The Man and His Tree-House
He spun his cane around as he walked merrily down the gravel road. His leather dress shoes were coated in dust and his thick rimmed glasses were grimy. Though he was twenty-three years old, he had always been fascinated by the apparel of the elderly. When he was seven, he had pretended to have back pains just so his parents would agree to buy him a cane. He drew his watch from his breast pocket and glanced down at it’s broken face. ‘Right on schedule’ He thought. Beyond the path ahead of him was an old oak tree with a child’s tree house perched on the thickest branch. The man began to whistle a tune as his cane dragged on the ground. In the summer, the man always lived in the tree house. His parents had begged him to get a job but he was convinced they were not his parents. He was seventy three for goodness sake. When he made it to the tree, he grabbed a handful of ripe berries from the pile he had collected yesterday morning. He popped two in his mouth, arthritis medication. Every morning, he took two berries for his arthritis, three for back pain and two to give him energy. ‘I’m getting too old for this’ he convinced himself while heaving up the tree. When he got inside the tree house, he leaned his cane against the wall and sat on his bed to relive his aching legs. The foam mattress sunk slightly as he began to relax. He peeled his thick woollen sweater off his frail body and grabbed the news paper on his pillow. He rustled with the paper and began to read the blank creamy white pages. A booming laugh escaped his lips briefly before a series of hoarse coughs took over. The man thought back to his childhood, where his body and worked effortlessly and his laughter was loud and healthy. As he sat and reminisced about a past not belonging to him, a wave of exhaustion swept over him like a tidal wave. It was time to sleep. He got up slowly, imagining his joints popping. It was time for him to wash his face and rest for the night. An old man like him needed plenty of rest. He gazed at the cracked mirror on the wall. A young man gazed back with thick brown curls. The man laughed to himself and looked harder until he saw another face. The face of an old man with leather skin and tired eyes. ‘There I am’ He said to himself, satisfied. He splashed the river water from the old bowl on his face and set his glasses down beside his bed. The sun was setting and the warm air came through the open windows of his tree house. He wrapped the blankets around himself and closed his eyes. The man’s body began to relax and his breathing began to slow. He lay there for a few minutes before he felt a sharp pain in his chest. He sat up with a start, gripping the front of his shirt. “No. Not so soon.” He managed to say as he fell to the ground like a pile of skin and bone.