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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Tweenoldager

THE TWEENOLDAGER (A short story)
By Sandy Huffaker

Sam was sitting on his porch looking off into space. He had just turned sixty-six years old. His mind, although slipping a few gears at times, was still pretty sharp, and his health seemed fairly good, particularly since he never went to the doctor to find out otherwise. But something was bothering him lately: people had started treating him like “that old guy” instead of his lifelong image of himself as “that young guy.” He felt like one of those “tweenagers” who had just hit puberty and wasn’t sure whether he or she was a kid or an adult.

How come nobody told him this was going to happen? Instead of seeing great feats of daring-do ahead of him, all he could envision was a bone yard with a bunch of snickering buzzards hanging out on a nearby fence. Certainly he was going to have some fun before his dirt nap, but his immortality no longer felt assured. Lately, when Sam was going to pick up something off the floor, he would think to himself, ‘Boy, that’s a long way down there...I’ll get it later.’ When he went to pee for the third time at night, he was winded. For the same reason, he had cut yard chores to a minimum, often hiring a young twenty-something stud to do the heavy lifting that he could do a year ago. He had always planned to stay young at heart--or even immature--but it was getting harder. Speaking of ‘harder,’ he upped his dose of Viagra from 50 mg to 100 mg. This was wishful thinking, though, because women weren’t interested in him anymore except for the little, old pink-haired church ladies he had always detested. And their bodies looked like a sack of potatoes, too...kinda like his body.

Sam was alone in the world--no wife, no kids, no close family, and no particularly close friend. His dog had died two years ago, but he didn’t want the hassle of letting a new one in or out at all hours, particularly since he was already pooped from peeing all the time. Can a person live without love, he wondered? Well, hell, he was doing it and it wasn’t so bad. When he had “love,” it was saddled with hard work, disappointment and betrayal, so he’d just be satisfied with “like,” and he did like a number of people.

Snapping out of his porch reverie, Sam saw a groundhog waddle fearlessly across his yard. The rodent had dug tunnels that undermined his house, so it needed to feel the fear of God, develop some humility, and maybe even go reside elsewhere. Grabbing his trusty BB gun, Sam aimed a little high and a little ahead of it and squeezed the trigger. PING! Got it right in its fat ass, sending it scurrying towards the deep woods. Now, this was hunting at its finest--strategy was involved, the animal wasn’t hurt, and a lesson was learned. This was a real sport, unlike the bloody blowing away of harmless and beautiful deer using telescopic lenses.

Well, all this big game hunting gave Sam an appetite, so he pried himself out of his chair and tootled to the kitchen. He had recently read an article that said that monkeys with limited food intake lived much longer than ones with unlimited food. He considered this good news, because his own appetite was fading. He chose to forget the fact that his once “cute ass” (girls told him so) had almost vanished and what was left had sagged, making it impossible to keep his pants up. After a few half-hearted bites of chicken salad and cold slaw, he returned to his post. A doe and her spotted twin fawns had tiptoed into his yard while he was away. He quietly sat down and watched as the fawns play-fought and chased each other while the mother grazed and stood guard. Well, if he wasn’t getting laid, this was the next best thing, he thought, and there was no downside like there was when dealing with a fellow human being.

Sam lived deep in the wilds of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Alleghenies. From his porch he could see vast open spaces and massive rolling hills dotted with cattle, sheep, horses, and Alpacas. Pockets of deep woods were everywhere, supplying him with a vast array of wildlife to watch. If an old fart had to sit on his flabby ass for the rest of his life, this was the place to do it. He once watched an hour’s worth of tension as a fox continuously circled a groundhog, looking for an opening in order to go in for the kill. When the fox saw an opening and went for it, the groundhog bit his nose, causing the fox to leap high into the air, yipping. They were about the same size, so finally the fox gave up and the unconcerned groundhog waddled away. Three fawns were born this spring--twins and a singleton--and all were seen frolicking or play fighting in Sam’s yard. A skunk meandered by the other day and a feral black cat is always around hunting chipmunks, baby turkeys, frogs, mice, or whatever. These are the kind of company one needs--they are totally free to come and go as they please, and they require no upkeep. Sam talks to the animals in a low, friendly voice and their fears have faded to the point where they practically come right up on the porch. Yard birds feed on cracked corn up on the porch and squeaking hummingbirds fly in to swill sugar water and dive-bomb Sam’s bald head.

Damn, the phone just rang. Sam would have to get up. It was his pal Dave, who was involved in an abusive relationship for around six years now. His girlfriend, May, had him arrested the other day for breaking and entering and physical abuse. He had spent two days in jail, decked out in his new orange jumpsuit and everything. Totally humiliating. Dave said he never hit her, but admitted to trying to get into her office to get proof of the money she owed him. Sam felt sorry for Dave and May, but he also felt something else: he was glad he wasn’t in love. Well, back to the porch...Sam put his fading fanny back where it belonged--in his chair.

Every now and then, he got up and peed off the porch, just to prove that he was still master of all he surveyed. Sometimes he had to cut it short when the rare car drove by, but he figured this was good exercise for the weenie. Sam mused about happiness. By all objective accounts he should be miserable. But he wasn’t. Why? Because he had lowered all of his expectations. He simply woke up and let the day unfold however it was gonna unfold. Some days were fun and interesting and some sucked, with most being just okay. At least they all didn’t suck, he figured. It started to rain. Sam liked rain. It stimulated a quiet contemplation. It also gave him an excuse not to do any yard work and get pooped. But not DOING anything made him feel guilty. He had always been such a driven man, with some big goal propelling him forward at great speed. No more. Every interesting road he could think of taking he had already been down.

There were many women, some work successes and failures, and much travel to exotic locations. If he died tomorrow, Sam knew he hadn’t missed anything, and very few people can say that. He had some money, owned his house with no mortgage, and got Social Security and Medicare benefits, so he didn’t have to work anymore. But had this made him a lazy piece of shit? Yeah, probably, he figured, feeling a sudden envy for his old redneck buddy Eenie, who was quite at peace with being useless. “I’m just taking up space here on earth,” Eenie would cheerfully state. Eenie was his idol. Sam would have to adjust his attitudes in order to be a more content n’ ere do well. When he woke the next morning, Sam told himself that he really didn’t have to get up if he didn’t want to. This gave him a sense of peace, leading to his actually wanting to get least for some coffee.

After coffee, he was faced with the fact that he had nothing to do again today, but he told himself that this, too, was okay, and stuff started popping up in his mind for him to do. Hey, this attitude adjustment stuff was working; he’d worked hard for most of his life, so maybe he deserved to piddle. Sam checked on his tomatoes, which were starting to turn red. He needed to buy some more Hellmann’s mayonnaise and fresh bread so he could make tomato sandwiches (sprinkled with garlic powder and salt, of course).