Tag Archives: old man

Chuva Imaculada (“Immaculate Rain” revision)

December of 1984.

Not a single cloud marred the skyline that noon summer day in Sao Paolo, but there was rain.

The favelados called it a Chuva Imaculada. They said the rain was born out of God’s own eyes. They said it was a gift from Heaven, that each drop contained a tiny miracle within it.

The first of these miracles was claimed by Jose Carlos. For the first time in over a decade, the 95-year-old was able to bend his knees and kiss the muddy ground, even though his legs had long been rigid with arthritis. The entire street knew of Mr. Carlos’s condition and they all rushed to help him up, thinking he was in serious pain or dying. When they came up to him, they saw his face contorted in what they thought was pain. “Mary is crying for us,” he said. “The dead are weeping with forgiveness. I can finally die in peace.”

You see, forgiveness was the most important thing to Jose Carlos. When he was a young man, he did not lead a Godly life. He ran a bootleg operation in the 1920s, but there were also rumors in the favela about his involvement with crime lords, that he became one of their collectors and did unspeakable things to people just as poor as he is now. Jose Carlos never thought that God would offer a true miracle to the favela before he died, and certainly not one for him.

“The dead are weeping!” Jose Carlos sobbed. The rain and his own tears mixed and crept into the corners of his smile.

On the lower end of the favela, little Davi splashed his bare feet under the warm trickle of dirty water from the gutters above, unaware that his parents inside were making love after having a terrible fight over a broken dish. He splashed through the streets, shouting to the windows above. “It’s raining!” he shouted then found a big puddle to jump into.

The twins, Maria and Mariana, laughed infectiously as Maria fried plantains and Mariana sewed up her child’s torn pants. He had been playing with the older boys again and she was worried he was going to fall in with the wrong crowd. The sisters had always had an uneasy relationship since childhood. Mariana was the more extroverted one and the favorite of their mother. Maria resented her for never offering the spotlight, even though she knew it was not Mariana’s fault. Today, however, they both laughed so hard they cried. Maria’s tears sizzled and evaporated when they hit the pain.

The bare-chested men practicing capoeira at the beach stopped to squint at the rain falling from the sun. When the rain dried, the capoeiristas at the bottom of the hill began their furious dance again, refreshed. Their lightning feet struck the air, kicking out rainbows over the hillside.

On that morning, the favelados claimed that all sins had been washed away, that they were given another chance. They danced in the evening until their legs were no longer good for standing, and even then, many would just lay down where they were to laugh and shout at the sky and those still strong enough to keep dancing.

When they woke up again the next morning, life resumed much as it always had. And yet, the people’s eyes shone a different hue. Though they were once the abused eyes of the desperate, a lingering exuberance shone instead.

People often talked about the miracle rain from that day on. They passed the stories on to their children, too, about joyful tears that cleansed the favela one cloudless day.

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Filed under Flash Fiction

Restless Legs

Charles ambled down the hall with his cedar cane. Others said he had a bounce in his step, though that was probably his old fedora flopping about.

“Mr. Parkway! You have to go back to your room! Mr. Parkway!”

Nurses. They always get in the way. Charles kept walking.

“Hey, I’m talkin’ to you, old man!” The nurse seized him by the shoulder. It was Debbie. The bitch would probably see through the deaf-and-senile act, but he had to try.

“Huh? Oh, sorry Debbie. Did you need something?”

“I need you to get back to your room, Mr. Parkway. Do you have any idea what hour it is?”

“Oh. I’m sorry, Debbie. Restless legs. Pain in the ass—oh, pardon my French.” Charles used to have much more trouble with nurses. His cane was like having a bell wrapped around his neck. But he’d corked the bottom and put some felt over it to mute the noise. Still, Debbie was a tenacious bitch and would find him no matter what important case he was on.

“Let me guess, Mr. Parkway. You’re solving a mystery?”

Charles smacked his lips for a while. He should probably just be honest. No use pussyfooting around this. “Debbie, there are some damn murders going on around here. You know Mrs. Fennel who fell out of bed and broke her neck? Not an accide—”

“Now that’s nothin’ to joke about, Mr. Parkway! You just get on back and get yourself to bed. Come on, now.” She hooked her arm around his and Charles violently pulled away.

“Take your hands offa me! I got to get to Mrs. Tenenbaum’s room! She’s next, for chrissakes! It fits tha pattern! It fits the pattern!”

Debbie kept trying to grab him. Security would hear the ruckus and be here soon. But Charles wouldn’t be stopped until he’d thwarted the serial killer.

