Old men weren’t always old men. They were once boys.
And this particular boy had curly auburn hair, round rosy cheeks, and if asked would tell you with exactly three fingers just how old he was.
One summer evening, the boy was at a park with his mother, who was distracted, as she always was, by whatever book was currently in her hand. To his delight, his mother left him alone to roam around the park.
And so he did. He waddled his way around through the open grass until he came across a small pond. Surrounding the pond was a pack of mysterious orange-footed white-winged creatures. Ducks, he would later find out.
A mixture of curiosity, innocence and bravery turned the gears inside his mind, propelling him towards the strange creatures. As he got closer, he noticed miniature versions strewed among the pencil-like orange stems.
He inched his way forward and his heart beat quicker in his chest. He extended a small naive hand towards the baby ducklings and as he did, one of the large white devils let out a “QUACK” and nipped him on the top of his hand.
Shocked and through jilted tears, he cried out for his mother. From that day forward, he decided he didn’t like these so called ducks very much.
And this, the old man thought, was as far back as he could remember.
Story by Ian Cooney
That was the closest expression he had to smiling.
I don’t really know what made him so bitter, but he was. He hated the way my family talked, and drank, and laughed. He hated that I was a liberal with a foul mouth. He hated that the dogs always jumped on him when he came in the door, especially when his back hurt.
But he loved that I was a writer, even more so, a photographer. He wanted to take me places with him, and I will never get rid of this remorse for not making the time. Later, I said that weekend. We could go see the trees that only he knew about so I could take a picture, and win an award–if you ask him.
I should have known that chesty cough and constant wheezing was bound to catch him one day. That pipe sat perfectly in the right corner of his mouth. He was always smoking.
We only ever spoke when he was smoking, I think I was too much for him to handle without something to take the edge off. He often lectured me about the words young ladies shouldn’t say, and why Democrats are ruining America. No matter the topic he always asked me as I walked away: “What are little girls good for anyways?”
Because in my eighteen years its all I’ve ever known about my grandfather, I’d reply: “Warmin’ Papa’s heart.”
And there it was…the almost-smile.
Story by Kendra Penningroth
He saw long stalks of corn formatted squarely atop the Tennessean plains. They flickered only a few feet from the window of his old Electra, and the slim rays of sunshine caught his eye, reminding him of the unimaginable days following April of 1930.
Following the Crash, his father’s grocery went out of the business, forcing him and his family to secede their quaint Tennessee life to the winds of Chicago, picking up laborious jobs from Top Hats and bartering with other dirty faces for soap on the street corners (of which he cunningly good at). It wasn’t so much the gnawing awareness of his own poverty that bothered him; his family was poor enough in Tennessee.
It was how he missed the Irish girl who’d come in his Father’s grocery every Thursday. She would saunter in with a quarter for milk, and a nickel for her dark chocolate Hershey bar. He remembered the insignificant details because, well, they weren’t insignificant to him. She always wore a scarlet dress, with re-sewn lace white collar fastened up to the nape of her neck, paired with a old tinker of a watch. It didn’t tell the time, nor was it supposed to she always said.
“Why doesn’t it work?” He finally asked her.
“Time doesn’t stop ever, does it?”
“I s’pose not.”
“And the watch’s job is to tell time, right?”
“That seems to be the case.” He let out a stifled chuckle, unaware of whether or not it was an actual question.
“So the watch has an impossible goal of keeping time forever. His job will never end, no matter how many times he’s repaired. I gave him an early retirement. Now he just rests on my arm stress free.” She confidently announced to him.
He still thought it would be nice to know the time.
Story by Jacob Bridgman