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demoralized air, too. Chairs and ashtrays had been moved away from
the walls. The floor was paved with spattered dropcloths.
The room was being redecorated. It was being redecorated as a
memorial to a man who had volunteered to die.
A sardonic old man, about two hundred years old, sat on a stepladder,
painting a mural he did not like. Back in the days when people aged
visibly, his age would have been guessed at thirty-five or so. Aging had
touched him that much before the cure for aging was found.
The mural he was working on depicted a very neat garden. Men and
women in white, doctors and nurses, turned the soil, planted seedlings,
sprayed bugs, spread fertilizer.
Men and women in purple uniforms pulled up weeds, cut down plants
that were old and sickly, raked leaves, carried refuse to trash-burners.
Never, never, never—not even in medieval Holland nor old Japan—had
a garden been more formal, been better tended. Every plant had all the
loam, light, water, air and nourishment it could use.
A hospital orderly came down the corridor, singing under his breath a
popular song:
If you don't like my kisses, honey, Here's what I will do: I'll go see a
girl in purple, Kiss this sad world toodle-oo. If you don't want my
lovin', Why should I take up all this space? I'll get off this old
planet, Let some sweet baby have my place.
The orderly looked in at the mural and the muralist. "Looks so real," he
said, "I can practically imagine I'm standing in the middle of it."
"What makes you think you're not in it?" said the painter. He gave a
satiric smile. "It's called 'The Happy Garden of Life,' you know."
"That's good of Dr. Hitz," said the orderly.
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