By the time he’d made it only a few labored steps, Debbie yanking at his sleeve, the entire community was starting to wake up. Doors were squeaking open, including the one down the hall that belonged to Mrs. Tenenbaum. Jack Mercer, of all people, walked out and was holding the door open for her.

“It’s you! Jack, I’ll kill ya! I’ll kill ya!” Charles started shuffling forward, waving his cane around. But before he could take his second step, Chris the security guy was on him like gangbusters. “It’s him, goddammit! It’s him!”

Chris stood guard in his room. “You gotta stop runnin’ around like that, Mr. Parkway. You’re actin’ crazy.”

Charles’s breathing got a bit more ragged. He started hacking and Chris got him a bowl to spit out his phlegm. He wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days he found his lung sitting in that bowl when he opened his eyes again.

“You okay?”

“Yeah…” he waved at Chris to tell him to back off a little. Who would have thought the killer would be Mercer? He was an old marine, fit as a fiddle. Physically, he was capable of it, but he was a goddamn war hero. “I’ll be fine.”

 

A few days later, Mrs. Tenenbaum had died in bed. They said it was probably just her heart. Debbie came to visit Charles, who was still on high supervision to see that he didn’t do anything “crazy” again.

“Mrs. Tenenbaum died last night, Charles. I know you two were pretty close.”

“It was Mercer, dammit!”

“Don’t talk like that to me, Mr. Parkway! Those are angry words and I don’t deserve that.”

“Feh! You sound like my ex-wife.”

“I know you’re upset, but please don’t curse at me again. Understand?”

“Debbie, you know something’s going on. Be reasonable.”

“I’m tryin’ my best, Mr. Parkway. You’re the one who’s not being reasonable. Some people just die. It was just her time.”

Nurses. All they do is make life hard and make excuses for death. Which side are they on, really?

“Yeah, I got it.”

Debbie didn’t seem happy with this answer, but she swallowed whatever she was going to say. “I’ll leave you alone. We still got Chris guardin’ the door for your safety, Mr. Parkway. Don’t give him no trouble, you hear?”Charles just nodded.

“Good.” She closed the door and Charles sunk back into his bed, thinking about how he was going to have to die in this place.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Session XX

Boy on the Green Moon

Out in space, there was a boy who lived on the green moon and an old man who lived on the blue moon. The boy ran around his moon, plucked cheese out of the craters, and had a grand time of it. The man looked at the boy and sighed, then looked back out into the depths and the blackness. Before the boy went to sleep, he would look at the man on the blue moon and talk to him. Though the man could not hear him, he would sit intently and smile. Then, he would roll over to the dark side of the moon and fall asleep.

In truth, the man had wished to be closer to God. He had wished for freedom and detachment from everything. He’d learned that being closer to God was a lonely prospect. He would spend the day kicking rocks around, hands in his pockets, eyes wandering toward that playful child. He was free, too, and also alone. Maybe the child didn’t even know sadness. Maybe he could see something in the black sky the man couldn’t. But strain his eyes, all he could see was the blue ground, the green moon, and the small child who asked him questions every night that he could not hear or answer.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Session XVII

The News

The old man frowned at the television screen.

“I hate Lou Dobbs and his fat head! Who even listens to this guy? All he does is rant all day about things he hates! Nobody cares!” He shouted, cupping his mouth at the T.V.

“Obviously, somebody cares,” his wife said, stirring up some cookie batter in the kitchen area. “A lot of people watch his show, honey.”

“Yeah, well people are idiots!”

“You can’t say that everyone’s an idiot.”

“Yes I can! They’re all a bunch of whiners and bigots on this program and I hate it! When did the news get to be 24 hours of crap anyway?”

“Ronaldo! Language!”

“Sorry, dear.”

“We have our grandkids coming by. I don’t want to hear any of that while talk when the little ones are around!”

“I know!” he dismissed the rebuke with his remote control hand. “I promise my talk will be all candy and roses with the little puerquitos.

“Enough of that!”

“Well, their parents feed them too much. Always feeding them, like they are going hungry at every meal. It doesn’t help that you are making them cookies.”

“I am making them cookies because I love them! You get off your fat, lazy butt and do something yourself!” She ran over to him with her spoon and hit him on the head. “Now, go and wash this spoon off and then wash your hair. We’re having visitors!”

