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Notes of an Old Man Who Lives Alone

October 12, 2016 Leave a comment
Luman Harris

By Luman Cans Harris

“Where did you work as a young man, Luman?” the visitor asked.

It was Baxterson. He lived next door. Occasionally, he wandered over and we sat at the kitchen table in the fading light.

“I worked for the Frostie Company. Do you remember them?”

“No.”

“Root beer. I worked in the bottling plant.”

“Sounds stupid. Like something you made up.  I would have known about them,” Baxterson said.

“They went out of business. They never did well anyway. The owner, Mr. Frostie, suffered from several mental illnesses. But they did give me a nice pension.”

“Bunch of lies. Bunch of god damned lies.”

It always went like this. Baxterson not believing anything I said, always getting aggressive about it. I wished he would leave.

He got up and went over to a giant microwave oven that sat atop the fridge. It was ancient, barely operable– I didn’t use it often.

“What kind of stupid thing is this?” he asked. He fiddled with the knobs (it had knobs).

“Listen, Baxterson, I need to start thinking about getting to bed.”

His shoulders suddenly slumped. “It’s only nine, Luman. You wouldn’t believe the evening I have planned for us.”

I sighed. Everything hurt. I was beginning to worry about cancer. That would be the kind of thing that would happen to me. Some rare form of cancer. Nobody would find me for months.

“Excuse me a minute,” I said. I went to the bedroom. It was dark in there– the last bit of summer sunlight had faded. I put a fan on and reached into the bedside table, felt the cool steel of the old Child Scouts hunting knife. I had kept it all these years.

I came back into the kitchen with the knife extended in front of me.

“LEAVE NOW OR I WILL CUT YOU!”

He laughed a bit. “What are you trying to pull Harris?”

I lunged at him– he dodged and the knife went into the fridge. “GO ON, I TOLD YOU I’D CUT YOU.”

He turned into the sink, stumbled and then took off towards the door. I listened to his footfall down the staircase.

I undressed and got into bed with the latest Dean T. Pibbs novel. The premise was that some terrorists attacked a large carnival. It seemed promising.

Everything seems promising though for an old man who lives alone.

Notes of an Old Man Who Lives Alone

October 22, 2015 Leave a comment
By Luman Cans Harris

By Luman Cans Harris

“Now, listen here Luman. You’re a piece of shit.”

We were sitting at my kitchen table. I was watching a squirrel cross the power line. I looked down at the instant coffee I had made for her.

“You’re a Grade-A pile of shit. You always were.”

She lit a cigarette.

“I don’t allow smoking,” I said.

She didn’t care for that. I had left a paperback on the table face down. She picked it up and tore it clean in half.

“That wasn’t really necessary.”

“So, what’s going on? You fucking that redhead downstairs? That little redhead piece of trash?”

“I know her only by sight.”

“How much are you paying her, Luman?” She crushed the cigarette out on the table. Some of the laminate burned. I winced.

She got angrier all of a sudden and screamed. I was wondering how much longer it would last. Who knew where the frustration came from? It had been years.

“Just the same mountain of shit as always, Luman Cans Harris.”

She left without closing the front door. I sat there awhile. The light dimmed.

Later, I went out for a candy bar. I passed the redhead on the stairs. She was wearing a pink suit.

“How was your day?” she asked. She was fumbling for her keys.

“I’m just an old man who lives alone. Every day is the same.”

“AWWWWWWWW,” she said, as though I were some sort of a cute little kitten. She unlocked her door. I followed her ass in with my eyes.

It had been a long day.

Notes of an Old Man Who Lives Alone

September 1, 2015 Leave a comment
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.

“NO WAIT, MAN. THEY GOT A PRISON THERE, DON’T THEY?”

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

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE IT IS!”

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

“SHIT. THEY PROBABLY GOT A BUNCH OF ISLANDERS IN THERE WITH BIG DICKS.”

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.

Notes of an Old Man Who Lives Alone

August 10, 2015 Leave a comment
By Luman Cans Harris

By Luman Cans Harris

The Lankville Daily News is pleased to present Luman Cans Harris’ column “Notes of an Old Man Who Lives Alone”. Mr. Harris’ column had appeared for many years in “The East Lankville Journal for People Taking Bus Trips” which folded in May.

I had a place on the second floor in the back. There were a couple of dark rooms and a kitchen and a bath. The tub was made of plastic and it had been pierced when the guy who lived there before me had been stabbed by his roommate. The landlord said, “I’m not fixing that. For $300 a month, I’m not fixing that” and then we had a couple of drinks in the kitchen and he started crying, telling me some sob story about how his wife had left him for a retired Lingus Nets player. Then, he gave me a roll of waterproof duct tape.

I’d have two baths a day. One in early afternoon and another about an hour before dusk. Then, I’d take a little walk around the neighborhood. I’d stop in at the Island grocery and pick up some bread and some salami. The Islander’s wife was something– big hips, big bust and when she bagged the salami, I’ll admit it, I got a huge hard-on. Well, at least a hard-on.

I’d eat the salami sandwiches at the kitchen table and read old phone directories. I had a pile of them, going back twenty years. The sun would go down about then. I’d keep an eye on the street. There was this girl, you see, who lived in an apartment in back of the geegaw shop. There was a gate and then a long walkway filled with trash and she lived back there somewhere, somewhere with all the trash.

One night, when I was sitting eating salami and reading the phone directory, I saw this guy come over in a brown suit. He was a big guy with a mustache and he was just standing there near the gate. She came to the gate and then he went in. “Huh, little funny business back there,” I said aloud. The refrigerator suddenly buzzed. It buzzed sometimes.

I saw her in the laundromat one time. She was a husky young thing with a pretty big bust and behind but a little on the dumpy side. She kept smiling at me.

“You live across the street?” she finally said.

“I live alone.”

“Well, if you ever need any company, come see me.”

“I’m Luman Cans Harris,” I said. “Would you like to come over for salami sandwiches one night?”

She didn’t know what to make of that. But she agreed.

Three nights later, she knocked at the kitchen door. I let her in. She looked around the place. There wasn’t much to see– couple of chairs, a sofa, a teevee, my shelf of phone directories. I led her back to the kitchen.

“Do you like salami?” I asked. “I can put the air conditioner on. I don’t use it much.”

“I’m a vegan actually. Do you have anything else?”

“No. I only buy enough salami and bread for one night. I have an agreement with the Islanders– they let me break up a loaf.”

“OK.” She went out.

I watched her cross the street. Twenty minutes later some guy was over there. When she met him at the gate, she had changed her clothes. She was wearing some sort of leather get-up. He had a plastic bag from a nearby party store. But it was hard to see.

I ate my salami sandwich. I put a little mustard on it on this night.

Further stories by Luman Cans Harris will appear in upcoming issues of The Lankville Daily News.