He walked well for an old man. He had walked most of his life, and the trick was to have good shoes — nothing made by the Chinese.
He had false teeth, a glass eye, and being just short of having a wooden leg, had an impressive attitude considering his luck.
But the children of the neighborhood were just too much sometimes. They were vulgar little bastards. A wonder where they developed such sharp tongues.
It had been part of his routine to go down to the corner store to pick up his paper instead of having it delivered, and when there, purchase a lotto ticket, and a large beer.
But back to those terrible children. Oh, they said the vilest things. And he seemed to be their only outlet for some reason. He thought maybe their parents had told them some kind of lie.
“Ya old fuck!” they would shout.
The ‘old fuck’ was always the first one thrown, but there would be more.
“Eat any old pussy today, ya old fuck?”
It was a rhetorical question of course, but these mites wouldn’t learn that word until at least their second year of high school — if they ever made it that far.
Despite the name-calling, he never once raised a hand in retaliation towards them. And besides, they never came close enough. But even they had displayed some boundaries.
In winter they would all hold ice balls in their fists ready with aim, but they never threw any — that was nice. And although they spit at their feet in some unknown contempt for the old, they never spit at him, and again, it was nice of them.
There was one month a year or so ago where they took into their minds the word ‘nigger,’ and used it frequently. He laughed because it was the first time he really understood them. Because obviously the word didn’t apply to him, and only made him smile in response, but in some way he felt they had become closer after that.
And when he thought of that, he thought of when one of the boys had come to his door on a Halloween accompanied by his mother. The boy was stunned with fright, unable to say the words as his mother smiled on.
“Say it,” she encouraged.
“Trick or treat,” said the boy.
The old man said nothing but: ‘Happy Halloween,’ and proceeded to give the boy a little extra from the plastic pumpkin. Next time he saw the boy, the child was even more vicious than before.
“Ya fuckin’ Heeb!” He bellowed.
Another derogatory remark that missed completely.
The old man's youngest sister had died from a heart attack. It had been much too long since they had last seen each other. His wife had now been gone for close to ten years, but now he felt as if he was truly alone.
He had been unable to have children of his own. He had nephews, and they had children; and there were a couple of cousins, but they didn’t know each other personally.
He had lived in this city for almost fifty years, and for the first time, he could honestly state that the feeling of homesickness was almost asphyxiating.
He went back for the funeral and was, for some reason, surprised by the warmth he was shown by his kin. They all suggested a closer relationship, and, what did he think about moving back home? But where was home? There truly wasn’t anything for him in the city anymore was there? He was old.
When he was back in the city and sitting in his small apartment he decided that he would indeed move back to the place of his birth. He would see about living in a retirement home; he could have his sister’s vacant apartment above his nephew’s in the mean time if he wanted, that was nice. So he gathered up only two suitcases and a few LP's and photographs and set them aside, and boxed up the rest. He would have professional movers come in a few days.
There was a nostalgia in purchasing his last newspaper, lotto ticket, and beer at the store. He lamented that the kid working behind the cash wasn't someone he recognized. He would have liked to tell someone that he wouldn't be coming around anymore.
Once outside, he breathing the hot air in like it were new.
And there was the kids.
A gang of spoiled children destined for jail and alcoholism, wife-battery, and welfare.
“You get your little dirty magazine fagboy?”
Yet one more rhetorical question.
“Hey old man, I got some pictures of your wife right here with my boner…”
The old man exploded onto them.
This had been the first time they had ever used his wife against him. He threw his newspaper, lotto ticket, and beer at the kid who had said it. The bottle, hidden at the bottom of the white, plastic bag caught the child just above the brow.
The kid collapsed clutching his eye.
“You fuck.” Said one of the other boys.
The boy's friends moved in to help him up. Now they could all see the blood streaming through the kid’s hands. His shirt was quickly drenched in red and he was beginning to pass out.
“I, I, I…” the old man stammered.
He tried to help the boy but the others were full of such stares that he thought he just better leave. When he turned, he saw the clerk in the store look at him in horror — a telephone in her hand.
He walked as fast as he could to his place and dialed the number for a taxi. He went through some of the boxes and gathered up more of his wife’s favorite items and dumped his clothes from his suitcase. He moved from his small washroom to the kitchen quickly two or three times without knowing why. The walls were beginning to close-in on him. He needed to sit, to flee, to hide.
The horn of the taxi called out from the street.
He escaped through the back door and rounded the house like a thief. He tossed his belongings into the backseat even though the taxi driver was stepping out to open the trunk. When the car began moving he slinked down as best as an old man could, and stared straight ahead.
At the bus terminal he paid an enormous sum for the one way ticket home. And during the twelve hour journey he could think of little more than the damage he had inflicted on the poor boy. But anyone who knew him — which were few — could attest that the children had been terrorizing him for years. Anyone would feel the need to retaliate.
He had watched them grow from kids on the skating rink to bullies on the block. He knew a few of their names — the leaders — but that made no difference. Why had they tortured him so? The police would definitely be looking for him. An old man doing such a horrible thing to a child? Why did he have to buy that beer?
No one called the police. The boys had made up a story about how some kid that no one liked had thrown a rock and hit him in the face. That was why his eye was black.
When the still bleeding youth got home, he puked in the toilet, while the others kept telling him not to say it was the old man over and over again because he could never say anything in response.
The boy’s mother was at her Work for Welfare job so they had the place to themselves. Only three of them drank from the old man’s bottle of beer and proceeded to stumble around and bump into walls.
They decided that they would split the winnings from the lotto ticket with the boy who got hit in the head getting an extra cut. This was the only point in which the wounded boy wanted to be in concert. At first it started at only twenty where he wanted at least fifty, so they compromised and settled at a final amount. Now they just had to find someone to cash it for them.
The rest of the afternoon was spent thinking of how they would spend their fortunes. One boy had a plan that he would give another boy’s sister half of his loot if he could see her boobs, and another boy brought the joke too far by saying that he’d give it all to fuck her.
Rusty James has attended 3 different preschools, 8 Grade Schools, 4 High Schools; lived in approx. 15 different cities (Australia, USA, Canada), and never been arrested, because he doesn't count that time when the Circus came to town and he beat up the Ringmaster - because the Cops never did read him his rights, and they were just trying to save his life anyway.
F-ing Circus Monkeys. You just wait and see what happens when Rusty James visits you in Texas!