Angry Old Guy




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Autumn's Winter: The Story of Angry Old Guy

By D M Sowb

The old man held his back, catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror as he rose from bed. He was thin and gaunt, his hair grey and matted, and his skin pale except for the brown blotches of benevolent skin cancer the sun had bought to his cheeks, and the deep-creased scars a lifetime of working on the land had bought to his arms and hands. None of the scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in the fruitless desert. Indeed, everything about him was old, apart from his eyes, which today sparkled like the water had as he fed it to his livelihood, the plants, all those years before. His eyes sparkled this morning because he knew it was the day Billy would come to visit. Many years had past since the old man’s wife had passed. Soon after that his daughters visits had become perfunctory, before they stopped completely. He had lost his friends as well as the women in his life, but he still had his Grandson Billy.

It had been a bad week for the old man. The pain in his back was worse now then he could ever remember, though he knew his memory too was liable to let him down. His weekly visit from the kindly man next door had stopped some weeks ago, though he knew not why. He had pondered this every morning around this time for the last week, but it did not trouble him this morning because he knew today that Billy was coming, and the lonely house would once again be filled with the laughter and chatter of youth.

Washing his face now in the cold bathroom water, the man felt ashamed. His own faint memories of his grandfather were so very special to him, memories of the rotund kindly figure, bathed in the golden glow of the sunlight spraying through the porch windows where he would spend the afternoons, red face punctuated by an impeccable silver moustache, telling fantastic tales from a world now gone. The old man’s own image sickened him in comparison. He had wanted Billy to share in that feeling, to hear great stories bathed in that golden sunlight, but the old man’s life had never taken him further than the fields on which he worked, no kind of inspiration for the young boy he loved. ‘Come now, old man,’ he thought to himself, splashing cold water into his face and over his arms ‘you know the joy you bring to the young boys face, and soon he will be here, so stop these thoughts of a world which has long since escaped you’.

The old man slowly made his way downstairs, breath failing and his back burning with every step. Carefully he made his way through the perpetually shaded front room and took place in his favourite chair. A beam of morning sunlight made it’s way through a crack in the curtain, and fell warm across his face and soon he was in a light slumber. His dreams of sitting on his grandfather’s lap, comforted by the smell of fresh pies cooking in his grandmothers kiln, were soon interrupted by a knocking at the door. “Billy!” the old man gathered his thoughts and exclaimed, with a haste that would have taken him by surprise had his mind not been filled with the blindness of pure joy. The knock came again. “Billy, come in!” he croaked. It had been so long since he had reason to utter words, that they no longer came without effort. Sure enough this time he heard the door open, and he could hear the child’s footsteps in the pantry making there way towards him. Soon Billy stood at the door of the living room, his curly golden locks shimmering in the sunlight which now sprayed into the room.

“Hewwo Gwanpa” he murmured, thumb stuck in his grinning mouth. “I have come to see you!”
“Come on Billy, come and sit on Grandpa’s knee” the old man croaked, broad grin from cheek to cheek. Billy came trotting over and the old man hoisted him up, no longer feeling the agony in his back. “Listen Billy, I want to tell you some important things today.”
“Ok gwanpa, I wike talking to you”
“Ok Bill…. B.…” the old man began to splutter, one of the coughing fits that had become all too familiar had returned. “Billy…”
“Yes Gwanpa?”
“… Billy, always remember that every great journey begins with a single step… d…” the old man regained his composure, each word now burning his throat as he suppressed the coughing “don’t be afraid to take life by the scruff of the neck and try something special with each day. But if you even think about going NEAR my woodshed, and playing with my WOOD I’ll give you a BEATING you’ll never ever forget.”