“But I’ll miss Wolf Blitzer! I love that guy!” But he marched to the sink, batter in his hair. It was best not to argue with her when she got so unreasonable like this.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Session XVII

Pumpkin Pie (revision)

“You a pumpkin pie fan?” the old man on the porch shouted at Judy. He was creaking back and forth in an old rocking chair, looking every bit like the beginning of a horror movie that her brother made her watch last month. The man in the movie kept pieces of children in his basement refrigerator.

“Excuse me?” Judy asked, looking around, hoping he was talking to someone else. The sidewalk was void of life.

“Pumpkin pie is God’s food, you know? Warms the soul!”

“It’s, um… I don’t know about that.” Judy looked around again. Sometimes, she hoped she could just latch onto some passing person’s underbelly like one of those little fish and get carried away from the dangers of awkward social encounters. No such luck today.

“Come on, girl! You either like it or you don’t! I have some cooling inside.” The man stood up on creaky legs. He lurched toward the rail to get his balance and catch his breath.

“No, really. I should get going.”

“Nonsense! Who says ‘no’ to pie?” He tottered through his front door, swinging it open. It almost shut on its own, hanging there, creaking back and forth in the wind.

This was Judy’s chance to escape. She could just run to her house down the street and avoid this way home next week. There was still time, even if she was wearing heels. She’d never talked to this old man before, so who’s to say she would ever need to again? Still, good manners kept her locked in place, if a little fidgety. She shifted to one foot, then the other, as if she had to go the bathroom. Maybe that’s what she should have told him. Maybe that’s what she will tell him.

Judy jumped a little as the door hinges squeaked abruptly. Before she could open her mouth with a good excuse, the old man began rambling again. “You know, they say Van Gogh thought yella was God’s color. Now, I don’t know much about that art crap, but pumpkin pie is definitely something out of God’s cookbook.” He walked to the bottom step but no further. Judy tiptoed toward the shivering pie plate, taking hold of it like she would a live rat. “Now tell me how that is! I been makin’ them pies for 30 years an’ I sell ’em right outta my home.”

“Oh, really?” she said, flaking off the first bite. “I’ve never heard anything about pie sales. Do you do this every year?”

“Every day! Never sell anything, though. Just sit here waiting and nobody buys anything.”

“You don’t have any signs up or anything. Do you put ads in the paper?”

“Don’t need to! Pie sells itself. People just smell pie and come running.”

“But you just said…”

“Nonsense!” The exclamation startled Judy. The old man smacked at his gums for a while, a blank look in his eyes. Judy began to feel awkward just standing there. She dug into her pie again.

Judy wondered observed the brown glob on her fork. Perhaps it was made of little bits of children. Still, it smelled pleasant enough. And it looked like pumpkin pie should. Judy didn’t want to make a  bad impression with a neighbor, so she took a timid bite.

“Pretty damn good, eh? I make it with rat testes.”

Judy gagged the pie out onto the man’s lawn. He let out a wheeze that could have been a laugh. “I’m just messin’ wit’ ya! You shoulda seen yoor face! Ha!” He wheezed again. He might have asthma. Or he was really old and his lungs were giving out. Judy hoped it was the latter explanation.

“That wasn’t funny!”

“Cheer up, girly! If you weren’t you, it’d be hilarious! Isn’t that good pie? Try another bite.”

Judy thought of shoving the pie in the man’s face and smiled. She sunk her teeth into the next bite, this time able to pause and chew it. It was delicious. The pie was hearty like a custard pie, but light and airy enough to melt on her tongue. The cinnamon and nutmeg flavors swirled together like the bottom of a cup of hot cocoa. The ginger left a small bite that left her wanting another soothing mouthful. Judy bit her lip so as not to look like she was enjoying it.

“I think I’d actually deal with your shenanigans for another pie one day, Mr…” She held on to that last word. “I never got your name.”

“Name’s Curtis.”

“Well, Curtis. Your pie is exquisite, but I really need to get home now.”

“You remind me of Shirley Temple when she and I were going steady. The only way I could snag a girl like that was through my pumpkin pie.”

“You dated Shirley Temple?”

“Dated? Ha! Yeah, you could say that. She was newly divorced and I was around.”

“You were Shirley Temple’s rebound guy?” Judy wanted to wipe that image from her mind, especially since she could only think of Shirley Temple as a little girl and Curtis as, well, Curtis.

“Yeah, but then she started going steady with that Black fella. That was his name: Black. Charlie Black.” his eyes were washed away in some old memory.

“Well, I’m sure he doesn’t make a pumpkin pie like you do.”

“Yeah. Yer damn for sure, woman!” He wheezed again, started coughing and rocking back in his chair.

“Are you all right?”

“Maaah!” He dismissed it with a hand.

