Chester Faces the Death Panel

Former Governor of Alaska, Sarah "The Mighty Quitter" Palin posted the following remarkable statement on her Facebook page the other day:
"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

And now, Mighty Toy Cannon Productions presents:

Chapter 47: In which our hero faces the Death Panel and emerges both unscarred and more deeply appreciative of the delicate balance of life (as well as hankering for strong drink).

Chester sat in the waiting room flipping through a dog-eared copy of Golf Digest. An old woman parked her Rascal scooter next to him and quickly fell asleep, her knobbly chin resting on her chest. She smelled of lilacs, baby powder and wet diaper. Chester could not tell if she was breathing. He was afraid to check. He was afraid that touching her papery skin, even gently, would leave a bruise.

Across the room sat a young woman wearing sweatpants and a purple t-shirt that read “Juicy Juice.” On her knee she bounced a fat baby, making its over-sized head flop like a rag doll’s. Chester wondered if they still made Cabbage Patch Dolls, and whether the woman was holding a real baby or if she was one of those crazy people with wild eyes you see on the bus. Chester decided she was just sad and tired.

A teenage girl walked down the hall toward the waiting room with a smile that didn’t match the tear tracks on her cheeks. As she entered the room, an older man—Chester guessed it was her father—rose and gave her a hug. She whispered to him and he hugged her again. The receptionist handed her a file and wished them luck as they left.

A few minutes passed before a light above the reception desk lit up and Chester heard a soft chime. The receptionist called his name. As he approached the desk, she pointed down the hall without looking up from her computer screen. “They’re ready for you. Third door on the left. It shouldn’t take long.”

Chester walked down the hall and knocked softly on a door marked "Panel Room: Quiet Please." Hearing no response, he opened the door slightly and stuck his head through the opening before finally stepping inside. The chamber was an institutional beige and brightly lit with fluorescent ceiling panels. Its only decorative touches were a framed photo of the President, a flag, and a poster depicting a kitten riding on the back of a basset hound, the latter emblazoned with the Ministry’s motto in bold print: “It’s Good to Share the Load.”

Two men and a woman sat at a long metal table shuffling through stacks of files. They looked bored. The older of the men looked up as Chester entered. The thin layer of greasy white hair combed across the top of his head did not hide his bald spot. His tie was loosened and his short-sleeved blue shirt showed sweat stains around the pits. In front of him were a stack of manila files, a gavel and a nameplate that read, “Commissioner Black.” Chester decided he was the person in charge and gave him a friendly nod.

Mr. Black pointed to the single chair facing the table, returned Chester's nod with a weak smile and said, “Have a seat, Chester. We have just a few questions. Don't worry, they're not the 'riddle-me-this' kind from the fairy tales. We're not ogres.”

Chester glanced around the room and wiped the sweat from his upper lip as he sat. He tried drying his damp hands on his green coveralls. The air in the room was close and warm. Chester decided he deserved a drink when this was over. No matter how things turned out. It was the kind of decision Chester was used to making.

“Chester, do you know why we’ve summoned you here this afternoon?” Mr. Black asked. The others did not look up from their papers. “We need to know that you understand why you’ve been called here today.”

Chester had expected a more solemn setting. Oak paneling perhaps. Black robes would have been appropriate. These three looked like DMV employees on casual Friday. He expected a judge who sounded more sonorous and weighty--a James Earl Jones with bronchitis. Mr. Black’s voice was pitched to a higher register and he looked like the Vice Principal of a failing public high school.

The younger man, whose nameplate read “Commissioner Grey,” wore khaki golf pants and a red polo shirt. His hair was neatly trimmed and his orange tan was freshly applied. Chester wondered whether the Rolex was real. He guessed that Mr. Grey had been an investment banker, but was now serving penance in public service. He wondered how much the government paid its commissioners.

The third panelist--“Commissioner Green” by her name plate--wore a teal pantsuit. A yellow pencil held her dark hair in a bun, and a pair of sequined reading glasses were perched on the top of her head. She looked like someone who was not in the habit of showing approval. Chester could tell she was a community organizer of the most dedicated and passionate type. Give her a clipboard and she would march door-to-door and return at the end of the day with a petition full of signatures, even if she had to make half of them up herself.

Chester was thinking that hoods and solemn organ music would have been nice touches when he heard Mr. Black say, in a more insistent voice, “Chester. You need to pay attention to what we’re asking.”

