Sunday, March 13, 2016

311. Age

The old man looked up at me from his AARP magazine and said nothing. It had to be C.W. but for the life of me I couldn’t guess why he had chosen this shape.

“What the …?”

“Hush,” he said. “I’m trying to read.”

“I can see that,” I said, “but why the old fart shape.”

He laid the magazine in his lap. “Don’t be so crude. You’ll understand someday.”

“I’m sure I will,” I said, “but in the meantime, why the aged look?

“I want to report on the elderly,” he said. “How you mistreat us and all.”

“I think,” I said, “that I’m considered elderly by most standards, and I don’t mistreat you.”

“Yes you do,” he said. “You and that wife of yours too. I’m filing a complaint with PETE.”


“People for the Ethical Treatment of the Elderly … and don’t you roll your eyes at me like that.”

I sat down.

“What time is it?” he asked.

I told him but he just shook his head and said, “No, I mean the regular time, not that crazy time y’all use, whatever it is you call it.”

“It’s called ‘daylight savings time,’ and we’ve been through this all before.”

“Ain’t so,” he said. “I would have remembered.”

I shrugged in agreement and examined a spot on my trousers. He started to speak, but then relaxed.

“What?” I said.

“I forgot what I was going to say.”

“That happens,” I said.

“What happens?”

I ignored him. “So what do you have scheduled today?”

“I ain’t going outside,” he said. “It’s too windy. And you can’t make me.”

“Nobody is going to make you go outside,” I said, deciding to play along.

“Well I might,” he said, “and you can’t stop me.”

“Nobody is going to stop you,” I said.

“From what?”

I groaned.

“They treated old folks better when I was a kid,” he said. “I remember after I had walked the five miles home from school, I would look after my grandmother. That was before I had to go and milk the cow and chop five acres of cotton.”

“C.W.,” I said, “you never had a grandmother … at least not on Planet Earth, and you’ve never even seen cotton. They don’t grow it around here anymore.”

“That’s what’s wrong with you young folks,” he said. “No respect.”

“Whatever,” I said.

He raised a boney figure and pointed at me. “Just you wait,” he said. “You’ll have a person you have given birth to, your son or your daughter, of your own someday.”

“First of all, I’m not your child,” I said. Second of all, I’m too old now to have children.”

“Why would you want to have children?” he said. “Ain’t you a little too far over the hill for that?”

“Indeed,” I said, getting up. “I think I’ll go for a walk.”

“I ain’t going,” he said.

“Nobody asked you to,” I said.

“To what?”

“Go walking.”
So we were talking away
and he just disappeared.

“Sure,” he said, “that sounds like fun.” He rose slowly and I could almost hear his bones creak. “Mrs. Big Dope going with us?”

“Not since you threw that snake on her last time we all went,” I said.

“I never done no such of a thing,” he said. “Now where did I put my umbrella?”

“It’s not raining,” I said.

“That’s the problem with you young folks,” he said. “You think you know everything.”

We walked outside—the two of us—I wishing the earth would swallow me and he explaining how, he imagined, they used to make sorghum in the old days.

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