by Gary Hoffman
Sadly Gary Hoffman passed away earlier this year, but his family asked if we would help them fulfill his goal of having 500 stories published so we have published several of them this year, with one more to go around Valentine’s Day. This story has never before been published.
“What are you doing?”
Saul dropped the shirt he had folded into a suitcase on the bed. “Oy. What the hell does it look like I’m doing?”
Saul sat on the edge of the bed. “Two things.” He held up two fingers. “First, I don’t have to tell you anything I don’t want to.” Second, …” He scratched his head. “Forgot where I was going with that.”
“Probably forgot why you’re packing a suitcase, also.”
Saul folded his fingers together and looked at the floor. “I just need to do something, Mord.”
Mordecai swung a chair around, sat on the seat, and rested his arms on the back. “Do something?”
“How long we lived in this house, Mord?”
“Oy, I don’t know. Haven’t really given it much thought.” He looked at the ceiling. “My Jayna’s been gone for over fifteen years now. Guess it would be close to that.”
“About a year after Jayna passed, I moved into this house with you. Fourteen years ago. Fourteen years we’ve lived here, and what the hell have we done? Watched a lot of television.”
Mordecai shrugged. “I know we’ve done nothing spectacular, but we do have things to do.”
“Helps to pass the time,” Mordecai said.
“That’s just the thing. We do things to help pass the time. I’m tired of sitting around here passing gas and time. I want to do something.” He pounded one fist into his other hand and lowered his head. “I want to do something before I die.”
Mordecai waved the statement away. “You’re a young seventy-six, yet. I got you by two years.”
“My Becca was only fifty-six when she passed. I should have gone first. That’s what happens in this world. Men die before their wives. But, nooo. You and I end up living together because our wives got into the ground before us.”
“It was a good move at the time. Still is,” Mordecai said. “Saved us both so much money.”
“Why for what?”
“Why are we saving our money? We got no one to leave it to. Both of our wills now state you or me ends up with the other guy’s money when he gets hidden under the grass. You need my money?”
Mordecai looked at the floor. “No, not so much.”
“So why don’t we do something with it?”
“I don’t know. Nothing I really want to do.”
“That’s just it,” Saul said. “You’re willing just to sit around here and wait to die.”
There was a long silence. “You know where you’re going?”
“Where?” Mordecai asked.
“I don’t know.”
“You said you knew.”
“Okay, here’s my plan. I’m going to go down to the bus station and ask for a ticket for the next bus out of town. Doesn’t matter where it’s going. I’m just going to be on it.”
“And when you get there?”
Saul stood and started folding clothes again. “I’ll know when I get there. If it looks like an interesting place, I might stay and look around. If not, I’ll find another bus that goes somewhere else.”
“So you’re going to live on buses for the rest of your life?”
Saul looked at his friend. “You’re making this sound weird, you know?”
“I’m making it sound weird? You’re the guy who wants to live on a bus.”
Saul threw another shirt in his suitcase. “I’ll find someplace I want to settle down.”
“Someplace as nice as this?” Mordecai spread his arms. “Someplace where you don’t even know anybody?”
“I’ll meet people. I’m a sociable kind of guy.”
Mordecai chuckled. “Yeah, like when you met that new guy who joined our bowling league. Took you two weeks to even talk to him.”
Saul sat on the bed again. “You know, there was just something strange about that guy. Still think there is. He comes out of nowhere, says he lives here now, and wants to just fit in like we have known him all his life.”
“And just what do you think is going to happen to you when you go busing into some unfamiliar town? Think everyone’s going to welcome you with open arms?”
Saul looked at the floor and moved his foot in a circle. “Remember when the four of us used to go up to Glory Pines?
All of those people were strangers, but we got along with them.”
“We were all paying customers, Saul. We were there for a reason—to have fun. That’s what vacations are for. Nobody was there to grumble and look down on the place, well, except for Mrs. Wozinski. Remember her?”
“God, how could I forget? She and her husband were assigned to our table, and all she did was complain about the food and the service. I wonder if that woman ever enjoyed anything?”
“Yes, I remember my Jayna turning around and going the other way when she saw her coming.” He paused. “Those were good times, Saul. Remember that boat we rented and the motor conked out as soon as we got up the lake? We laughed like idiots about that. At least after it was over. Rowing back to the lodge wasn’t one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.”
“That’s just what I’m talking about. We don’t do that kind of thing anymore,” Saul said.
