While on our honey moon in Florida we visited Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. After an exhausting but exciting tour, we rested on a park bench and sipped a cool drink.
Across from us sat a shabbily dressed middle aged gentleman, a dog rested its chin blissfully on his lap. Next to their bench was a make-shift stand with small bottles of clear liquid. An attached sign read,
WATER FROM THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH $.39
MONEY BACK GUARANTEE
"Thirty nine cents is a bargain if the water really works," Ann said to the man.
"Oh it works alright," he said. "Why else would I offer a guarantee?"
"Do you use it?" Ann asked.
"Yup, both me and my dog Ponce. Been together for ages. We are inseparable. I'd do anything for him, and he has never failed me. Wife left me, never hear from my children, friends ignore me 'cause they think I'm odd, but Ponce is always by my side -- a comfort he is to me."
"He doesn't look very old to me," Ann said.
"Been with me most of my life, since he was a pup. I give him a bottle of this water 'bout every twelve years, the average life span for this type of dog. We humans need a bottle about every ten years due to the unhealthy life styles we lead." Ann went over to the man's bench and pet the dog. He raised his head and looked into her eyes. She was hooked.
"How old is he really?" Ann asked.
"Hard to say. He was given to me by a Timucuan Indian long ago," was his evasive answer. Ann purchased six bottles, and the man graciously allowed us to take a picture of him and the dog.
We returned home, pursued our respective careers, reared children and catered to our cats. A very long time later, Ann announced that we were down to our last bottle of the Fountain of Youth Water and we needed to go back to Florida to purchase more. I explained to Ann that the search for the Fountain Of Youth never resulted in anyone finding it, and that it was now just a promotional ploy to lure gullible tourists to St. Augustine. Furthermore, there was no credible evidence that the waters sold there ever lengthened anyone's life. Ann gave this a minutes thought, and then revealed that she had already purchased the tickets and was packing our bags.
The day we arrived, we went directly to the Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Park. Hoards of susceptible tourists were buying the small bottles of the water from the gift shops. Ann would have none of these. In her mind the one and only true Fountain of Youth Waters were the ones being sold by the man with the dog. She pulled the picture of the man and his pet from her shoulder bag.
It didn't take long before we found a man on a bench with a dog contentedly resting his chin on the man's legs. However, this man was very old and there was no makeshift stand with bottles of water. Ann was undaunted.
"Are you the man who sold us the bottles of Fountain of Youth Water many years ago?" she asked. The man scrutinized Ann. Let me add at this point that people often comment that Ann does not look her age.
"Yup," the old man replied. "I'm the man."
Okay, now I had the proof that he was, indeed, a fraud. With a triumphant air, I asked that if the water really worked, how is it that he was so old? A little crestfallen, Ann looked inquiringly at the elderly man.
"And look at the dog," I continued gleefully. "This one is younger than the one in the picture you are holding." Disappointment grew in Ann's eyes. The old man smiled indulgently.
"As you can see, I am no longer selling the bottles of water," he said.
"Yeah, okay, what has that got to do with anything?" I wanted to know.
"Well," he continued, "The Fountain that Ponce here found with me so many years ago was paved over by a super highway. Those gift shops never had the real thing, and I am now down to the last three bottles."
"Oh, really," I sneered, "Then why don't you take them yourself instead of growing into an old man?" Smiling, he looked down fondly at the dog he called Ponce, and with a slight waver in his voice he said:
"Ponce has been my loyal, loving companion for most of my life, and as you also know dogs don't live as long as humans." Now more slowly and with a tear running down his wrinkled cheek, he haltingly continued.
"When the Fountain was buried I gave the few remaining bottles to Ponce here. He stayed young as I grew to the old man you see now."
"Good grief, Ann, you can't possibly fall for that. I agree the dog looks similar, but it can't be the same dog." I said. Yet, Ann's eyes were transfixed on the young dog who still had his chin lovingly on the old man's lap. With the picture of the dog and his master in one hand, she pet the dogs head with the other. Ponce's head rose as a dog did years ago, and he looked directly into Ann's eyes. With her voice low, steady and awed she said, "Tom, this dog is Ponce."
Okay, I know when I am beat, even when all logic points to the contrary. We went home to our one remaining bottle of Fountain of Youth Water - what I considered swamp swill.
So what happened to that last bottle of water? Well Ann often reminds me that I am ten years older than she is, and she does not want to spend her remaining years alone. She has always been a strong believer in a loving, long lasting, and supportive relationship, and she would do anything to protect that bond. We often have a cocktail hour, and last week, totally unobserved by Ann, I watched her mix the drinks at our small bar. To my astonishment and with the realization of why I loved her so, Ann took the last small bottle of Fountain of Youth Water and poured it into my drink.