“I’m sorry," Chester responded, a little startled. "I’m just a bit nervous. I honestly don’t know why I was called. It’s not as if I’m asking for special treatment. I’m sure it’s just a sprain.”

Chester rose and hobbled around the room. “Look. I’m getting around just fine. I was thinking an X-ray might be a good idea though. Make sure there’s no fracture. If that’s too much, I’ll just put some ice on it and rest up.”

The younger man looked up impatiently. “Can we just move this along? We have a long roster to get through and I have tickets for tonight.” Mrs. Green rolled her eyes and pursed her lips.

“Chester, there are other reports that are concerning to us,” said Mr. Black. Chester winced involuntarily at the use of "concerning" as an adjective. The other panelists just nodded and continued flipping through their files.

“It’s always hard to have to say this. We don’t want you to think this is easy for us. That would be a misperception ...a misapprehension. That would be looking at this all wrong. I assure you that the Ministry understands and regrets how this may seem to people. Unpleasant, regrettable even. But we have to look at everything.”

“We have to look at factors,” said Mr. Grey, as if that would clarify matters.

“It’s a balancing act,” added Mrs. Green. “It gets tricky, and is not something we enjoy doing. Think of us as umpires who are charged with interpreting the rules. We don’t make the law. Plus we like both teams … all the teams. We think all the teams are good and deserve to win. But that can’t happen, can it? Every team can’t win. You understand that, right?”

Chester slumped in his chair feeling lightheaded. He didn’t like the direction this was going. He wanted to stretch out on the linoleum floor until his head cleared, but he knew that wouldn’t help his case. He took a deep breath and finally stammered, “Have you already decided? What are you getting at?”

Mr. Black straightened his stack of papers and said, “Chester. In our considered judgment, we believe, to the best of our knowledge and with all due consideration of circumstances …”

“And factors,” added Mr. Grey.

Chester’s peripheral vision began to narrow and the room dimmed. He decided to go ahead and lie down. The floor was cool and the fog in his head began to clear almost immediately--just in time to hear Mr. Black conclude, “It’s just that we think you’re no longer … sustainable.”

Chester remained on the floor, but sat up and faced the panel. “Sustainable? What does that even mean? I’m in my fifties, for God’s sake--and the lower end of the decade at that. I feel fine. I’m still productive. All my pre-existing conditions have cleared up. I have certificates to prove it. How can you say I’m not sustainable?”

“All we mean,” explained Mrs. Green, “is that the resource inputs you require are greater than the societal value you produce in return. It’s simple mathematics, really. We consider all the factors.”

Chester yelled back, “But did you consider the multiplier? What multiplier did you use in your calculations? Did you account for the fact that I’m a Creative? My Creative License is good for another five years at least. I have the Bureau stamp to prove it.”

Mr. Black responded, “Chester, I assure you that our math is right. We included your multiplier in our calculations. Normally a Creative would score extra points. Unfortunately, you’re a poet. That's a Class C Creative at best. Your multiplier just isn’t as high as, say … an architect, or even a font designer. The multiplier for poets is nearly as low as that of a journalist.”

“Or a playwright’s,” added Mrs. Green, looking pleased.

Mr. Grey banged his fist on the table and shouted at Chester, “Enough arguing! This isn’t getting us anywhere. What do you expect us to do, buddy? You think we can afford to give you every little test or medical treatment you think you deserve?”

Chester shook his head and whimpered, “I’m not asking anything difficult. It’s just a sprained ankle. Maybe we could ask a doctor?”

Mr. Black chuckled at that. “Good God! Listen to Florence Nightingale here. Do you seriously think a doctor could add anything to this discussion? What century do you think this is, man?”

Mr. Grey went on, “Okay, Mister Poet Man. Suppose you tell us who should be denied medical attention just because your friggin’ x-ray is so damned important.”

He threw a file folder full of papers across the room, pulled a handgun out of his briefcase and pointed it at Chester. “Let’s you and me go out to the waiting room and you can tell me who is less deserving of care. Then you can just go home and pretend this never happened.”

Chester sat motionless, his eyes following the gun as Mr. Grey paced around the room waving it in the air. He looked at Mr. Black, hoping he would interject, but the older man was jotting notes and riffling through his papers. Mrs. Green appeared to be sending a text message.

“If you think this is so easy, maybe the Minister of Human Sustainability should have appointed you to this panel instead of me,” Mr. Grey shouted. He opened the door and pointed to the lobby. “Who? Which one would you choose? The old lady with the bad kidney? The retard?”

