Ryan sits on the bench by the flower display, watches feet pass by, silver and green
skirts low on thighs, his own faded jeans matching the Mall's floor pattern, his shirt
condescending to several colorful retail walls; customers rushing from one outlet to another, seeking bargains they cannot afford.
Not long ago, he too raced along this same corridor, caught up in the wind of commercialism, a fat wallet bulge, sandals slapping, armed with a blond, a smart one at that. Later, laughter and steaks at Stanfield House, then after that
But any memory in life can easily be pushed away by the reality of this moment's living, a "Geezer" as young mouths call him, lonely in his vigil, eyes squinting, hemorrhoids acting up again. Finally, Fred, his lifelong friend is heading in his direction, armed with a cane, one pudgy hand energized with a snappy wave.
Then a firm grip, friendship is cool. But Ryan isn't, sweat pouring from him, a tire of fat decorating his waist.
--'lo, said Fred.
--Hi back, answered Ryan. They're comfortable at their usual spot, front of the Dollar Store. There remains firmness in his white-haired friend's voice, clarity, and definition of purpose.
--Seen Gummy? Fred asked.
--Nah. Brought the chess game, though. My turn to win is followed by a belching laugh from Fred. Not that Ryan was that good a hand with a Queen. Give him two Bishops though, and he could rip any opponent's army apart.
Both men sat quietly, noticing a bulge of customers evade the closing doors. Soon the Mall would shut down, and two men, full of aged memories would shuffle to Fred's house for a bowl of chips and lots of water. But first, a litany of questions
Didja hear about Marlene's kid? Got caught lifting a pack of smokes, imagine.
--I remember the time you snatched a chocolate bar. I was the one who finched. Couldn't expect my parents to think I did it.
--Yah, it was a bummer. Almost lost our friendship over it. You were right though. It was a sneaky thing to do. That grocer fellow was always nice to us. Gave us a job once in while carrying empty cases of beer to the back shed.
--Then you left it unlocked and someone hoofed all the empties.
--Yah. Yah. Blame it on me.
--Well, you did too. And Ryan's blood pressure began to rise in the excitement of this conversation.
--Got to get up and exercise my arthritis, can't sit still too long. Leg acts up, kinda. And he gets up, scratches his tummy, a fart quietly, if there is such a thing, then yawns and belches.
--Fred? Remember the time we went dipping you know, skinny?
--All I remember was the moon shining in my eyes, and slipping on the rock. Took a chunk out of me. There was more blood on my arm, than a vampire's kiss.
--I remember, then all us kids had to hightail it back home from the lake. Took a while since no one had a car. Had to hitch a ride, left your red juice on the leather seat. Boy that fellow was upset.
--We been friends a long time, Fred.
--Yep. You're okay, too.
The mall customers were growing shorter in number, and a few businesses had finished counting their cash, an early close out, then barred doors began closing.
--Quick. Grab a Loto ticket. Who knows, could be our turn. You know, our trip around the world.
--Dream on, tutti-fruity, said Fred.
--Come on. Best we could do in our shape is shuffle up to the food table at the food court here. Hungry?
--There's still time. You get the ticket and I'll pick up a mess of fries and a burger apiece. My treat.
--Meet you at the front door in ten. And Fred began to fumble with his shirt-tail, fingers tripping all over each other.
--Let's stop rattling and get going, admonished Ryan anxious to be off.
Then two older gentleman, one in faded jeans, the other sporting the latest fashion from Harry's Clothing Depot shuffled off to their agreed-to destinations.
There was still time to eat at Ryan's place, gulp a couple of coffees and play one good game of chess. Before long the Mall was darkened and two pair of legs escaped through the heavy doors.
Tomorrow another of life's scenes would repeat itself. Might be these two same older gentlementhen maybe not.
* * *
Richard L. Provencher 2007
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