rules on writing, I do feel that witty, pungent, exciting, interesting or moving paragraphs--wonderful examples of creativity though they might be--don't always count as what I think is a story. Just me, just my opinion, and I'm a dinosaur for sure--but even with an action that begins and concludes in that paragraph--I don't think of them as stories.
          • Cranky Steven
            You don't look like a reptile and you have made valid, intelligent points. I don't know what an "epigram" is and I'm too lazy to look it up.
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            From Wikipedia: "An epigram is a brief, interesting, memorable, and sometimes surprising or satirical statement. Derived from the Greek: ????????? epigramma "inscription" from ?????????? epigraphein "to write on, to inscribe", this literary device has been employed for over two millennia." Only the names change...
          • samantha
            and still used in Modern Greek to denote just that
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            What I meant by "names change" is all this micro- and extreme and etc.etc. for short forms of writing. No new sparkling inventions. Just the category du jour.
          • samantha
            precisely it dear.
          • Cranky Steven
            Just like I thought.
      • You are welcome, Pete. Keep the faith.
  • Let bygones be bygones, not the ending I was expecting. This has such potential for one of those comic book hero wind ups you know, flash bam boom? Oh well

    • Pete Wood
      Good point about the ending. Endings and titles are tricky and, in my experience, take the most rewriting and often still are problematic. Thanks for reading! Pete
      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
        Seriously, Pete--endings and titles are tricky? Writing a good story is tricky. Making the whole thing work is tricky. No wonder the kids only want to write nano-fiction these days--any fragment can be a postmodern story, or something. This is, like, the writer's job. No bonus points for filling in every bubble...
        • Cranky Steven
          *ahem*, Sarah, you have some points but I would like to state that wriing nano-fiction is not as easy as it looks. My old drinking buddy, Ernie Hemingway published a six word piece once that was good and I recently published a piece that is all of seven words long and better. I call these "extreme flash fiction" but I like your "nano-fiction" description better. But try writing a story in seven words or less and you'll see what I mean. Good luck. Really.
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            A debate on this topic can go on until we're long past saving with a rejuvenating serum. But I'd call that famous Hemingway piece an epigram. And while I really don't believe anyone can impose rules on writing, I do feel that witty, pungent, exciting, interesting or moving paragraphs--wonderful examples of creativity though they might be--don't always count as what I think is a story. Just me, just my opinion, and I'm a dinosaur for sure--but even with an action that begins and concludes in that paragraph--they don't give me the satisfaction of having read a story. It's like Facebook "friends." They ain't, really...
          • Cranky Steven
            You don't look like a reptile and you have made valid, intelligent points. I don't know what an "epigram" is and I'm too lazy to look it up.
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            From Wikipedia: "An epigram is a brief, interesting, memorable, and sometimes surprising or satirical statement. Derived from the Greek: ????????? epigramma "inscription" from ?????????? epigraphein "to write on, to inscribe", this literary device has been employed for over two millennia." Only the names change...
          • samantha
            and still used in Modern Greek to denote just that
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            What I meant by "names change" is all this micro- and extreme and etc.etc. for short forms of writing. No new sparkling inventions. Just the category du jour.
          • samantha
            precisely it dear.
          • Cranky Steven
            Just like I thought.
      • You are welcome, Pete. Keep the faith.
  • Unfortunate typo: Dad dabbed sweat off his brown

    • Pete Wood
      Good points. I guess my point about the forcefield is that it has become common in this future world, not that the church can afford something extraordinary. 2000 year reference is not exact. Dad is rounding off the number, but I could see how this could throw you.
    • Joseph Kaufman
      Typo fixed. Thanks! Feel free to email EDF directly with any typos you detect so that we can fix the online copy of the piece.
  • Unfortunate typo: Dad dabbed sweat off his brown

    For a story about the discovery of eternal life available for a price, and the conflict with a priest of the church and his father who made the discovery, I found it’s impact lacking – about the same one might expect for the discovery of something trivial such as a new soda recipe.

    The stereotype of the “goons,” the fancy car, the drunk taking a leak, well, they seemed superfluous to the real story, just taking up space.

    I never felt any connection to the conflict, the characters, or their relationship.

    Curious that a poor inner-city church could have a high-tech force field to keep the apparently “bad” element out at odd hours but maintains“The Church welcomes everybody”.

    The 2000-year reference puts the story in today’s world. I wasn’t aware of current force field technology.

    • Pete Wood
      Good points. I guess my point about the forcefield is that it has become common in this future world, not that the church can afford something extraordinary. 2000 year reference is not exact. Dad is rounding off the number, but I could see how this could throw you.
    • Joseph Kaufman
      Typo fixed. Thanks! Feel free to email EDF directly with any typos you detect so that we can fix the online copy of the piece.
  • This story explores a very interesting difference of opinion and creates the world in which such a difference of opinion would be realistic. I liked it

    • Pete Wood
      Thanks for reading. Pete
  • This story explores a very interesting difference of opinion and creates the world in which such a difference of opinion would be realistic. I liked it

    • Pete Wood
      Thanks for reading. Pete
  • Samantha

    I liked the story and the themes it tried to cover. There were bits and pieces simply out of place (Jeff has done a good job in picking them up) doing more harm than good for the flow and indeed the meaning..and the “Dad” bit was a bit funny….

    But good effort in trying to get his ideas through. I liked it.

  • Samantha

    I liked the story and the themes it tried to cover. There were bits and pieces simply out of place (Jeff has done a good job in picking them up) doing more harm than good for the flow and indeed the meaning..and the “Dad” bit was a bit funny….