Mrs. Green looked up and clucked, “We don’t use that word anymore, Dwayne. That little boy is a child of God like the rest of us.” But Mr. Grey had already left the room, the door slamming behind him. Chester looked at Mr. Black, who only shrugged and turned back to his notepad and said, "I hate this part."

Chester jumped at the sound of a gun firing. Mrs. Green sighed and shook her head, but kept on texting. Chester stood and began to pace, sweat pouring down his face.

Mr. Grey entered the room accompanied by the smell of sulfur. Calmly, he asked, “Okay, now where were we? Oh yes, we were discussing medical ethics weren’t we? We were dialoguing about prioritization of care allocations.”

Chester, nearly vomiting, sat back in the chair and put his head between his legs. “How could … how could you…”

The three panelists burst into laughter. Mr. Black pounded Mr. Grey on the back and said, “We really got this one going didn’t we?”

“Look Chester,” he continued, “don’t go freaking out on us. It’s just a broken ankle like you said. No biggie. Go home, give it a rest.”

“Besides,” added Mrs. Green, “we looked at your credit reports. That’s one of those factors we consider. Quite an important factor, frankly. With the size of your credit card balances, do you seriously think the banks are going to let you off easy?"

"That's right," said Mr. Black. "The bank has pre-approved your continuance, but only on condition that you keep making the minimum payments each month. You might try cutting back on the drinking a bit too.”

He added with a chuckle, “You understand that you won’t be getting the $4,500 Cash for Clunkers credit, don’t you? After all, you’re still here and that credit only goes to the estate of the discontinued.”

Chester turned to Mr. Grey. “You didn’t really shoot anyone in the waiting room did you?”

Mr. Grey grinned and shrugged his shoulders, “No, I didn't have to this time. The old lady croaked while waiting her turn, so we met our quota for the day without bloodshed. Say, she's not like your mother or anything is she?”

Mr. Black stood up and gathered his papers. “I think our work is done for the day, Comrades. Good luck, Chester. Can you do the Administration a big favor pal?"

"What's that?" Chester asked.

"If you really support the troops, you won’t mention any of this to the media, will you?”

"No, I guess I won't." Chester said as he walked out the door. He stopped at the reception desk and paid the mandatory Death Panel Tax, surprised to learn that it had just gone up another 20%. He hoped he had enough credits left for a drink or two at the Coff-em-Up Club on his way home. He needed that drink.


Miss Laura said...

My kidney is dying right now. Can't wait for the next chapter!

LicketyGlitz said...

This is why I want to be a font designer. Hehe.

I'm so hoping that Sara Palin will be hauled up very soon to the Death Panels the current health care system has in place, or maybe her Down Syndrome baby instead. If she doesn't mind using her handicapped child as a scare tactic I see no reason why we can't. And if that doesn't happen, then please Mr. President, would you institute just one Death Panel, specifically to rob Ms. Palin of life? She is pure evil.

Its Palin and Limbaugh in 2012. Turns out they're the exact same person.

David said...

Oh, man. I'd have enjoyed that post more if I hadn't read this article just seconds earlier.

The scenario you describe isn't nearly far enough in the future.

We're so screwed.

Unknown said...

Oh, this is just ... batshit crazy!

The Palin ACTUALLY posted that?!

MightyToyCannon said...

Bob, the Palin quote is indeed real--unless the media folks are lying again, but they aren't.

David, Thanks for harshing my Sunday buzz (as the kids say). The article to which you link is scary. I was fascinated to learn the term "palingenesis" meaning a form of rebirth, as a rising phoenix. (Palin-Genesis??). Further research (i.e., wikipedia) uncovered a wiki-article on "palengenetic ultranationalism" defined as "a theory concerning generic fascism formulated by professor Roger Griffin. The key elements are that fascism can be defined by its core myth, namely that of national rebirth, or palingenesis."

Lickety, there is other speculation that we're going to see a Sarah Palin/Michelle Bachman ticket in 2012. Palin's FB post included a link to Congresswoman Bachman's vitriolic anti-healthcare speech on the house floor. Two wackos working together.

Miss Laura, I hope your kidney holds up. We only get two, but the black market may be thriving soon. As for next chapters, these may come at you out of order -- the next chapter might be the previous chapter.

A hint: Chester lives in a proto-fascist (or outright fascist) world run by shadowy corporations and Christian cultists who have promulgated liberal memes to create the illusion that progressives are to blame for all social ills. Thus, while it appears that the Great Culture War was won by the good guys ...