Friday, March 13, 2015

The Old Man

He wasn't always old. When young he won his school's one-hundred metre dash in under three minutes. He rode motor bikes, built model airplanes and lathed and varnished jarrah tables. That was then. Now his wife had died and his children were overseas. He knew no one in the convoy of early morning walkers and only had the company of his shadow when circuiting the park. There were days that had little strength, a few dog owners drifting past, nodding, some crooning about Pippa or Bluey, others less impassioned about the weather. When they were gone there was nothing more to add. It would have been easier just to ring an empty bell. At night he watched TV, its flashes of coloured light and noise livening up the room. He watched one program and had the idea to visit his local tavern.
    The main bar was dark and musty, mostly men his age seated on stools. On Friday nights he went along hoping to meet a new friend, but one regular, who had previously spoken, continued to crouch over his beer, the glass propping up the sadness in his face. 
    Come this Saturday, the bartender said. We get a good crowd and usually a country music band. You'll have fun.
    The night wasn’t what he expected, and it brought a change to his face. A younger crowd greeted him. Handshakes and shoulders touched like a bridge. And like a crossing, he encountered the simplicity of conversation over a round of beers. He noticed, above the hubbub of music, laughter and voices, all the young men sported beards. They were impressive, neat and tidy, colourful and not at all housing breakfast crumbs, toothpaste or foreign bodies.
   It's the new rage, said one fellow. Why not grow one and join the club?
   He went along every Saturday night. Why hadn't he thought of wearing a beard before? In all his eighty years he had lathered and shaved, rinsed and patted.
   Overnight the hairs inched forward beginning as little brown wisps. He looked like Benjamin Disraeli. When it had grown and bushed out he resembled Sir John Forrest. On days when it grew long and unkempt he was Gandalf.
   The young men invited him to car trials, quiz nights, beard contests, and to zero birthdays. Mostly, it was a thirtieth or fortieth and the talk revolved around shapes, styles and colour. There was the Johnny Depp, the David Beckham, the Santa Claus, the goatee, the short-boxed and the stubble. His head heard words like 'soul patch, terminal and mouche'. The men told him about a city barber where he could have his beard trimmed and coloured, but if he couldn't afford that, there was the beard trimmer at K-Mart.
   Each morning as he splashed water on his face, he gazed at himself in the bathroom mirror. He was not a bristled Anthony Hopkins, but staring back between a neatly trimmed moustache and Silverfox beard, a smile formed.


Frances Macaulay Forde said...

A good start - love the smile...

Anonymous said...

Yes, think you have picked up on the generosity of the younger generation. Also that people often box themselves while other people are often more giving than what is expected. There is a glitch with the black hair of his beard growing - probably not black when he is in his 80s. Thanks for sharing - inspiration. I also need to get back in to the swing of things this year. Sandra

Hagemann Helen said...

Thanks Frances and thanks for reading this.

Hagemann Helen said...

Thanks for your comments. Yes, perhaps not black, so changed it to brown. Some men can have grey hair, or even be bald, and when a beard grows it can be dark or red!! I tried to show at the end that he had a salt & pepper beard & mo, as that is what a Silverfox is. I got the inspiration from a article on TV about men now wearing beards. It's amazing where stories come from. Best wishes with your writing. Cheers, Helen


Published by Australian Poetry Centre, Melbourne

of Arc & Shadow

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