Thanks to the updated self-checkout stations at my local market, I can bypass age verification when I buy alcohol just by scanning my hairline. That way I save a lot of time making my daily purchase of red wine (two bottles), tuna salad, tomato soup (one can), calcium supplements and fungal toenail medication (one tube). The minutes I saved the other day I spent standing in line for my shingles shot. The clinic is right there at the market too, and so is everything else I need except tattoo removal and knee replacement.
I picked up my paid-for bag of groceries and, while waiting for the nurse to call my number, took a seat by the restroom. I figured I’d have a twenty-minute wait, and in that time I’d need to urinate maybe seven times, so it paid to be close. I made a mental note that on my next visit I should get my shot before I bought my groceries, so I didn’t have to wait with the bag, but this time I had to slide it under my chair and hope my tuna salad didn’t spoil.
All went according to plan until I returned from my first trip to the men’s room. Have I mentioned that I have difficulty using the bathroom at home? Sometimes I forget what I’m talking about or if I’ve put on my clothes. And I’m liable to return home to find I’ve left all the stove burners on and the garbage disposal running.
I haven’t used my own bathroom since 2010, and I’m not talking about constipation. I get a dandy of a bowel movement every six months like clockwork, and it cleanses me thoroughly. What I’m saying is that my wife went to the bathroom back in 2010, right in the middle of Dancing with the Stars, and hasn’t come out.
I know she’s still in there because I hear the fan on and I can see the light under the door. I’m tempted to knock to see if she’s all right or needs something, maybe toilet tissue, but after 45 years of sleeping together in a 6′ by 8′ bedroom I hate to intrude. Meanwhile there’s a large shrub in the backyard that gives me plenty of privacy when nature calls.
When I came out of the men’s room that first time, there was an elderly gent in my seat. He wore a knit cap with a lot of Alpine scenery stitched on it, showing questionable taste in summertime. Since all the other chairs were occupied, I told him I had got there first, and would he please move. Well, he acted like he didn’t hear me. But I knew he did, since I could see huge hearing aids below the cap jammed in his ear-holes like wads of old discolored gum.
With those monsters he could likely hear birds twittering six miles off. Seeing his pigheadedness, I indicated my sack of goodies under the chair. Now he acted like he didn’t see me, or my plastic bag either. But I knew he did, because he hadn’t found his way to the clinic and located my empty seat by his sense of smell, had he? He was just being an entitled jerk.
Now all my life I have been a pacifist. I never harmed a person or an animal unless I thought I could get away with it, and sometimes I was kind to inanimate objects just for practice.
But when I became a senior all that changed. My personality switched without warning from mild-mannered conciliator to seething malcontent in a split second. I could bring on this change in myself at will and I often did, leading to a number of brutal physical confrontations. Fifty-four times I’d seen combat since turning seventy, and my record defied belief. I’d lost all but twice, making me as good as undefeated, if you look at it that way.
So once I understood that gramps was not moving from my chair, I swelled with murderous rage. I nudged him with my arm, and when that failed to dislodge him I began using my aluminum walker to batter him a bit. Well, you would have thought I had insulted him or brought up the way he ogled minors. He swiftly removed a collapsible white-tipped cane from his jacket pocket, extended it, and began jousting with me, knocking over the display of fish oil caps behind me.
I began charging him bull-style with my trusty walker until I slipped and fell, and he added to the pandemonium by swinging his cane in my direction even after he toppled off my chair. Though I sensed both of us bordered on unconsciousness at this point, I managed to administer a rejuvenating insulin shot to myself, while my opponent took the opportunity to suck a few life-giving breaths from his portable oxygen tank.
Refreshed, we joined battle anew, and rolled as one into the anti-itch aisle. There his seeing-eye dog pulled me off him just as I was sawing into his jugular with my disability badge, and we lay collapsed side by side on the floor, drooling saliva and gasping like spent marathoners. It was one for the books, all right, and I couldn’t wait to get to my writing desk and jot it all down.
When store security got done talking to me, I lit out for home. I was still at risk for shingles, having neglected to get my shot, but I no longer cared. Let shingles descend upon me, I thought: I have words to set down. Madly I stamped over the lot in search of my car, my sack of stuff tied around the handle of my walker. It would kill my wife if I had lost the car, but then what wouldn’t kill her?
I encountered my next challenger, an ice cream vendor, out by the bus stop. The little salesman had parked his truck at the curb, turned off his racket, and sat inside, napping. His tiny physique, miniature white suit with yellow custard stains and pinch of white hair assaulted my senses. He resembled a child manikin or a voice-thrower’s effigy. His mouth, puckering like a goldfish’s as he slept, silently assailed me with the vilest epithets he or I could think of.
Of all the impudence, I thought. As if I could be intimidated by this doll-like, barely breathing popsicle pusher the size of a third-grader. Oh, I was itching for a fight. Two in one day would make for a thrilling new chapter in my memoir, titled Thunder in My Fists. I lurched into the truck…(To be continued.)