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Notes of an Old Man Who Lives Alone

September 1, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments
By Luman Cans Harris

By Luman Cans Harris

Every Friday evening, I go down to the liquor store and buy a good pack of cigarettes.

I pass Mama, the heavy-set landlady on the staircase. She’s always sitting in her doorway crocheting words onto a blanket.

“Buying another pack of cigarettes, Mr. Cans Harris?”

I used to deny it, now I just nod politely.

“Smoking is terrible for your health,” she says.

“Oh? I hadn’t heard that.”

“You’re being irreverent, Mr. Cans Harris,” she says quietly. “My husband, Papa, was irreverent.”

She never offers up the fate of Papa though the inference is that it was not a good one.

“Just open up a window, Mr. Cans Harris. Otherwise, your fabrics will be abhorrent. Women notice that kind of thing, Mr. Cans Harris.”

Mama desperately wants me to find a good woman. Nothing would delight her more. There is something wrong with an old man who lives alone in Mama’s mind. But women have a way of coming into your apartment and changing things around. They have a way of insisting on going out in the evenings. Sometimes they are feminists and they spout some of that barely-disguised reversed sexism cloaked as dimestore philosophy. Who the hell needs it?

“I’ll see to it that a window is open, Mama.” And then I head down into the street.

The entrance to the building is via an ugly windowless side door painted a strange deep red color. There is a giant block of granite step and the drunkards often hang out here– shielded from the main road. I often bump their backs going out.

I have an ancient black Ursa parked by the curb. They don’t make Ursas anymore. Stopped about 1989, I guess. Neptune really took over the market. I don’t drive the Ursa much– just move it around occasionally so the neighbors don’t think it’s broken down.

I buy the cigarettes and walk slowly back to the apartment in the diminishing sunlight. Young people are flocking to the bars. It’s a loud place– a party atmosphere.

I spot “The Shark”. He’s a local lunatic with blonde hair and a deep red face. It’s that same supernal red as the side door. He stalks up and down a two block section– stopping at the corner and starting again, down by the closed fish market.

“HEY MAN,” he says in his deep, breathy, hysterical voice. “YOU KNOW WHERE THE OUTLANDS ARE, MAN?”

“They’re west,” I say. “Maybe about 200 miles from here.” I am patient with “The Shark”– there is no reason not to be– the man is clearly insane.

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE THE OUTLANDS ARE!” he accuses.ln-global-small.png

“Ok.” I start to walk on.


“They do,” I say. “It’s a big prison for the Outlands Area.”


“Ok.” We have arrived at a conversational crossroads.


He likes to go on about big dicks and Islanders. That’s when I generally take my leave.

“Ok. I’ll see you later.”

I head slowly up the staircase. Mama is gone but her door is open. If you were twenty years younger Mama I think to myself. It’s nonsense. Why think such things? Perhaps “The Shark” is rubbing off on me.

I pass the night quietly.

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