“Retiree Ramble,” by Mike Fowler

Apr 20th, 2014 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

I don’t enjoy my limps through the park as much as I used to because teenagers keep knocking me out. Soon as I hobble past the fountain, some hulking thirteen-year-old will break away from his pack and deal me a solid to the jaw. Then it’s lights out as I hit the ground like a chopped tree. I suppose I do, only I don’t see it. This happens a lot. It makes a body wary. Once I reported it to the police, and they asked if I knew who it was, or could I describe them. But it’s never the same kid twice, and how do I describe a fist? It’s got five fingers, officer, that’s all I know. Five fingers, you know, curled up together. It’s a fist.

In the morning I awake with one dry eye and one moist eye. That means I’ve been winking at someone all night. But who is she? Who let her in? What kind of drops will unstick my eye?

There are two types of diseases. One happens to you right away, like flu. The other takes a long time to build up, like coronary artery disease. You don’t confuse the two. You don’t say, I’m going to date one more girl and then quit, because I’m on the verge of getting herpes. You don’t say, That must have been a strong cigarette I smoked last night, it gave me emphysema. And you definitely don’t say, I’m going to stop eating raw chicken, one more piece and I’ve got salmonella.

If I wanted to become a household name, I’d call myself Mr. Stove.

To improve my memory I drink tap water. A goldfish kept in a bowl of tap water will find its way home if you drop it in a lake. That’s a fact, even if it has to swim across the highway.

Some phrases aren’t always appropriate, even when they’re meant as compliments. For example, saying of a woman that she’s built like a brick shithouse. Whose idea of an attractive woman is that? Some kind of brick-laying Neanderthal. Yeah, I like women built like brick shithouses, with plenty of mortar and a tin roof and a good drain on them, sure I do. And we men really do mean that as a compliment. But we wouldn’t say it of every attractive woman. You wouldn’t say of Princess Kate, she’s built like a brick shithouse. Can you imagine Prince William introducing Kate to the Queen Mother that way? Mum, here’s Miss Kate Middleton, I think you’ll appreciate that she’s built like a brick shithouse. But Prince William, even if he thinks Kate is built like a brick shithouse, probably didn’t use that term. He probably said she’s built like a brick steakhouse, or a brick opera house, just to tidy it up a bit. But in fact Kate isn’t built like a brick anything. She’s built more like a gold Tiffany’s.

My body remembers old sensations. Last winter I fell on an icy sidewalk and landed on my ribs. They hurt for weeks. This winter I haven’t fallen, but the pain in my ribs has come back, as if my body remembers the former occasion. That’s great, isn’t it? What’s next? Maybe I’ll be singing in the church choir and get my first boner again.

Dogs are like angry old people. I walk by my neighbor’s house, and it’s like he has an angry old man chained in his yard. Five years of seeing me every day, and his senile dog still can’t be civil. It snarls and barks at me every time. And all dogs are like that, like little old men who don’t want you in their yard. Even puppies carry huge amounts of hostility.

Recently my left hand borrowed twenty dollars from my right hand. I saw the whole thing go down. The money changed hands in a back alley. I’m wondering how long it’ll take leftie to pay rightie back. Meanwhile if I ever need a twenty, I know where to look.

Last Friday at the mall they had lesbian day. The mall was full of young women holding hands and doing some light kissing. And I thought, being a straight guy, this is OK. This is family entertainment, it’s fun for the whole family. Then I thought, what if it was young men holding hands and kissing? Would I want my kids to see that? Do I want to see that? Better to burn the mall down.

To supplement my income I took a part-time job at a local restaurant. I sat at tables with kids and did magic tricks, of which I know a few. But I kept touching the women’s breasts so they let me go. Seems unfair. Apart from touching women’s breasts, I have few marketable skills.

After a marriage that lasted 25 years, I realize I know nothing about women. Getting ready to go out, I floss my sparse teeth with a matchbook and comb my sparser hair with a dinner roll, since I no longer have a part to worry about. Now I worry about what meds to take. Is it rude to have angina on a first date?

Being older, I’m fearless about being wrong. I’m not afraid to reveal my ingrained ignorance and boneheaded stupidity. For example, I think there is no North Pole. It’s just painted on the top of maps by abstract expressionists. And I think everyone evolved from lower forms of life except my cousin Jeeter. Jeeter was created by a supreme being, the show-off.

One good thing about being old: I finally look like Clint Eastwood. Yeah, I made it at last. All I had to do was wait. Now Dirty Harry and I both resemble a buff corpse.

I don’t have what you might call biological urges much anymore, but when I do I have a surefire way to grab a biddy. I find one at the store shopping for produce, sidle up and say, Meet a boomer who likes his vegetables. Then I envelope her in a warm cloud of broccoli flatulence, with or without cheese sauce. It isn’t long before I’m in her sack snapping my spine to please her. Either that or I just lay back while she tickles my hernia. I should mention that beforehand I swallow a dozen Ibuprofen for courage and potency.

I sometimes worry that my breath smells like the inside of an old running shoe. Would that bother anybody? Probably, yes. I knew a man once whose hands smelled like feet. I don’t remember if his feet smelled like hands, how would you know? He could also see his own eyes without using a mirror, or so he claimed. He was easy to talk to, though.

Sometimes I drive over to my son’s house for dinner. “Beaver,” I said to him the other night. Yeah, I really do call him Beaver, like the TV show. Only I didn’t name his brother Wally or Larry or anything. It’s Stanley. “Beaver,” I said, “I’m thinking of not taking my blood pressure meds anymore, even though my untreated pressure is 180 over 130. I like a tight head. It helps me focus. ” Beaver looked at me across the pot roast and said, “Gee, Dad, won’t you have a stroke or something?” Both of us started laughing then, we sounded so much like the show. Even Beaver’s wife Pony Teeth laughed, and she never laughs when I’m there.

My local TV weatherman invited his viewers to send in pictures of Christmas weather, in case he wanted to air them. I sent in a shot of the frozen mop I had set outside on my back steps after cleaning the kitchen floor. The snow on the handle, and the glazed gray tendrils sticking to the cement, for me epitomized the season. I haven’t received so much as an acknowledgement.

There wasn’t a clean pair of undies in my entire bedroom this morning, so I called Life Alert. Guy on the line said he’d send over someone from Death Delivery or Killing Spree to euthanize me out of my misery. I said forget it, and relaxed with a beer and a Vicodin left over from my prostate operation. After that, I put on a used coffee filter for briefs.

I may need a second heart to complete my mission. But then, what is my mission, and how do I know I haven’t already completed it? If it was eating a lot of early bird specials and belching continuously, I have. Then I realize I probably never had a mission and take a long nap. Or I go for a limp and let the wind blow through my earlobes. I almost hope I’ll get knocked out.


Defenestration-Michael FowlerMike Fowler has been in Defenestration so many times he practically owns stock in the magazine. And by stock, of course, we mean delicious waffles. He’s all about self-promotion these days, so go buy his book.

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