Past It All by Wendy Russ
He will find himself, at age 70, past it all.
It will occur to him suddenly over a cup of tea in a café during the 2 o’clock lull between the lunch rush and the dinner crowd. It will occur to him as he flirts with the pretty waitress with no expectation of anything but the pure joy of still living and breathing, of still having his mental clarity, of the sound of the young woman’s coy laughter that reminds him of a girl he knew long ago.
He will be past it all. Past the care of what anyone thinks of him. Past the desire to please a woman for the sake of what she might give him in return. Past the worry over whether his socks match. Past the ambition of climbing a ladder to the top. Past competing with his neighbor over lawn care. Past the need to check his hair in the mirror.
Actually he has no hair. He will have been past that quite some time ago.
To celebrate, he will put one extra spoon of sugar in his tea, one extra dollop of cream, for the sheer hedonistic pleasure of it, but also because he’s past the worry of the consequences of those spoonfuls adding up.
He will gaze out the window, his eyes wide and his mouth soft and let the joy of being past it all seep through him like the drops of warm spring rain that fell on him as he ran hand-in-hand with Mary Beth into the barn the day they kissed for the first time.
He will sip hot tea and see the way the water makes the thin cotton summer dress cling to her skin, the impetuous thunder drowning out her laugh. The warmth of the mug will remind him of her body pressed against him as she shivered. He will remember being unsure at that moment if she was cold or excited or scared. Upon further thought these years later he will decide it was two of the three.
Strangely, he will remember the birth of his daughter who was not born of that woman, but was named for her. He will wonder for the hundredth time if that was an honor or a betrayal. As usual, he will reach no definite conclusion on the matter. He doesn’t know it now, but he will never decide, not even at his death which will be swift and painless and will occur while he is sitting on a park bench throwing peanuts to squirrels.
He will be found by a businessman in a nicely tailored suit who is too busy to stay with the body after calling 911 to report it. Because if the man makes his meeting he will get the promotion he’s worked so hard for. And if he gets the promotion he will buy the house his wife wants. And he will send his baby daughter to a good school, the perfect school. And one day he will take more time, to breathe slowly.
One day he will be past it all.
© Wendy Russ, 2015
Wendy Russ is a southern author living in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Her work has appeared in The MacGuffin, Boston Literary Magazine, on stage at Liars’ League Hong Kong and on the internationally syndicated radio show Tales from the South. She is Managing Editor of The Lascaux Review.
Past it All was read by Basil Rodericks on 5th August 2015 for Short & Sweet Flash Fiction