The Death of Algernon

Larry Kowalski had been a surfer and still enjoyed swimming in the Pacific. But when it wasn’t summer, the days were depressingly shorter, and Larry asked his California Health Insurance agent Matt Lockard if his policy covered Freudian psychiatric care. As for the demise of his son’s pet turtle, that just wasn’t at the core of his sadness.

Larry loved summer. He preferred that halcyon season to last forever, an endless array of longest days spent frolicking in the California surf & sun. Every year was the same. The days grew shorter. He didn’t surf anymore now that he was approaching fifty and a friend of his had been eaten by a supposedly friendly great white shark down near San Diego. But he still swam in the Pacific, albeit cautiously. As summer waned this year, and with the death of Algernon, his son’s pet turtle, he felt especially saddened. At the turtle’s funeral in the cathedral amid a multitude of mourners, some of them prominent veterinarians and circus performers, Larry realized he needed help — a Freudian psychiatrist’s talk therapy. He knew at that moment that Algernon was the last thing on his mind, but he still cried.

That very afternoon, Larry phoned his California Health Insurance agent, Matt Lockard, who was also a friend. If anyone would understand, it was Matt. “Hi Matt, I was wondering if my policy covered my seeing a therapist for depression, preferably someone I can talk to in regular sessions, does it?”

Matt Lockard paused to ponder in his characteristic way. “You want to see a shrink?”

“Yes,” Larry admitted, “one of those Freudian guys.”

“I think so,” said Matt, “It’s under psychiatric services. Sure.”

Matt was also there to listen. “I heard about Algernon’s death,” the California Health Insurance agent consoled, “It was in the paper. Your family must be devastated.”

“Oh, it’s not that,” Larry admitted.

“What is it then?” Matt queried suspiciously, suddenly a bit perplexed and truth be, maybe a trifle angered at his friend’s obvious lack of empathy. How could Larry be so callous? Didn’t everyone in California love that amazing little reptile?

“I do miss Algernon, and I realize how much he meant to my son and to everyone else apparently, but I just realized that what’s making me sad is seasonal. I love summer, those long days spent frolicking in the Pacific surf, I still swim …”

“And now suddenly it’s over. Summer’s over. I understand completely,” Matt said, starting to grow misty-eyed himself when he realized the enormity of what had been lost.

“I still swim,” Larry repeated, and both men began sobbing.

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