Steve Hale, a forty-year-old billionaire, lay on a couch in the office of Dr. Mark Carr, a psychiatrist. “So, Mr. Hale, what brings you here?”
“Worry. Anxiety. Fear.”
“What do you worry about?”
“My fortune. I’m afraid I’m going to grow old and die and have to leave my estates and my yacht and everything I’ve worked for behind. What I have belongs to me and I don’t want old age and death to take what’s mine away from me.
“Mr. Hale, I understand why you feel the way you do, but everybody grows old and dies. It’s inevitable. Can’t you just enjoy what you have while you’re young?”
“I do enjoy what I have, but my fear of growing old and dying is always on my mind. My worry keeps me awake at night. I don’t know what to do?”
“I could prescribe anti-anxiety drugs that might help.”
“No! No drugs.”
“Maybe another session would help. Talking is good medicine.”
“Okay. I’ll think about it. Thank you,” he said, and left. When he got home, he went to his spacious living room, sat on a recliner, and closed his eyes. "I'll lose everything I worked just because I have to grow old and die. It's not fair." After ten minutes of complaining, he fell asleep.
Twenty minutes later, his secretary and confidant, William, rushed into the living room. "Steve, Steve, wake up," he urged and turned on the television.
"What? What's happening?"
William tuned to channel four. "Steve, an anthropologist, Dr. Ellis Wills, is presenting a lecture at his university about his expedition in the Amazon."
"The objective of the expedition was to find a tribe in the Amazon that anthropologists had been trying to find for years. Four graduate students and I flew to Cusco in Peru , hired a guide who interpreted for us, bearers, bought supplies and headed out. After ten days, we stopped. Our guide said we had to leave the boat and walk. After trudging for days through the jungle, we arrived at a village. We were greeted by friendly natives, were fed and given a place to sleep for the night. In the morning, we looked around and noticed that there were no old people in tribe. We told our interpreter to ask the chief how it was possible that no one in his tribe grows old. He wouldn't tell us, so, disappointed, we returned home."
"William, we have to talk to Dr . Wills. Try to find him and ask him to meet with me."
"I'm on it," William said and left.
"Could it be that my solution is In the Amazon? Could it be that I will be able to cheat death? Maybe I won't grow old and 'll be able to keep my fortune after all."
A week later, Hale met with Dr. Wills. "I saw your interview on television about your trip to the Amazon, and I was especially interested in the part where you said there were no old people in the village, but the chief wouldn't tell you the antiaging secret."
"Dr. Wills, could you find the village again?"
"I believe so."
"If you will take me there, I will finance an expedition and write you a check that will keep you in business for a long time." Hale and Dr. Wills made plans, and set out for Cusco in Peru, where they hired a guide who could interpret, bought supplies and gifts for the tribe, bearers to carry supplies and set out to find the village. After walking for days, they arrived at the village. After being greeted, Hale and the bearers laid out pots, pans, a variety of tools, and machetes on the ground. The exuberant natives quickly scooped up many of the gifts and hurried off with them to their huts. Hale looked anxiously around. "I don't see any old people. Could it be true?" he wondered. Among the greeters was the tribe's leader. "I have to learn their secret," he told the interpreter, so the interpreter spoke to the leader. The leader looked at the remaining gifts and looked back at Hale. Then, he told the interpreter to follow him, so Hale, the interpreter, and Dr. Wills followed the tribe's leader into the forest. After walking fifty or so yards, the leader climbed a tree, picked three fruits, climbed down, and gave one pear-shaped fruit to Hale, one to his interpreter and one to Dr. Wills. He told the interpreter that they should eat the whole fruit and, in time, there would be results. Hale and the interpreter quickly ate the fruit.
"I don't want this," Dr. Wills said and handed it back to the tribe's leader.
That night, after everyone went to sleep, Hale went to the tree, climbed it, and ate two fruits."
The next morning, everything was packed up, and they went home. When he got home, his butler unpacked, and he paced around his living room. "I’m never going to grow old,” he said excitedly over and over.
A year later, his accountant went to his house for a meeting. The accountant began to lay out some spreadsheets on a table but stopped and looked at Hale. “Steve, have you been working out, eating health food, or what?”
“I use my home gym as I always have and my diet hasn’t changed. Why do you ask?”
“You look great. You look younger. You must be doing something right.”
After the accountant left, Hale ran up to his bedroom to look at himself in his full-length mirror. “Wow. He’s right. I look younger. It's the fruit. I'm not aging. My dream come true. I'll never grow old. I'll be able to enjoy my wealth forever.“
Two days later, Hale switched on his intercom. "Mark?"
"Yes sir," Mark his chef, answered
"Mark, I've decided to work from my bedroom for a few days. I think I have the flu. Leave a tray at my door."
For the next few days, Hale ate his meals in his room. One day a week later, the butler took dinner to Hale and left the tray. The next morning, the butler took breakfast to Hale's room. "Hmm. He didn't eat last night's dinner. I guess he wasn't hungry," he said and took the dinner tray back to the kitchen.
"I wonder why Mr. Hale didn't eat his dinner," the cook said. "He must be very sick. He should probably call his doctor."
At noon, the butler took lunch to Hale's room. "His breakfast is untouched. Another wasted meal," he said and took the untouched food to the kitchen. "He's still not eating. Maybe you should check on him," the cook suggested.
The butler went to Hale's room and knocked on the door. "Mr. Hale, are you okay?" the butler called and knocked on the door several times. "Mr. Hale I'm coming in," the butler said out loud and he forced the door open and entered the room. “Oh, my God,” he gasped as he looked at a naked toddler standing in front of him. The toddler, with tears flowing down his cheeks, looked up at him, and the butler stared in disbelief as the toddler began to shrink and continued to shrink until he disappeared.
If one fruit is good, three must be better, he believed, but he was wrong.
(c) Saul Greenblatt