Tough Call On Pluto - Poem by Donal Mahoney
Herb met this fellow in a dark bar long after midnight and Herb had had a few drinks at a couple of other places. He was only tipsy by his standards and felt he still had a long way to go.
The other fellow sat two stools away but Herb was sure the man had three ears—the third in the middle of his forehead just above his third eye. It wasn’t Halloween yet so maybe he had been to a costume party and was stopping off for a final drink. Otherwise the guy looked like anyone else Herb might have seen in a bar long after midnight after having a few drinks. Not to worry, thought Herb. Things get stranger in Manhattan every day.
“What’s up, ” Herb said.
The man smiled and said he had just dropped in from Pluto. He had been sent by the government to survey people on Earth, especially Americans, on subjects of interest to Plutonians who would be voting on similar issues in an upcoming election.
“Well, you can survey me, ” Herb said. “I stay current on all that’s going on and we have a big election of our own not that far off. It’s going to be interesting, believe me.”
The fellow told Herb that on Pluto three issues would be on the ballot and many Plutonians had mixed feelings about all three. They had heard all three had been dealt with on Earth to one degree or another and he had been sent to find out how things were going. His job was to file a story on PNN, the Pluto New Network, before the election. The hope was the feedback would be helpful to Plutonians trying to make the right decisions.
“Happy to help if I can, ” Herb said, signaling to the bartender that he wanted another Jack Daniels.
“Make that a double, ” he said.
The Plutonian seemed more comfortable now and flipped open a cover on what looked like a wrist watch but apparently worked like a tiny iPad. He began to type in a few words and then turned to Herb again.
“Tell me if I have this right. In many places on Earth, although not all, people have made abortion and assisted suicide available but there is now a movement underfoot to eliminate the death penalty. Am I right on that? ”
“You are indeed, ” said Herb.
“Well back home, Plutonians are going to vote soon on all three issues and they’re confused.”
Herb sipped his new drink and told the Plutonian that in the United States and in a number of other countries, abortion had been available for some time, assisted suicide was becoming more popular, and there was growing opposition to the death penalty.
“But there are many dissenters in all three areas, ” Herb said.
“Abortion and assisted suicide probably have more fans in Europe than in the United States and that might be true of banning the death penalty as well. Banning the death penalty is just catching on here. Many think it is cruel and unusual punishment while others think murderers should get what they doled out. I have mixed feelings myself, ” Herb added.
The Plutonian said that on Pluto people were confused because in all three scenarios the result was the same. Death.
'In abortion, life ends for the fetus at the decision of an adult if I understand that correctly, ” the Plutonian said.
“You do, ” Herb said with a belch. “No use asking the fetus.'
'In assisted suicide, ” the Plutonian said, 'life ends for an adult who makes that decision willingly assuming no one makes that decision for him or her.”
“It’s only available, ” Herb said, 'in a few states in America and in some countries in Europe. They claim to have safeguards in place. But if granny is taking her time and she’s got a lot of money, who knows what might happen. But I have heard of no scandals so far.'
'And with the death penalty, ” the Plutonian said, “we understand someone dies at the hands of the government but usually not because the criminal wants to die but because a jury has decided he or she should.'
“You got all that right, ” Herb said. “No question. How do you think Plutonians will vote? ”
“I don’t know, ” the Plutonian said. “Right now, they’re split in the polls because for them it’s apples and oranges. We grow those by the way on Pluto.”
“Apples and oranges? Why? ” Herb asked. He was now a lot more than tipsy.
“Well, the only constant Plutonians see in all three cases, ” the Plutonian said, 'is that life ends.
'Perhaps with a bang, ” he added, 'if there’s a firing squad used for the death penalty as it is in some countries.
'And probably with silence after taking a pill for assisted suicide.
'And probably with a whimper or maybe a bleat in the case of abortion. Although the older ones might yell, I imagine. Has to hurt.
'It’s a tough call for Plutonians because we don’t know what death is back home. We live forever. And now someone wants to change that for some of us.
“I doubt abortion will pass, ” the Plutonian added, 'because the fetus has no say. But assisted suicide could win at the polls but that’s just a guess.
'I doubt the death penalty will pass because we don’t have murderers—just thieves in our orchards stealing apples and oranges. We lock them up for life and feed them prunes. ”
Herb offered to buy the guy a drink but when he came back from the men’s room the fellow was gone. All that he had left behind was a handbill announcing the election about a month away. Didn’t mention the location of any polling places.
But Herb thought it would be easier to vote in a month on Pluto than in the United States next year.
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