Monday, February 25, 2013

old men

The sun was still coming up when Dub saw Wally Sternberg puffing up his front steps. Old Sternberg was a very interesting guy for an ancient sad sack, Philadelphia bred and a graduate of Penn State who, late in life converted to Christianity and Republicanism.

Dub always suspected he did so to get back at his parents for naming him Walter. Poor Wally first became Catholic and voted for Bush in 2004. By 2008 he belonged to some sort of Baptist cult and "liked" John McCain's Facebook page. Dub considered him a brilliant mind gone to seed,

"C'mon in, Walter," says Old Dub throwing his front door open. He was actually very glad to see the old fart, since he felt as if Sternberg had been avoiding him for about a month. The last time they'd talked, Dub had asked whatever possessed an urban sophisticate like Sternberg to adopt the religion and politics of barbaric regions where people are unfamiliar with using forks and knives. Old Walter had gotten sore, but seemed over it now.

In the interim, Sternberg had proudly cast his ballot for Mitt Romney and, when he lost badly, testified for Christ at church. But he was here now, smiling even, and Dub, a surprisingly gracious host, soon had tea, Fig Newtons, and cigarettes served on the deck, and, fighting down an urge to ask Wally whether he'd ever been bitten by a snake "at that church you go to," commented perfunctorily about the weather.

Between slurps and bites, Walter announced "I'm goin back to Australia again." He lit a Marlboro, and exhaling added, "I'm thinkin about moving there."

"Well," says Dub, "money's certainly no problem. You're free to do whatever you like there, amigo." He knew that Sternberg had been loaded since his mom died. "You can even come back to good ol' Point Utopia when you get tired of it down there."

"I just feel like I gotta get outta this country," Sternberg continued, "It's gotten too crazy here."

"Well I told ya that a long time ago, Walter, but you never listen to your old friend and buddy." Dub, who had a little tucked away in savings but lived mostly within the limits imposed by a small, fixed income, was slightly envious.

"I may be back some day," Sternberg went on, talking mostly to himself now as he often did. "I dunno."

"So this is how it ends," Dub thought to himself. He'd known and carried on an intermittent friendship with Wally Sternberg for over 30 years, but now Sternberg was passing out of his life, going to Australia to drink Tree Frog beer and learn how to say "G'dye."

It occurred to him that life was like occupying a fixed point, which other people approach, stay for a while, then leave to go somewhere else and never return. Friends, lovers, co-workers, even wives and family members came and went, a few taken by the reaper, but most simply migrated to other places, never to be heard from again. Only the three women, his daughter and sisters remained constant, and would still be with old Dub when his pilot light went out.


Dreaming of Lady Lynn made him uncomfortable, because he knew his woman-lovin days were over. Lynn, his barber and local beauty in her fifties whom he saw every couple of months, never did anything improper in these dreams, and last night she had been a nurse in the hospital where Dub had gone to get his oil changed. First they drained him, then she had used an IV connected to a big steel tank to put the new stuff in.

There was no obvious erotic content to these dreams, but as he fogged through his first steps, grousing around the kitchen and fumbling with the first pot of coffee, Dub couldn't help but reflect on how fetching Lady Lynn looked in her starched, white nurse's uniform, with its tiny hat emblazoned with a red cross.

"Better cut that shit out," he muttered, pouring a cup of very hot, black Java and opening the laptop computer. Dub had no TV -- he couldn't stand the sound of it -- and only an old-style "dumb" cell phone which he seldom used. He mostly lived his life on the internet.

This morning, though, there was no time to fart around. He was due early at the Volkswagen dealership 25 miles away. He usually avoided the place, but the "check engine" light on his old beetle was lit, and that was likely an emissions problem. He agonized over his relationship with the car (Parkinson's Disease doesn't enhance one's driving skills), but being 10 miles from a supermarket left him no choice but to keep driving occasionally.

And most immediately there was this morning's 50 mile round trip, directly concerned with the life of the car. The purpose of this longish drive was, of course, to be able to keep driving.

The Bactrian Inevitability (One Hump or Two?), part the second. ©2013 by David Brice.

1 comment:

Joe said...

So long, Walter.