“Okay, let me run this past you. We go down to the public library, get on one of their computers, and join one of those dating services that are always advertised on television. We say we are looking for two women who want to share their lives with us, but they have to be willing to put up with guys who have failing body parts.”
Saul frowned. “Don’t be silly. We don’t even know how to work a computer.”
“Oh, I’m sure there’s someone who works there who would show us. Or maybe just one of those kids who always seem to be there and know what they’re doing,” Mordecai said.
“Okay, let’s say, for the sake of argument that I stay around here. We gotta do something! Television just doesn’t cut it anymore.”
Mordecai rubbed his hand across his mouth. “Let’s go down and look at that weekly paper we get in the mail. They list different events that are going on close to us.”
“You don’t even know what day it is and you want to go running off on a wild goose chase across the country?”
“It’s Friday.” Mordecai said.
Saul kept reading. “Here’s something. A dance and social at the Brentwood Community Center right off Emerson Avenue.”
Mordecai rubbed his chin. “You know that might not be such a bad idea. I mean we do pay city taxes to keep that place open, and that guy Jerry, the one we play poker with once in a while, says those things are great.”
“So he goes, does he?”
“Of course, he goes. How else would he know they’re great?”
“I think we should give it a try,” Saul said.
Both men dressed in their best outfits. Mordecai had to help Saul tie his tie.
The hall was fairly crowded. At the entrance they looked around trying to determine what they were supposed to do. There were no printed instructions.
Mordecai pointed across the room. “There’s Jerry. We should talk to him.”
Before they got close to him, Jerry asked someone to dance and was just leading her to the dance floor. They drifted over to a table loaded with food and a bowl of punch. They helped themselves and waited uncomfortably for the dance to end. One woman walked past them. “Your first time here?” she asked.
“Yes,” Mordecai said.
“Well, glad to have you. I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourselves.” She smiled and walked away swishing her green flowered dress with her hands.
“Wow, did you see that?” Saul said. “She was a looker.”
“Of course, I saw it. She was right in front of us. And, yes, she was sexy. You got any way to do something about it?”
Just then the music stopped playing, and Jerry spotted them. “Hey, it’s about time you guys tried this place. The women here are on the prowl, let me tell you. You asked anyone to dance yet?”
“No,” Saul said.
“Well, get with the program. Just pick out any of them standing or sitting around. You got a good shot of going home with one of them tonight or them coming to your place.”
“What?” Saul asked.
Jerry winked and nudged him in the side. “You are ready for something like that, aren’t you?”
“I …I …really don’t know,” Saul said.
Jerry put his arm around his shoulder and turned him toward a different wall. “See that woman over there, the one in the red dress? That’s Betty. We call her The Pharmacist. She’s got a nephew who gets her all the stuff she wants.”
“Just go talk to her. She’ll take care of you. I’ve got to get back to dancing. Somebody else might try and nab onto Rosalie.”
Saul and Mordecai looked at each other. “Well, who goes first?” Saul said.
“I think you should,” Mordecai said. “You’re the one who wanted to be a man of the world.”
Saul threw his shoulders back. “This I can do.” As he walked across the room, he saw several women watching him. A couple even waved shyly. He approached Betty. “I’m told I’m supposed to talk to you.”
“Well, hi, honey. You’re new here, aren’t you?”
Saul nodded. He didn’t feel his mouth could produce any words.
“Been dancin’ yet?”
Saul shook his head.
“Thinkin’ ‘bout askin’ someone?”
“And who might that be?” Betty asked.
Saul looked around the room. He coughed a couple of times before he could speak. “That woman over there, the one in the green flowered dress.”
“Madge. Well, let’s see you’ll need two pills. One for tonight and one for in the morning. Madge kind of likes a morning romp in the sack, too.”
Saul wrinkled his forehead. “Pills? What kind of pills?”
“Why, Viagra, honey. Viagra.”
“Sure. You able to do it on your own?”
“I have no idea.”
Betty smiled and put her hand on his shoulder. “How long has it been for you?”
“How long has what been?”
“Since you’ve had sex with a woman. What else?”
“That’s kind of a personal question.”
Betty shrugged. “Suit yourself. Two pills is gonna be fifty bucks if you want them.”
“Let me speak to my friend,” Saul said. He walked back to where Mordecai was watching him.
“So?” Mordecai said.
Saul put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “If it is acceptable to you, let’s go back to the house and see what’s on television tonight.”
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