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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
An old man is sick of his lifestyle and decides to do something about it

Submitted: April 22, 2017

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Submitted: April 22, 2017




Staggered footsteps and heavy shrugging and breathing occur throughout the twigs on the ground. The footsteps on the crispy leaves on the grass become louder and louder until they sound to be right behind the bench. The small forest that has camouflaged Eric has now produced him from the darkness of the trees as he emerges, frantically trying to catch his breath back as he leans on the worn out bench, overlooking the village. Dennis is here already and has been for quite some time as he is completely relaxed and doesn’t seem fazed from the walk through the forest at all. Without even a hint of turning around, Dennis blows out the smoke from his pipe, clears his throat and addresses Eric.

“You’ve finally found my place then. It took you long enough.”

  • “You’re a very hard man to trace Dennis, took me a good half hour to get up this hill…the path stops half way up, did you come through those trees too?”


Dennis chooses not to answer and continues to smoke his pipe, gazing over the village in almost a trance of thought. Eric regains his breath and decides to confront Dennis straight as he takes a seat on the opposite end of the bench. It’s almost as if they’re enemies with the distance that is between them.

“It’s a very nice view Dennis, but did you have to come all the way up here? People were asking about where you were…Dennis? Look, it’s okay that you want to come up here but I wish you’d at least tell me or anyone else that this is where you’re heading to…can I at least ask what it is you’re doing up here?”

With a defeated look of his face – Dennis knows that he’s been straight up confronted and is going to have to get his thoughts off his chest. He turns to acknowledge his friend for the first time this day. Stuffing some more tobacco into his pipe, he must speak quite loudly to be heard over the cool breeze that is echoing though the trees.

“How long have you lived here Eric? You’ll be about the same as me won’t you? Around 18 months. Well just lately a thought has been haunting me and it’s occurred to me that I’ve been here for a year and a half, but I haven’t lived a single minute of this 18 months since I’ve been here. I found this spot about 6 months ago I think and have been coming here around once a week…you’re the first person other than myself I’ve seen up here. I must have dozed off today, that’s why I’ve been so long, but I don’t mind…it’s peaceful…”

Eric looks with a stunned and puzzled expression as he rubs his hands together for warmth; he says nothing to interrupt Dennis’s flow of conversation.

 “Can you remember life before moving here? I think about it all the time. That’s why I vanish so much, I come up here and it’s a place I can be with just me and my thoughts. It took you half hour to reach the summit of this small hill? It takes me around 50 minutes to climb – and that’s increasing every time I come here. See, what I’ve been obsessing with lately is the concept of time. As cliché as it sounds – it is precious and life is short. Eric, I’m 76 years old, I physically feel it, I look it and I even act it – but in my head I’m 30…35 maybe? I’ve been thinking about the timescale of my life – all aspects of it from my youth, my friends and to my lovely wife, Jane – 42 blissfully happy years married to that woman – we even had 3 children and 5 grandchildren… of course, Jane passed…then we’ve come to the twilight years, retirement. Retirement is everything that it’s cracked up to be and then some – when you’ve got a healthy, loving family and some money in your pocket, it’s an easy ride – it’s two or three holidays a year, it’s days out on a regular basis, taking up new hobbies you’ve always wanted to do but never got round to. And then of course… those days ended once Jane passed, suddenly my children seemed adamant for me to move here, to Sulray village. I didn’t really want to move again at my age, but it was almost all done and dusted for me before I could even pack my things. Now…now the most exciting thing about the day is whatever is on the television on a night time. Sulray seems appealing at first glance perhaps, it has everything you need here but what if I want more? After a long life full of fun, happiness, enjoyment and bliss, I’ve now come here where I feel like a number as opposed to my own person; everyone is in the same small-town mindset here and sticks to what appears to be their own self-prepared routine. I don’t want people constantly asking if I’m alright just because I’m an old man. I want to live! And with my lifestyle before this being hectic in comparison, I can’t help but think that this is the beginning of the end and that I’ve come here to die.”

