Later on that evening, Jay was back at his house, sitting in the reclining chair in his living room, a package of frozen fish sticks on his head and his feet soaking in a bucket of ice-water, while another empty bucket was sitting just to his right. He'd intended to try going to work to take his mind off the terrifying discoveries he'd made this morning, but upon arrival, he discovered that one of the barrels had been stolen. Because of this, he ordered his staff to ramp up production to compensate, which then led to him tasting countless bourbon samples and getting so mad drunk that he was asked to go home and recuperate.
On the way back, he had let his temptation get to him and entered "The Rusty Tap", a bar that served as his favorite hangout spot. But when he got there, one of the first things he noticed was that the bartender's hand was wrinkled, and there was gray hair along the arm that followed. Shocked to see that everyone outside his family was aging too, he ordered several more drinks and was just barely able to stumble all the way home, vomiting numerous times along the way.
Weak, sick, tired, emotionally stressed, and in pain, the only noises poor Jay could muster were some long groans.
"Y'know, I was thinking that since all the kids are out of the house tonight, we could go to that bar you like so much and have a dinner to ourselves just like in the old days... but you seem too ill to even get out of that chair," Ruthie said, sitting in the armchair next to his recliner.
After a brief spell of panting, Jay finally felt better enough to speak.
"Wh-Whaddaya mean... 'all the kids'? Isn't... uh, Loretta still here?" he asked.
"No, she's going out on a date with Richard Brown from school," Ruthie replied.
"WHAT?!" Jay shouted in alarm, breathing heavily and sweating buckets. "You let her go?!"
"Why yes, dearie. Richard seems like a nice boy, and he promises to take good care of her," Ruthie replied, "Besides, you need to learn to let things be and start worrying more about yourself!"
Jay didn't respond save for another groan.
"Fine. I guess I won't get on her case about it anymore. Now where are the other kids again?" he asked after a bit.
"Logan is on a school trip, and Toby is at Tyson's house," Ruthie responded.
"Oh... right," Jay replied. "Ugh, I feel awful! Make me a hurricane, please!"
"Boy, you've had way more than enough alcohol for one day, and probably the rest of your life! Look, Jay, I don't know what your deal is, but you just need to be quiet and get some rest!" Ruthie said. "And when you wake up, you'll feel much better and realize that there was nothing to worry about! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go heat up the chitlins from the freezer."
With his wife gone for the time being, Jay allowed himself to relax and gave the alcohol clouding his brain a chance to wear off. Now that he could think straight again, he took next few minutes to mull over his whole predicament.
"I can't take this anymore! Where did things go wrong?! All my kids are acting older than they really are, I can barely recognize then anymore, and now I realize that after all these years, I... I'm not even half the man I used to be, and the people I know aren't the same!"
He stopped talking and started to sweat, coughing hard as he clenched his chest. The mere thought of such rapid change going on in such a short time-frame placed a massive toll on his aging heart, which probably wouldn't be the case if only he were in better health.
"Jay! Dinner's ready!" Ruthie called from the dining room.
Without a word, Jay stood up and started to slowly walk to the table, though he had some difficulty maintaining his balance and never stopped shaking.
"You made it! I'll bet some of that stress you're feeling is just from you not eating anything all day!" Ruthie said, sliding Jay's bowl of chitlins over to him.
One could see that she had added a fair amount of hot sauce to them, as per his own preference. Jay nodded and dug in, instantly feeling somewhat rejuvenated; enough so that he barreled through three bowls of it. However, at the end, he could already feel the fat content of the pig intestines working its dark magic on his arteries, and he also felt a good deal of heartburn from the hot sauce. Being done eating also made him remember what he had been upset about beforehand, and he began another coughing-fit. Ruthie did not hesitate to bring him back to his chair, where he sat shivering and wheezing uncontrollably. She sighed and shook her head.
"Jay, I still can't seem to figure out what's gotten into you! Should we call a doctor?" she asked.
Jay opened his mouth to speak, but suffered another strong chest-pain. He leaned over the side of the chair and regurgitated into the bucket, though some blood managed to slip out as well. He began panting heavily.
"No! I'll... be fine! Ugh... it's just that... ohhhh…" he managed to say, before he became too exhausted and lay backwards on his chair, not unconscious, but incredibly drowsy. Ruthie sighed again.
"Time for Plan B again," she muttered, before speaking up. "Y'know, honey, maybe you just need a little happiness to lift you up out of that emotional hole you've dug your way into!" She pulled the lever on the recliner, causing it to lay almost perfectly flat, and got on top of her sick husband, cushioned by his large stomach.
"Ooogghh! Ever... heard of... ergh... a place... or a... time?!" Jay managed to argue.
"No, really! I insist!" Ruthie replied, leaning in to kiss him despite his defiance.
The minute their lips met, the two remained locked in a kiss for a good thirty seconds. During the tender moment, Jay in particular felt as though a distillery just like the one he owned was inside his chest, rapidly producing bourbon, shipping it out to all 50 states and even the other six continents, except it was doing so much more quickly than it ever had before, almost as if its boss had whipped all of the staff bloody to make them work at a faster pace. He could feel the production being ramped up immensely by the second, until it was literally in overdrive. Then, as quickly as a bullet exits a 45-caliber pistol, the bourbon production ground to an abrupt and complete halt.
He had no idea how much time had passed since he blacked out, but the next thing Jay knew, he was dead. All that stress piled onto his heart from his admittedly short-lived midlife crisis, combined with his already poor, deteriorating health had finally gotten to him and ended his life at only forty-five years old.
At the moment, all Jay could do was sit alone on a train, completing his voyage into heaven. He had no idea how much his death had affected his loved ones back home, nor did he know a thing about what the afterlife would be like once he got there, but he wasn't concerning himself with either of those matters. Instead, he just sat there with his head in his hands, subconsciously scolding himself over what he'd done. He was mad at himself for how he'd been acting for half his life. For being so optimistic and carefree that he'd let time pass him by and neglected his own health. For taking his anger about the situation out on his wife instead of channeling it into something productive.
"Grr, why did they have to make Flintstones vitamins so delicious?! Now I'm dead at eight years old, and I've barely done anything with my life!"
That childish voice was enough to snap Jay out of his thoughts and look up. Walking right by his otherwise empty seat was a little white boy with spiky blonde hair and royal-blue eyes. As soon as he spotted the empty spots nearby, he halted in his tracks.
"Er, excuse me sir? Are any of those seats taken? I can't find anywhere else to sit," the kid asked.
"Nope, feel free to sit here," Jay sighed. "The name's Jay Lewis, in case you were curious."
"Todd Henderson," the kid introduced. "Nice to meet you."
After a brief handshake, the two sat there in silence for a spell.
"So, uh, I take it your last few moments were pretty rough?" Todd asked, hoping to know his new acquaintance a bit better.
"You have no idea," Jay replied. "Listen kid, do yourself a favor and never, ever, ever let time pass you by. Most people don't even know what they have until it starts changing on them. So promise me you'll never let yourself get too absorbed in your life to where you stop paying attention to those around you."
"Uh, dude, I'm already dead. I don't get how that advice will benefit me," Todd raised an eyebrow.
"Doesn't matter. Just... always be sure to live in the present and not the past. If I'd done that, I... w-wouldn't be... up here...!"
With that Jay wrapped his arms tightly around his new friend and for the first time, broke down into tears over his situation. All Todd could do was hug him back as he let all his pent-up emotions out, and surprisingly, he just couldn't bring himself to mock an older man for doing such a thing.
~ ~ ~ The End ~ ~ ~