Long life is the ardent desire of many. Indeed, some of you may achieve it, as I have. But once you find your-self out-living your pet Galapagos tortoise, you may do well to question your luck.

Yes, Cap'n Clyde is deceased. Standish found him belly-up in the billiards room a couple of mornings ago. I can't conceive of life with-out the bumpy old codger. Since I first acquired him as a tortoise-ling nigh unto 100 years ago, he was my beloved friend and companion. I would take him to the park for extremely long walks, some-times lasting days. All my children, from U. Fairfax to M. Prescott, rode atop his sturdy shell. Unlike my faith-less hound dogs, who were inclined to die off within a decade, Cap'n Clyde proved his fealty to his master year after year after year. Whether eating lettuce, retreating into his shell for days on end, or training his dull gaze on his water-dish, he provided a stead-fast constant in a turbulent world. Fare-well, you dear old shelled bastard!

Once my life became bereft of the only other living creature who approached my age, I felt alone, indeed. I parlayed this sentiment to Doc McGillicuddy, who decided to surprise me by shanghaiing four centenarians from a nearby resting-home for the infirm, and delivering them to my estate. Sadly, two of them, a 103- and 108-year-old, were DOA. Apparently, the journey was too much for them.

The other two, a 105-year-old lady and a 112-year-old Negro, were wheeled into my bed-chamber. I warmly greeted them and asked if they preferred cream or sugar in their coffee. The 105-year-old lady responded by passing away.

That left me with the 112-year-old Negro, who was a nice enough fellow, but I quickly realized we had little in common. He told me that he was the son of Alabama slaves and had spent much of his life as an impoverished share-cropper who none-the-less managed to put his three sons through college, and that he thanked God every day for his great fortune. I told him that I was a 132-year-old news-paper publisher who had inherited the business from my father, and that I had known obscene luxury all my life. There was an awkward silence. I asked him if he remembered the Excelsior 14-model butter-churn, and he said no. Then he died.

Well, that proved a total wash-out. I should just face the fact that other centenarians would prefer to die than spend time with me. We didn't even get to eat dinner. We were going to have tortoise soup.