With the word ‘die’ mentioned, Dennis instantly takes the pipe from the side of his mouth and sobs into his hand, his exhausted and defeated face looks away from Eric to hide his tears. With his hand on his shoulder, Eric tries to comfort him and tries his best to argue against Dennis’s point of coming to Sulray village is the end. He tries humouring him with a new conversation, but to no avail. Through his whimpers, Dennis speaks again;

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lived my life, but if I had my time again…if I could speak to myself at 25 or if I woke up as a younger man… I would laugh more, smile more, make more time for family –especially family members that sadly I didn’t see much of, worry less about petty things like earning money just to save it in the bank – you can’t take your money with you when you die, so enjoy it whilst you can. Anything I wanted to try out, I would – I didn’t have to wait until retirement age to justify being useless at a new hobby. At the end of the day, I don’t care for negative people who put other people down just to boost their own deflated ego, so why did I care when I was younger? I would make the most of everything I could whilst I still had it. Now my body is giving up on me…but my mind is working overtime. Eric…do you ever think about one more trip away? We’re festering away here living in this village…let’s get out there, I’ve got money in the bank…and I’m going to spend it! One last get away! We’re old but we’re not dead yet are we?”

Dennis stretches his arms towards Eric’s face as he says this – almost as a plea for help and assistance to stand up. Though very weak, but also very proud, he rises to his feet and announces that he’s going to go anyway – even if Eric doesn’t oblige to tag along. Dennis can hardly walk for 10 minutes without needing a rest anymore – deep down he knows this but is too proud to admit it, he thinks that as soon as he admits he is ‘too old’ to do anything, then you might as well give up. A few extensions of his knee and he sets off walking, totally disregarding any of the logical way of thinking Eric is shouting towards him. For his friend’s sake, Eric decides to follow him; at least this way it will give him more time to try convincing Dennis that it’s too risky at his age to adventure.

“I mean, where is it you’re actually thinking of going to on this trip away?”

The words have barely left Eric’s mouth before Dennis has replied – ‘Canada’. He explains that he has wanted to see his eldest daughter here for years as he has a grandchild he has never met. Throughout the duration of the pairs walk back into the town, Eric is trying is best to deter Dennis from actually pursuing this trip of his, voicing unwanted and not valued opinions like ‘the flight alone would be too much for you’. Eric is dismissed in an obvious and almost ‘rude’ manner as the pair storm their way into the town, passing chatty and somewhat ‘overly happy’ people. Only half listening to what his friend has to say, Dennis walks into the newsagents with a determined march to the tobacco stand. Ordering his usual purchase of a packet of pipe tobacco, he struggles to find his wallet and begins to panic. For the first time since the two set off walking, Dennis’s attention was aimed directly at Eric – he’s after a loan to pay for his tobacco. Worried and frustrated with his self, Dennis proceeds to aggressively scratch his head attempting to remember where his wallet was. The flakes from his dry scalp imbed themselves under his yellow, nicotine stained fingernails. Dennis looks absolutely helpless as he stands alone at the counter not knowing what to even say about the situation – let alone where he’s actually left his wallet. The Shopkeeper shakes his head disapprovingly and hands Eric a packet of tobacco to keep hold of. 

“This is why you can’t go, Dennis, look at how confused you are at the thought of leaving your wallet somewhere, which could have easily been your passport.”

Once Dennis has been escorted to his house by Eric, he slumps himself down on the arm chair and in his head, runs through his activities of the day making sure to address the incident in the newsagents from earlier on. The more thought he put in, the more faint the memory became of even being in the newsagents. Upon almost forgetting the incident entirely, Dennis goes to pack his suitcase ready for his move away and finds clothes scattered all over his bed and suitcase empty next to his nightstand – the entire bedroom is a mess. The instant he sees this sight, the first thing on his mind is burglars. Without any thought of checking for anything else, Dennis rushes frantically to the back of his wardrobe – to see if they stole his most important possession – with aggressive mumbles and tear filled eyes, Dennis rummages through his wardrobe and eventually stumbles across it. – The thieves haven’t stole it, it’s still here underneath the pile of old clothes that he can’t bring himself to part with – his photo album.

