Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

The year, 2020:

Howard Bashford sat with Amy Handleman in a corner café, sipping a regular, caffeine-free coffee, with artificial sweetener and fat-free cream substitute. Handleman was having the same, which she stirred idly.

“I’ve had to give up jogging,” said Howard glumly. “The Health Police stopped me out on the bike trail and asked how often I was running and how far. When I told them three miles, four days a week, they said I had to cut it out.”

“Why?” asked Amy. “I thought that care of your body, as a property of the state, was not only desirable, but required.”

“It is,” said Howard, “but apparently you can have too much of a good thing. The health cops gave me this.”

He presented Amy a handbill bearing the official seal of the Health Police. It said:


Actuarial statistics indicate a healthy person should participate in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week.

Exceeding this statutory limit can lead to osteoarthritis requiring medical treatment.

Under law, all unnecessary medical treatment is illegal.

Osteoarthritis brought on by too much aerobic exercise – like excessive jogging – therefore is illegal.

“Wow!” Amy exclaimed. “I had no idea.”

“Then they told me a good citizen wouldn’t run at all, but would limit exercise to low impact machines in a government-licensed gymnasium,” said Howard.

“Well, you don’t want to be a burden on the health-care system,” said Amy. “It’s operating at too big a deficit as it is.”

“Yeah,” said Howard. “I guess we all have to do our part. In the words of Barack Obama, ‘If we don’t all participate, everybody suffers.’ But it seems to me that we’re all participating, and everybody is suffering anyway.”

“Geez, Howard!” hissed Amy. “Be careful! You never know who might be listening or watching. Why, did you know Jill Poke got arrested last week?”

“No!” said Howard. “What for?”

Amy looked around furtively. “The Health Police searched her house, and they found five pounds of refined sugar!”

“Five pounds!” said Howard incredulously. “That’s way more than the allowable limit for a year.”

“Sure is,” Amy replied. “Luckily, it turned out to be Cuban sugar. She told the judge she bought it in solidarity with the people of Cuba who we exploited so badly in the past. The judge let her off with a warning and probation – but it goes on her record with the Health Police.”

“She’s lucky,” said Howard, “not like Doroteo.”

“Doroteo Arango?” said Amy. “What happened to Doroteo?”

“They caught him with a kilo of salt,” said Howard. “He goes on trial next week for conspiracy to harden arteries and thus drain the resources of the health-care system.

“He’ll probably end up eating macrobiotic for a couple of years and exercising three times a week in a penitentiary gym.”

“At least he’ll come out healthy,” said Amy. “That’s the most important thing.”

“Well,” she said, gathering up her handbag and sweater, “I have to go. Don’t want to miss my appointment at Planned Parenthood.”

“No kidding?” said Howard. “You aren’t getting an abortion, are you?”

“You bet,” said Amy. “I don’t know how my husband Dick and I slipped up, but I’m pregnant. An abortion is my civic duty.

“Sure, that D and C costs the government a couple of bucks, but it’s nothing compared to the expense of prenatal exams, childbirth and, of course, those endless well-baby clinics, vaccinations and such. Besides, we already have as many kids as the law allows, and we don’t want to get arrested by the Health Police.”

“Can’t argue with that,” said Howard. “You don’t want to get in a fix like Jill or Doroteo.”

He looked at his now-underused multifunction wristwatch. “I have to go myself. I want to see that exhibit of historic Americana at the Health Care Museum. I understand they have a redacted copy of the document that used to define our country – before the Declaration of Health. You know, the Constitution of the United States of America.”

“Should be a hoot,” called Amy over her shoulder.

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