April 14, 2015

The farmer waddles into the café, his booted feet splayed out and open. The boot laces are untied to accommodate ham-size ankles. He weighs over four hundred pounds, most of it in his massive belly which protrudes at least three feet straight out, held in by tent-size overalls with all the buttons unbuttoned. He has to counter this appendage by leaning back. Thus, he is bent and has to navigate between tables carefully, stepping like a penguin in slow motion. If he fell, five men couldn’t lift him.

He sports a narrow edge of grey-white beard along his jaws, no mustache, and has long, curly hair. His red nose is wide and squashed. His fingernails are always black.

He makes a chair vanish when he sits. He often orders two platters of eggs and toast and bacon and home fries. He is always alone. He knows plant corn, you get corn.

* * *

The ancient man walks so bent forward he has to crane his neck to see ahead. His right eye is covered with a pirate’s patch. His skin is a mass of liver spots. His hands tremble so much he has to hold cup his coffee cup and billfold with both sets of fingers. Yet he is cheerful and groomed, dressed in pressed khakis and dress shoes.

He and his very petite wife always ask for menus, always order coffee, never order food. They ask the waitress the price of everything. Everything. And then order nothing. Yet they are cheerful. They know heaven is just around the corner.

* * *

She shuffles, sliding her feet across gravel or floors, the sound of the slide her trademark. She is bronze-colored in all seasons, dedicated to tanning beds. Her hair is Harpo Marx and dyed strawberry blond. Prominent moles dot her leathery, deeply-wrinkled face. Her teeth gleam Hollywood style.

She orders lottery tickets and cigarettes. She greets everyone. She honks and waves when she passes me in her car. She knows her place.

I marveled at this old woman to a friend. She is doing really well for such an old lady, I said. The friend replied: She is sixty-five.

* * *

She is terrified of everything. If you say her name, she flinches. She always wears slippers, and her posture suffers for it. Her flesh is jelly-like.

She is twenty-nine going on seventy. She favors Spandex pants and old women’s button sweaters. She always asks, How are you, and you could say you have cancer and she’ll reply, Good! She knows the truth probably won’t set you free.

She makes tiny cupcakes with gaudy frosting. She sports glitter and a tiara in her hair. She loves country and western music, fried fish, half coffee/half creamer. She dreams of being a writer.

She’s getting married in September. She thinks.

* * *

He always wears sunglasses indoors, golf clothes under a rain slicker, and is round like a golf ball. He sits and peruses a smart phone, like a kid. He was a kid fifty years ago. He is bald, always wears a golf hat. He watches young girls’ hips. He only talks to twenty-something guys.

Ask him how it’s going and he always answers that he’s good, but would be better with steady pussy (no live-ins, no thank you), par scores–he knows all the minutia of golf–and good cigars and bourbon. And what the hell is he doing in the Midwest, where his talents are wasted?

He dreams of moving to Nebraska.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: eugenebaldwin.com. I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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