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The Old Man

The old man trudged slowly along the sidewalk to his apartment. His right knee bit him every other step, though his cane helped by supporting some of his weight. He could see the dark behind the window of his living room. The kitchen, his bedroom, and the bathroom were his home; the other bedroom, the dining room, and the large living room were crowded with his leftover furniture, now little more than dusty frameworks for spider webs. Why had he kept all that furniture? When Ethyl passed, he had no problem selling their big house; but for some reason, he couldn’t part with the furni—

Whoa! Was that a light on in his apartment?

Nearing the building’s front door, he frowned. Had he left the kitchen light on? Certainly not! He had a life-long habit of always turning out the light as he left a room. He put the key in the lock of Apartment 2, his apartment on the ground floor, and opened the door.

Something was wrong.

Everyone in the kitchen turned toward him when he entered the room. His granddaughter Elsie and her young son were bound and gagged with duct tape. Two brutes, a big guy and a small one, glared at him. They had guns.

“Who the hell are you?” the big one asked.

“Aw, he’s probably just the old man what lives here,” the other said.

The big guy grabbed the old man and pushed him into the pantry. As he closed the door on him, he gave instructions. “Stay in here and don’t make any trouble.”

In the dark now, the old man crossed his arms. They hadn’t even bothered to tape him up. They thought he was helpless. They didn’t know he was Felix Trueblood, two time Olympic gold metal winner at skeet shooting. Felix felt behind the cans of green beans for the metal knob to the little compartment that held his loaded pistol.

Armed now, Felix jumped out of the pantry and ordered the men to untape Elsie and her son. The big man snorted and ordered the smaller one to take the gun away from Felix. As the guy approached, Felix expertly placed a bullet into the man’s shoe.

“He shot my foot!” the man cried in pain mixed with surprise as he backed away.

“It’s just a foot. Go get that gun!” the other man demanded, most unreasonably.

“Not me,” the little guy said as he ran, with a pronounced limp, out of the apartment.

The big guy eased toward the old man slowly, all the while talking to him with the voice one might use to approach an angry dog. “There, there. No hard feelings. Just hand me the gun and everything will be fine. There’s the good man.”

Felix shot him in the foot too.

“Yeoowww!” the man screamed, as he bolted away and out to follow his partner.

As Felix untaped his granddaughter, she thanked him . . .

Oh. It was no use. The plot had been too weak, too poorly thought out, to really enjoy. The old man smiled and rubbed his knee. If he had a granddaughter, her name wouldn’t be Elsie, for God’s sake, and if he had a great-grandson, wouldn’t he at least have a name?

After twisting the corrugated on-off knob on his turntable and carefully placing the needle in the outer groove of his accordion record, the old man took off his coat and hung it over his chair as familiar music joined him in the kitchen.

He would make a nice egg sandwich for supper.


Jo Wharton Heath, author of the wildly successful novel, “Sarah’s Alice,” lives deep in the forest across the interstate from Auburn, Alabama, with her wonderful husband, Robert Winship Heath.


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