Judy thought about getting home again to feed her cats and watch Law and Order: SVU. She set the plate back up on the rail. “Well, I should get going. Thank you for the pie and it was lovely to meet you, Curtis.”

He hacked up a wad of phlegm and spit it into a nearby bowl.

“Well, then,” Judy said, not certain what else to say. She took one last look back at the man before going. He was rocking in his chair, creaking like an old abandoned swing set, looking glossy eyed as if inside a dream.

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Cherry Pie (Revision)

“Back for more pie, eh?” Curtis whistled through his teeth.

“No,” Judy said, holding her fresh-baked pie. “I thought I’d bring a pie as thanks for last time.”

“What is it?” he licked his lips, though that could have just been to get moisture to his mouth.

“Cherry.”

“Mmmm,” Curtis slid his dry tongue over his lips again. “I’d take a taste of your cherry any day, little girl! HAAaaa~!” His laugh turned into a wheeze and then a wet cough. Judy had a lovely grandfather who was always a gentleman in the presence of women. She had thought that it was just the era, that all men raised then learned to treat women the same way, but this man was dispelling all her illusions.

“Are you all right?” she finally asked.

“Fine,” he coughed. “Fine. Just get me some water with that pie.”

Judy looked for some bottles of water around the kitchen, distilled water in the fridge, anything she thought an old man should have to keep healthy. She eventually decided that there were none and decided to use the tap. “Here. It’s from the tap. I don’t know if you had anything else, ” she said, offering the drink to him. She waited for some kind of response, but he merely nodded his head as he took the glass. “I’ll go cut up the pie.”

Judy had an easier time finding the pie slicer. It was old, silver, with a flower design. Perhaps it belonged to his wife. Given the abruptness of their first conversation, she hadn’t asked Curtis much about his family or personal life. She hadn’t seen her sitting out with him, so she and the neighbors all assumed he was a widower.

When Judy cut into her pie, red cherries oozed out. The crust was golden and resisted a little against the slicer before flaking apart. Curtis’s pumpkin pie was good, but Judy’s pie could win awards! She took two plates out and gave him the second slice that hadn’t fallen apart.

Curtis’s hand shook as he blew on the forkful of pastry. He chewed, slowly, swallowed, then put his fork down on the plate. Judy waited eagerly for a reaction as the man licked his lips.

“You know, my wife was a terrible cook.”

This was not the response Judy was hoping for. Judy smiled, taking a few deep breaths. She reminded herself that he probably didn’t have long to live and strangling him wouldn’t be worth it.

“Oh? I didn’t know you had a wife.”

“Sixty-two years. Loony as a cuckoo bird, that one. Couldn’t read anything without her glasses and she’s dyslexic to boot. ‘Curtis,’ she’d say to me. ‘Why do we have something called “bear slices” in the pantry?’ An’ I’d tell her, “Nonsense! Those are pear slices, you old bat!’ We’d argue like that for fifteen minutes and then hobble to the bedroom and make love. I’d be her papa bear and she’d be my little Goldie Locks.”

Judy tried to erase that image from her head. She put some cherry pie in her mouth. The cherries were delicious, just a little overripe, but the texture tasted bad today, like loose skin. The thought of old people sex was affecting her palate. “What happened to her – your wife?”

“She died,” he took another bite of the pie and made a face. Judy bit her lip, trying to be civil.

“I mean, how did she pass?”

“Pass? Oh. Ovarian cancer. Doctors gave her a year. She lived five months.”

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?” bits of crust flew from his mouth. He pointed his fork at her. “Did you give my wife cancer?”

“No. I just… I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Maaah! I didn’t lose nothin’! She’s dead!” He didn’t seem at all worried about his wife dying. All manners and protocol told Judy that she should be horrified by this, but she also felt a bit of admiration for him. Curtis didn’t tip-toe around death. Her family used to mourn every little thing. When her grandfather died, she wasn’t even sure whether anyone was genuinely sad for his passing or they just felt like they had to act sad. It was a horrible thing to think about them, but…

“Gad damn it!” Curtis cried. His pie fell to the ground.

“Don’t worry. I’ll get you some more pie.”

“No. Sit down.” She did as she was told and folded her hands in her lap, just as she’d always been taught. Curtis, cherry filling on his shirt, sat with legs spread out wide and his hands tucked under his belly.

“You know, if my wife heard me say the Lord’s name in vain like that, she would have flayed my hide. Got in the habit of sayin’ it like that fucking Dan Aykroyd guy.”

“Blues Brothers.”

“Huh?”