    But good effort in trying to get his ideas through. I liked it.

  • Pete Wood

    Thanks, Sarah.

    Good point..

    Honestly, I have no problem if somebody hates my story, is lukewarm, or has pointed criticism. I am just grateful for anyone who took the time to read something I wrote and gave me an honest opinion.

    Pete

    • Samantha
      That shows a lot! We thank you Pete for sharing!!
    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      Ditto and likewise...
  • Pete Wood

    Thanks, Sarah.

    Good point..

    Honestly, I have no problem if somebody hates my story, is lukewarm, or has pointed criticism. I am just grateful for anyone who took the time to read something I wrote and gave me an honest opinion.

    Pete

    • Samantha
      That shows a lot! We thank you Pete for sharing!!
    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      Ditto and likewise...
  • Pete, I like the theme of the story. The reversal of father and son conflict is there and I think that is the meat of your theme. Although, it seems to be hidden within the premise of the ‘Fountain of Youth’ potion and political economics.

    I think Jeff nails the collateral detail issues. So, I guess I am “me too”-ing that. I would add that I got lost with the names at first. I actually had to reread the first couple of paragraphs to get the father and son roles
    straight before I could move on in the story. It could be just because I haven’t made it through my allotment of coffee for the day though.

    My 2 cents, I suspect I could get change back for what it is worth.

  • Pete, I like the theme of the story. The reversal of father and son conflict is there and I think that is the meat of your theme. Although, it seems to be hidden within the premise of the ‘Fountain of Youth’ potion and political economics.

    I think Jeff nails the collateral detail issues. So, I guess I am “me too”-ing that. I would add that I got lost with the names at first. I actually had to reread the first couple of paragraphs to get the father and son roles
    straight before I could move on in the story. It could be just because I haven’t made it through my allotment of coffee for the day though.

    My 2 cents, I suspect I could get change back for what it is worth.

  • joanna b.

    I’m all for looking 25 when one is 150 so i liked the initial set-up.

    I was moved by the “dim memories of cool April mornings” because it had real feeling attached to it. but it was ruined immediately by the priest wondering what summer in North Carolina would be like. i mean, wouldn’t he know that?

    when i came to the second “wiping sweat off his brow” i kind of gave up on the piece. that kind of repetition in flash fiction means to me that the writer fell down in the editing process.

    the piece as a whole for me wasn’t a story. the father-son dialogue had only a passing resemblance to any real conversation. nothing happened here other than an old conversation being rehashed. the “You know I love you” and “I love you too” for an ending was unearned by anything that preceded it.

    • Pete Wood
      Good observations. I see what you mean about it being more scene than story. I think this story is more idea driven than character driven. Thanks for reading. Pete
  • joanna b.

    I’m all for looking 25 when one is 150 so i liked the initial set-up.

    I was moved by the “dim memories of cool April mornings” because it had real feeling attached to it. but it was ruined immediately by the priest wondering what summer in North Carolina would be like. i mean, wouldn’t he know that?

    when i came to the second “wiping sweat off his brow” i kind of gave up on the piece. that kind of repetition in flash fiction means to me that the writer fell down in the editing process.

    the piece as a whole for me wasn’t a story. the father-son dialogue had only a passing resemblance to any real conversation. nothing happened here other than an old conversation being rehashed. the “You know I love you” and “I love you too” for an ending was unearned by anything that preceded it.

    • Pete Wood
      Good observations. I see what you mean about it being more scene than story. I think this story is more idea driven than character driven. Thanks for reading. Pete
  • terrytvgal

    Not my cup of tea.

  • terrytvgal

    Not my cup of tea.

  • Cranky Steven

    I really enjoyed this yarn to the point of giving it five biggies. I live with a similar emotional/familial situation minus the eternal youth formula which I’m still working on.

    • Pete Wood
      Thanks!
      • Cranky Steven
        YW and well deserved.
  • Cranky Steven

    I really enjoyed this yarn to the point of giving it five biggies. I live with a similar emotional/familial situation minus the eternal youth formula which I’m still working on.

    • Pete Wood
      Thanks!
      • Cranky Steven
        YW and well deserved.
  • S Conroy

    Lots to like about this. Funny and thought-provoking with age-old themes looked at from a quirky angle. Thanks for the entertainment!

    • Pete Wood
      I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for reading and commenting. Pete
  • S Conroy

    Lots to like about this. Funny and thought-provoking with age-old themes looked at from a quirky angle. Thanks for the entertainment!

    • Pete Wood
      I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for reading and commenting. Pete
  • Paul A. Freeman

    I found the uniformity of the writing a bit monotonous and the sudden wrap left me flummoxed. The idea behind the story is excellent, but the execution didn’t really engage me.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I found the uniformity of the writing a bit monotonous and the sudden wrap left me flummoxed. The idea behind the story is excellent, but the execution didn’t really engage me.

  • Jen

    Another beautiful, but sad story. A great look at ideological conflicts.

  • Jen

    Another beautiful, but sad story. A great look at ideological conflicts.

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  • The son is thinking, what is eternal youth on Earth compared to eternal life in Heaven? Given time, maybe Dad will realize this. He’s already come a long way. Dad, on the other hand and from his perspective, only wants what is best for his son.

  • The son is thinking, what is eternal youth on Earth compared to eternal life in Heaven? Given time, maybe Dad will realize this. He’s already come a long way. Dad, on the other hand and from his perspective, only wants what is best for his son.