“Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”
(Originally published in Galaxy as “The Big Trip Up Yonder”)
GRAMPS FORD, his chin resting on his hands, his hands on the crook of his cane, was staring irascibly at the five-foot television screen that dominated the room. On the screen, a news commentator was summarizing the day’s happenings. Every thirty seconds or so, Gramps would jab the floor with his cane-tip and shout, “Hell, we did that a hundred years ago!”
Emerald and Lou, coming in from the balcony, where they had been seeking that 2185 A.D. rarity—privacy—were obliged to take seats in the back row, behind Lou’s father and mother, brother and sister-in-law, son and daughter-in-law, grandson and wife, granddaughter and husband, great-grandson and wife, nephew and wife, grandnephew and wife, great-grandniece and husband, great-grandnephew and wife—and, of course, Gramps, who was in front of everybody. All save Gramps, who was somewhat withered and bent, seemed, by pre-anti-gerasone standards, to be about the same age—somewhere in their late twenties or early thirties. Gramps looked older because he had already reached 70 when anti-gerasone was invented. He had not aged in the 102 years since.
“Meanwhile,” the commentator was saying, “Council Bluffs, Iowa, was still threatened by stark tragedy. But 200 weary rescue workers have refused to give up hope, and continue to dig in an effort to save Elbert Haggedorn, 183, who has been wedged for two days in a …”
“I wish he’d get something more cheerful,” Emerald whispered to Lou.
“SILENCE!” cried Gramps. “Next one shoots off his big bazoo while the TV’s on is gonna find hisself cut off without a dollar—” his voice suddenly softened and sweetened—”when they wave that checkered flag at the Indianapolis Speedway, and old Gramps gets ready for the Big Trip Up Yonder.”
He sniffed sentimentally, while his heirs concentrated desperately on not making the slightest sound. For them, the poignancy of the prospective Big Trip had been dulled somewhat, through having been mentioned by Gramps about once a day for fifty years.
“Dr. Brainard Keyes Bullard,” continued the commentator, “President of Wyandotte College, said in an address tonight that most of the world’s ills can be traced to the fact that Man’s knowledge of himself has not kept pace with his knowledge of the physical world.”
“Hell!” snorted Gramps. “We said that a hundred years ago!”
“In Chicago tonight,” the commentator went on, “a special celebration is taking place in the Chicago Lying-in Hospital. The guest of honor is Lowell W. Hitz, age zero. Hitz, born this morning, is the twenty-five-millionth child to be born in the hospital.” The commentator faded, and was replaced on the screen by young Hitz, who squalled furiously.
“Hell!” whispered Lou to Emerald. “We said that a hundred years ago.”
“I heard that!” shouted Gramps. He snapped off the television set and his petrified descendants stared silently at the screen. “You, there, boy—”
“I didn’t mean anything by it, sir,” said Lou, aged 103.
“Get me my will. You know where it is. You kids all know where it is. Fetch, boy!” Gramps snapped his gnarled fingers sharply.
Lou nodded dully and found himself going down the hall, picking his way over bedding to Gramps’ room, the only private room in the Ford apartment. The other rooms were the bathroom, the living room and the wide windowless hallway, which was originally intended to serve as a dining area, and which had a kitchenette in one end. Six mattresses and four sleeping bags were dispersed in the hallway and living room, and the daybed, in the living room, accommodated the eleventh couple, the favorites of the moment.
On Gramps’ bureau was his will, smeared, dog-eared, perforated and blotched with hundreds of additions, deletions, accusations, conditions, warnings, advice and homely philosophy. The document was, Lou reflected, a fifty-year diary, all jammed onto two sheets—a garbled, illegible log of day after day of strife. This day, Lou would be disinherited for the eleventh time, and it would take him perhaps six months of impeccable behavior to regain the promise of a share in the estate. To say nothing of the daybed in the living room for Em and himself.
“Boy!” called Gramps.
“Coming, sir.” Lou hurried back into the living room and handed Gramps the will.
“Pen!” said Gramps.