Andy was four years old, but because of his progeria he looked around seventy-eight. It was a little like that Brad Pitt movie.
Andy’s parents, Don and Jane, were a little opportunistic, some might say exploitative. Andy was diagnosed with progeria at three and by the time he was four, the condition was in full swing. The little boy only three feet tall looked around seventy-eight. He was cute as most toddlers go, but not in the traditional sense. His little wispy growth of hair was beyond gray, more a fading white, like old man snow. It was a little like that Brad Pitt movie. Wrinkles lined his face like detour lines, directing the traffic of his experience in the wrong direction. But his curse was not the rare, incurable disease, but was instead Andy’s parents. They not only failed to love their son, they weren’t above exploiting him for personal gain, if they could find an angle.
Don had once been a carnival barker traveling state to state. “It’s too bad this wasn’t forty years ago,” he told Jane, “We could have sold Andy to a freak show.” Andy was out of earshot reading a Bugs Bunny book up in his room when this particularly callous remark was uttered. The boy was perceptive well beyond his years and already learned to read more than cartoonish rabbit stories. Did he know the history of P.T. Barnum? It was within the realm of possibility.
Jane voiced her own cruel suggestion in a whisper, out of consideration for her son, she said. “We could go on Oprah,” she said, “and maybe cash in.”
Finally they learned about term life insurance policies and how some California insurance agents sold it. They picked the California insurance agent straight out of a brand new phone book, Pacific Bell ding-ring-a-ling. The next day they were at the agent’s door, little Andy in tow. He was quite inured to being paraded in front of strangers. For him it was normal. He knew that his parents didn’t love him. Kids can sense such things. He was a quiet child though, and extremely polite.
At first the agent was polite, not realizing the parents’ intentions. “How can I help you?” he asked, naïve to this particular nuance of greed. His Thousand Oaks office brought in a motley crew of potential customers, though few of this ilk. The California insurance agent sized up the couple quickly; but the child, why was he so old? He vaguely guessed the illness he had; feeling a wave of compassion, but the name … it didn’t come to mind. The little boy smiled, melting the agent’s heart.
“We want a term life insurance policy on our son,” Don said nonchalantly, as if he were merely sneezing. It was at that moment when the agent understood the enormity of it all.
“Get out,” he said, “Get out of my office.” He felt like calling a social worker, or maybe a cop. But the boy emphasized to the agent; that marvelous little boy, “Don’t worry, sir,” he said in his little pipsqueak voice, “I’m like that movie.”
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