“I hate that the world wants me to beg,” Alister said.
“It doesn’t want you to,” Becky laughed.
“I completed my four-year degree and my father still tells me what to do. Here we are, five years later, and nothing has changed. We sat in classes. We applied to graduate school.”
“Did you get in?” Katherine asked.
“Of course, I got in,” Alister said.
“Where else? But that doesn’t matter. I’ll be apprenticed to some other damn fool who tells me what to do all day. I don’t need any help mixing my chemicals.”
“Don’t you think it’s strange, that one of your chemistry professors graduated from our high school 50 years ago?” Becky asked. “And he’s here, today.”
“Yeah, Doctor Hawthorne.”
“Why do people come back to the same tired halls?” Alister asked.
“I suspect, it’s because they want to see how far they’ve come, and visiting the past, helps them with that,” Becky said.
“Or they just want to see their friends,” Katherine said innocently. She looked at her picture behind the football trophies. “We were so young then.”
“That was only five years ago. Wait until we have our 50-year reunion,” Becky laughed.
“Alister, how did you manage to be quarterback of the football team, and a chemistry nerd?”
“I don’t know. Let’s go into the gym and drink some alcohol. It’ll be just like old times.”
“Behind the bleachers?” Katherine asked.
The 50-year reunion was on the away-team-court and the 5-year reunion was on the home-team-court. It was a lesson in statistical life-expectancy.
One of their graduating class had died of cancer—advanced leukemia, and all but 5 of the 50-year class was dead, or too feeble to show up.
“Is this what it comes down to?” Alister asked out-loud.
“If you play your cards right, avoid the draft, take your vitamins, and get a professional job.”
Alister turned around. It was his chemistry teacher from college. He looked good. His cheeks were rosy. He had a youthful vibrance.
“Did my letter of recommendation get you into Harvard?” Doctor Hawthorne asked.
“Yes,” Alister said sulkily. “Thank you.” He hated to ask for help.
“What’s the matter. You sound disappointed.”
“It’s just that, after my Ph.D. I’ll be accepted into industry.”
“You could teach?”
“No offense professor, but I don’t want to spend more time in school.”
“I hear that. I remember when I was your age,” Hawthorne said in a faraway voice. “I wanted to conquer the world.”
“In a way.”
“I had a family and a good career.”
“What else is there?”
“I don’t know. It seems like there should be more.”
“There is,” Hawthorne said with a sly smile.
He pulled a hip-flask from his pocket and took a drink.
“No. Eternal Life. I was always searching for something big. Do you know the chem library that was destroyed during the Revolutionary War and rebuilt?”
“Yeah. I think I heard somebody say that.”
“Well… I spent a lot of time reading in there. It was a hobby of mine. I didn’t think it would improve my career. It’s similar to a woman who reads romance novels. There were a lot of books on alchemy, and I flipped through them with curiosity. They were in Latin. Many of them were occult and associated with the Knights Templar—little brews that would probably kill you, if you drank a drop. Well, I taught myself Latin and discovered eternal life and eternal death.”
“It makes you old, forever.”
“Yes, isn’t it.”
“I decided to spike the punch bowl with my hip-flask.”
Alister looked at the 5-year bowl and the 50-year bowl. Then he noticed his classmates. They were old and pointing at each other with horror. The elderly were becoming young again.
“What have you done?” Alister asked.
“Care for some elixir?”
Alister walked to the 50-year punch bowl and took a drink. He felt himself becoming a child again, and then he died.
“Only take what the doctor orders,” Hawthorn laughed. “The right chemicals in the right proportions. He didn’t learn anything in school.”