“That was the movie. ‘W’ere on a mission from God.’ You know?”

He sat for a minute, smacking his gums and staring into space. Just as Judy was about to say something to break the silence, Curtis opened his mouth. “Gad, I miss that crazy bitch.” He sighed, coughed, then closed his eyes. He looked like exhaustion had come and scooped everything out of him in an instant.

“Are you all right?”

Curtis bowed his head. She thought it was a nod.

“Well, perhaps I should be going, let you get your rest. I hope you enjoy the rest of your pie.”

“Goodbye. Don’t bring pie anymore. I’ll bake.”

“Bye, Curtis. Have a good evening. It was wonderful seeing you again.”

When Judy got home, she screamed into her pillow.

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Filed under FEATHERTON II, Flash Fiction

Cherry Pie

“Back for more pie, eh?” Curtis whistled through his teeth.

“No,” Judy said, holding her fresh-baked pie. “I thought I’d bring a pie as thanks for last time.”

“What is it?”

“It’s cherry pie.”

“Mmmm,” Curtis lewdly licked his lips. “I’d take a taste of your cherry any day, little girl! HAAaaa~!” His laugh turned into a wheeze and then a cough. Judy had a lovely grandfather who was always a gentleman in the presence of women. She had thought that it was just the era, but this man was dispelling all her illusions.

“Are you all right?” she finally asked.

“Fine,” he coughed. “Fine. Just get me some water with that pie.”

Judy looked for some bottles of water around the kitchen. She eventually decided that there was none and decided to use the tap. “Here, ” she said, offering the drink to him. “I’ll go cut up the pie.”

Judy was proud of her pie. The crust had turned out gold and flaky and the cherries were just oozing out of the inside. Curtis’s pumpkin pie was good, but Judy’s pie could win awards! She gave him the second slice that hadn’t fallen apart.

Curtis’s hand shook as he blew on the forkful of pastry. He chewed, slowly, swallowed, then put his fork down on the plate. Judy waited eagerly for a reaction.

“You know, my wife was a terrible cook.”

This was not the response Judy was hoping for. She reminded herself that he didn’t have long to live and strangling him wouldn’t be worth it.

“Oh? I didn’t know you had a wife,” she grinned.

“Sixty-two years. Loony as a cuckoo bird, that one. Couldn’t read anything without her glasses and she’s dyslexic to boot. ‘Curtis,’ she’d say to me. ‘Why do we have something called “bear slices” in the pantry?’ An’ I’d tell her, “Nonsense! Those are pear slices, you old bat!’ We’d argue like that for fifteen minutes and then hobble to the bedroom and make love.”

Judy tried to erase that image from her head. She put some cherry pie in her mouth. The cherries were delicious, just a little overripe, but the texture tasted bad today, like loose skin. The thought of old sex was affecting her palate. “What happened to her – your wife?”

“She died,” he took another bite of the pie and made a face. Judy bit her lip, trying to be civil.

“I mean, how did she pass?”

“Pass? Oh. Ovarian cancer.”

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?” bits of crust flew from his mouth. He pointed his fork at her. “Did you give my wife cancer?”

“No. I just… I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Maaah! I didn’t lose nothin’! She’s dead!” He didn’t seem at all worried about his wife dying. All manners and protocol told Judy that she should be horrified by this, but she also felt a bit of admiration for him. Curtis didn’t tip-toe around death. She liked that.

“Gad damn it!” Curtis cried. His pie fell to the ground.

“Don’t worry. I’ll get you some more pie.”

“No. Sit down.” She did as she was told but ground her teeth as she did. She probably shouldn’t have or she was going to exacerbate her TMJ. He didn’t notice, anyway. The man just kept talking.

“You know, if my wife heard me say the Lord’s name in vain, she would have flayed my hide. Got in the habit of sayin’ it like that fucking Dan Aykroyd guy.”

“Blues Brothers.”

“Huh?”

“That was the movie. ‘W’ere on a mission from God.’ You know?”

He sat for a minute, smacking his gums and staring into space. Just as Judy was about to say something to break the silence, Curtis opened his mouth. “Gad, I’m miss that crazy bitch.” He sighed, coughed, then closed his eyes. He looked like exhaustion had come and scooped everything out of him in an instant.

“Well, I suppose I’ll be going. I hope you enjoy the rest of your pie.”

“Goodbye. Don’t bring pie anymore. I’ll bake.”

“Bye, Curtis. Have a good evening.”

When Judy got home, she screamed into her pillow.

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Filed under FEATHERTON SESSION, Flash Fiction