Old Man (short story)

I’m sitting at what might be the end of my life, and the only thing I can clearly remember is the back of a button. It was from my favourite pair of jeans; the button was pulled out, and on the piece that was imbedded in the nylon, was an imprint of the letter b. I like things like that, things that aren’t necessary, but they still exist. Even if you never notice them, they’re still there.

There’s a lady down the hall screaming. Just “help me, help me,” over and over again, I’d help her, but I have nothing to offer her. Will I end up like that. My life is so close to being over, its been so long, and all I can hear is screaming. She has been here longer then me, she has been trapped in frailty longer then me. All I can think of is if I last much longer, will I be screaming?

What a way to end up. I remember being warned to try hard, or I might end up on the street, or addicted to drugs, or any number of horrible things. I tried hard at my life. I really did. In some ways I did OK. I might never have made my name known to the world, but I wasn’t a bad man. I don’t deserve to be here. Nurses with fake smiles. Doctors who know that I know that they can do nothing for the myriad of little malignacies that plague me. I’m alone, and that isn’t as horrible as you might think, but it might be nice to have someone to talk to.

I was close to having a family a few times. I lived in Africa for awhile, and a girl told me all she wanted was to have a white baby, she wanted nothing to do with me, just to have my child. What would that be like? Knowing that on the other side of the world is an entire person who wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for you. I regret not letting that young girl have her wish. If my life was average, at least I could have allowed for the possibility of some future wonderful life.

Maybe I believe in destiny. Some people are the pinnacles, but they are only there because endless people casually and unconsciously altered the world to set the stage; otherwise, without some unknown bumkin whose horse got in the way of a whiff of grapeshot, there would have been no Napoleon. Napoleon is nothing, just a strike of luck. Thats the way I see the world, and as I see the last days, I go I just never had a strike of luck. Nothing to do with me, impartial fates, in another universe, I’m living in all the ways I never could here.

This is what old men do. Ponder on the things that have happened, or should have happened. Muse and wonder if the lives that we’ve lived were the correct ones. If the forks were chosen correctly. It’s rather depressing, having a room full of silent people, all wondering how they ended up here.


When I was a young man, or an old boy, my family put my grandmother in a home. We were eating dinner at her house, and I was talking about how horrible a place a home is, and was completely ignorant that she was going to be  put in one by my parents. The talk went on, and she could tell I had no idea, and when I asked a question, she would have a big smile, and say that I shouldn’t disparage the future one day I was destined for. It was incomprehensible to me that I would ever end up in a home. Looking back, there was that same incomprehension on my grandmothers face. These are not the futures assigned, these are not the futures that we dream of. I wish we did not put my grandmother in a home. Selfishly, I wish this I suppose.


Leave a Reply