Micro fiction

Cranky Old Man

3 minute read

If the Earth stopped spinning we would all float away into space. This is what I’m thinking as I wait for the pedestrian light to go green. I imagine the people around me losing their grip on the pavement, screaming as they detach from the ground, as the cars and bikes slowly trickle up, following them into the sky.

To my side, several commuters with indistinct white collar jobs stare down at their mobile phones. All of them uber-serious, of course: if there’s one rule to city life it’s that in the morning everyone has to look like they’re shitting bricks. I spot a lady on the other side of the street as she waits to cross. Our eyes meet briefly; she’s the only who seems amused, lost somewhere in her thoughts (before quickly forcing her face back to neutral).

The light turns green and she steps forward, obeying the unforgiving motion of the crowd. We all advance, politely avoiding the physical touch of strangers. I ask myself: where the hell is everyone going anyway? Hamsters in a wheel, running from nine to five, every single day of their lives. Like I did for over forty years, here’s your gold watch and a pat on the back, thank you very much.

An hour later, I’m finishing breakfast at the corner café when a small kid wanders into my field of vision. He looks two, maybe three, staring at me from behind his runny nose. Call it the hazards of eating out every day.

“Hi there,” I say flatly. In my experience, directness (combined with old age and some serious wrinkles) is enough to scare them away. He of course runs off to his parents. Game, set, match.

I never much saw the point of having children. My wife used to call me a selfish man, which I guess is a pretty serious thing for a wife to say. In bed she would recite baby names while I made every effort to fall asleep. She spent ten years trying to talk me into having one, and another ten blaming me for not giving in. Eventually she found it in her heart to forgive me, but her eyes opened wide anytime we crossed a baby stroller in the street.

My sweet wife. I stare at my scrambled eggs as her memory brings with it the familiar threat of a tear or two. Goddamn it, I think to myself. Here I go again.

The kid comes back. Gotta admire his perseverance; he’s basically challenging me to a staring contest now. I compose myself and stare right back at his fat face while sipping on my tea. Two can play that game my friend.

At the very end, I make a loud slurping sound. He giggles, I win.

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