Lightly stroking the font that reads ‘moments’ he opens up the album for what must be the hundredth time, fixated with pictures of his wedding, to pictures of his children and grandchildren, Dennis wells up. Clutching his quivering lip and he suppresses his tears, he takes time to look at each and every individual picture withheld this album. Fifteen minutes later, once he’s finished gazing through the laminated pictures of his nearest and dearest, he tucks away the album in the back of the wardrobe back to where it stays. The album is full of memories that are year’s old but can still trigger different emotions for a man as old and lonely as Dennis. Overcoming his feelings, he quickly abandons packing his suitcase and heads back outside for a smoke on his pipe. Jane never let him smoke inside so he still honours that tradition even though he lives in a completely different house than when she was alive. Taking a walk out of the cul-de-sac he lives in and pausing for a minute outside a house on the edge of the road, he vaguely hears a conversation taking place and quietly moves closer to the window to listen carefully. Looking through the half-closed blinds in the window, Dennis spots Eric inside the house with a young man sat at a table, just before raising his hand to knock on the window to greet Eric, curiosity gets the better of him and he decides to listen in to what is being said through the slightly open window.

“Okay, Martin, here at ‘Sulray village’, we only accept people that are one hundred percent committed to this job. We’ve been running for around 2 years now and have a good system. Sulray has a population of around 500 people and for every patient, there are around 50 workers. We specialise in new ways to care for people with Dementia and people who have severe memory loss in general. Most of the time, it’s patients families that send their loved ones here in a hope to keep them calm and make the patient believe everything is ‘normal’ We aren’t just looking for doctors or even people that specialise in care work – we’re looking for people who can even act as part of this ‘community’. Every person you see here other than a patient is playing a part. Every shopkeeper, dog-walker or even just civilian is in on this act. This area of the village is focused on Dennis; he’s suffering from memory loss so severe that he can’t seem to process any new memories. He’s been rein-acting the same day for around 6 months now – he wants to see his daughter who lives in Canada. He takes a walk up the top of the park, tells me how he wants to live still and proceeds to try packing his things ready for his trip – but that’s always as far as he gets. Every day is the same day but gradually getting worse for him. We’re running tests daily to see the gradual decline in his memory skills and focusing on what we can do to slow down the loss of memory. We try to keep patients in the most calming atmosphere we can to make our tests run smoothly. It’s a crying shame, especially for people like me who have grown attached to Dennis, but can see him gradually fading away, having to hold the same conversations with him day in, day out and him being none the wiser to what is actually being said”

Dennis confused and unsatisfied with what he’s just overheard goes back to his house and attempts to process what has just been said. Pieces seem to fit together as he thinks about forgetting his wallet, to seeing his suitcase already open and presuming he’s been robbed, the harder he thinks about the situation, the more faded his memory becomes of the day. Upset and in a rut he can’t escape, he doesn’t know whether to address the situation with his ‘friend’ Eric or to just accept the deterioration that is happening to this once of a time fit and healthy family man, accept his fate and that he is in the best place for his condition and go to bed. The pain and disbelief that has swarmed Dennis is so much, he can barely stand and collapses into the armchair. Feeling ultimately beaten and defenceless, he lets the darkness of the room take him.

6AM, the sun’s rays are only just shining through the window and the glow of the moon is still alive. Changing into fresh clothes and a quick comb of his hair, Dennis walks outside to catch the sunrise. Satisfied with his morning, he walks along the road to find himself exhausted already. He swears to himself that he will give up smoking one day – but not today. Today he prove he has still got something left inside him, Dennis chooses to take a walk up to the high park of the village, as he knows a good spot there with a bench where no one can bother him.

© Copyright 2018 MarkDali. All rights reserved.

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