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Anecdotal Spores: Progeria

by Matt Hughes

There was once a carpet salesman who developed an obscure disease that was eventually—after it had run its raging course—diagnosed as acute adult-onset progeria, a diagnosis that was met with skepticism and astonishment by virtually everyone in the medical community, which was only natural.

Both the etiology and prognosis of the carpet salesman’s affliction were baffling, since all symptoms defied the literature on the subject. Essentially, it was a seizure of aging that gripped the poor fellow, so that at twenty-seven he began to age unnaturally and in three years had the physique of a seventy-year-old man. This rapid progression of aging stopped as suddenly and inexplicably as it had begun, leaving the carpet salesman tired, sick, and bewildered.

In spite of his brief fame due to this misfortune, the salesman was soon forced to retire. He felt and acted not like a sound and robust seventy-year-old man, but like one who has lost all his health and vitality; and there was no denying it. His wife and young children left him, but he was too old and tired to protest.

Still, he had to live, somehow, and after a few, half-hearted probes, managed to secure another job as a salesman, this time with a company named “Ec-Log,” producers of programmed materials for micro-economic analysis.

But, since he was ill-prepared for this high-pressured existence, and ill-trained, so that he had great difficulty in understanding what he was selling, he soon retired once again—this time on a medical disability.

At thirty he entered a nursing home, where he tried to tell his fellow patients what had happened to him; but none of them understood a thing he was saying. Without exception, they interpreted every detail of his story as no different from those of their own lives, because all of them secretly believed that their old age and debility had crept upon them in the same way—inscrutably, unfairly, and swiftly, within the duration of, say, two or three years.


Matt Hughes lives in the country in the wooded Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio. The Theatre Studio in Manhattan recently produced four of his one-act plays, the latest being Inside the Outside, or the Mobius Trip. He collects old and rare books and, with his wife of many years, antiques. He likes to go yard saleing.

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