Thursday, February 09, 2017

A Way of Looking at Things

"All kids play those games, and the minute they stop they begin to grow old. It's almost as though playing Kick the Can keeps them young."

Charles (Ernest Truex)

I suppose everyone — at some point and for some length of time, however brief — wishes it was possible to turn back the hands of time.

The writers for the Twilight Zone seemed to spend much of their creative energy focusing on this very concept. One of the most interesting twists on that theme aired on this night in 1962. Called "Kick the Can," the story was about the residents of a senior citizens' home. One of those residents (Ernest Truex) was convinced that the fountain of youth could be found in children's games like Kick the Can, and he persuaded most of the residents of the home that he was right.

The idea was inspired by watching the neighborhood children playing Kick the Can on summer evenings.

"Maybe there are people who stay young," Truex's character mused. "Maybe they know a secret that they keep from the rest of us. Maybe the fountain of youth isn't a fountain at all. Maybe it's a way of looking at things, a way of thinking."

One night he set out to find out. He assembled most of the residents in the home for a nocturnal game of Kick the Can. He insisted that he knew there was magic in the world, and most of them went along with him, perhaps more out of curiosity than conviction that he was right.

They had to get past the night nurse at the front desk so they lit some firecrackers and tossed them outside. The sound drew the nurse away, and she helpfully called out for the superintendent, leaving an unobstructed path to the outdoors.

Once outside the old folks began playing Kick the Can. And, lo and behold, Charles' "magic" really did exist. They were all transformed into the children they had once been. Older adults can't be magically transformed into children. Can they?

Obviously it was mere musing on the part of Twilight Zone's writer, George Clayton Johnson, who went on to co–write "Logan's Run," the novel upon which the movie of the same name was based.

Johnson also penned a few other episodes of the Twilight Zone — one of which, "Nothing in the Dark," I wrote about recently.