There was an old man and he was very old. His house was empty, with the exception of one plate, one bowl, one spoon, one knife, and one fork — which he used for eating. The rest of his belongings had been sold long ago to appraisers who admired his antiques and told him he could get more value from other appraisers out of town, but he didn’t. He told them, “I will sell them to you, because you are young and you can sell them for more money, but I am old and do not need them.”
This way, the old man knew that when he passed on, he would leave nothing behind, which would make it easier for realtors to sell his house or tear it down. “They will probably tear it down,” he thought. For it was a quaint house with the paint peeling back, but he liked that the paint peeled back because it reminded him of a horse shifting onto its haunches.
On this day, he went into his home and made a sandwich, placing the tomatoes atop the turkey in between the slices of bread. He had no spread or cheese because his doctor told him so, but his doctor only told him so because he was old and weary and probably dying although he couldn’t say for certain that he was dying, only that he was old.
He brought the sandwich to his mouth and took a bite.
“I think I’m losing my appetite,” said the old man to himself. “Perhaps I am dying.”
He stared out his pale white window that had been chipped over many years, making brown streaks along its sill.
“Tomorrow, I will paint that,” he thought, but then resumed eating his sandwich.
Munch, munch; munch, munch.
He paused again, “Maybe I will paint it on Saturday.”
“Yes,” he said aloud, “Saturday would be a good day to paint my window. Perhaps I can even get the boy’s help.”
But the boy wouldn’t help. The boy went to school on weekdays and Saturday would be his first day he did not have to attend school. He should not do chores, for he was still young and not old. Painting was for old people and that’s what the old man was, an old people.
Munch, munch; munch, munch.
After he finished his sandwich, he walked through his living room, which did not have chairs or cabinets or a couch. It was empty except for some newspapers that were scattered on the floor. The old man stared at the newspapers. They were old. Not as old as he, but they were old relative to the current day.
“What day is it?” He wondered. “It could not possibly be Saturday. These papers say Saturday, but Saturday is far away, it must be… Tuesday. Yes,” he thought, “Tuesday must be the day it is today, for that would make Saturday three days ago and that is enough time for the pages to wrinkle and fold with the moisture in the air.” Because he lived on the beach, he had no books because they would wrinkle and fold with the tide. The paint peeled because of the salt in the air. The pages of books wrinkled like his flesh, but he had no mirrors to know how wrinkly he was.
He touched his face and could feel the creases like the folded pages of a book. He tugged his skin like the dew-warped leaves of a novel. He was old and tired and needed to sleep.
He walked into his bedroom, but there was nothing in the room except for a blanket which he slept underneath. He curled up under the sheet and rested his head against the cold wood floor. “Perhaps it is not Tuesday,” he thought, “for the bike messenger comes around my house every Wednesday and I believe he came yesterday. Yes, perhaps it is Thursday after all.”
He opened his eyes and saw the light fading in the window, “Did I fall asleep? Is it tomorrow?” He could not remember if he had fallen asleep or simply closed his eyes, “I suppose it could not be tomorrow even if it were, for that would mean it is today.”
“Hmm,” He said aloud, “I am too old to philosophize.”
He thought about eating his sandwich, but there was nothing there to munch, “Yes, this sudden revelation,” he thought, “is proving to be too much excitement for an old man and I am, but an old man,” said the old man, “Yes, perhaps too much excitement is bad for my health. Doctor?”
But there was no response.
There was no response.
“It must be a school day,” thought the old man, “that is why he is not here. Perhaps when he gets back–” but the old man did not finish that thought for he thought he heard a baby wail next door.
“Perhaps, I will write a story,” he said, “about a not young man who is old. I will write it for the baby so that she will fall asleep,” he faced the other way, “Yes, a story that will put the baby to sleep. I will write it tomorrow.”
Munch, munch; munch.
“No, Sunday. Sunday will be a good day to write a story that will put the baby to sleep,” he said. “How shall I start it?” He rolled over again, and felt his consciousness fading, “Yes, I know.”
There was an old man and he was very old…
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