The Cantankerous Old Fart

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
An old man tries to make sense of today's youth.

Submitted: May 13, 2017

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Submitted: May 13, 2017

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The Cantankerous Old Fart

 

‘This oughta be hip,’ Gerald said to himself.

He blew the dust off the Beatles record and placed it into the gramophone, which was also coated in dust. Grainy music coughed up into the air and he reveled in the nostalgia.

‘Heavens!’ he cried, shaking his skeletal booty and snapping his fingers along with the beat. ‘Now this is music!’

Gerald turned up the volume, and the gramophone blurted out the grainy noise begrudgingly louder. He caught himself in the mirror and his sunken eyes lit up. He still had the moves. Never mind the wrinkles, the thinning hair or the hunched, skinny frame, this man knew how to boogie to the beat! He stopped moving after several songs, not only because it was tiring, but it really was quite loud, and it began feeling like the gramophone was attacking him. Gerald lifted the needle and slipped the records back into their covers, then placed them back on the shelf, and he was certain he would pick them back up again.

Because Gerald was still young. Gerald was still cool.

Gerald opened the curtains, allowing sunlight to pour into the room in a flood. The street was empty but for a few kids on the road, who were playing ‘Bulldog’ or some such nonsense. Foolish young whelps, he thought knowingly. A car could turn into that street at any moment and run them over. Deep down Gerald knew there was probably no chance of this happening – this was a suburban neighborhood, and any cars that drifted in from the top of the street would be able to see them. Still… foolish young whelps.

‘Gerry!’

Gerald continued staring out the window, watching the youths play their ridiculous game. They were running all over the place.

‘Gerry!’

There was no logic to their gameplay. Get from one side of the street to the other without being caught, as far has he could make out, but there was no rule beyond that. They zigzagged and one of the chasers was holding down a runner and hitting him. Senseless violence.  

‘Gerry, will you come here, please?’

‘Alright, woman!’

Gerald descended to the living room, where his wife was sitting on the couch, a cup of tea in hand. The fat TV was blazing out some show with a cheesy game show host.

‘Gerry,’ said Margaret, ‘where is the remote?’

‘You call me downstairs because you’re too lazy to find the remote yourself?’ he replied.

Margaret blew him a kiss. ‘Find it for me.’ She sipped her tea.

Gerald grumbled under his breath, stuck on his heavy, thick glasses and scanned the room.

‘What was that noise you were blaring earlier?’ asked Margaret, not taking her eyes off the television.

‘The Beatles,’ Gerald replied, now running his hands between the cushions of the couch. ‘Maybe you’ve forgotten them, but I haven’t.’

‘I see,’ said Margaret. She put down her tea. ‘And tell me Gerald, were you grooving to it?’

‘No.’

‘Really? Because I heard a lot of movement up there while the music was playing. The floor was creaking awfully loud.’

Gerald continued his search.

‘I also peeked on you,’ she said. ‘I saw you “shake that booty”, as the kids would say.’

‘I can dance if I want to,’ said Gerald. ‘I’m not dead yet, I’m not even old.’

‘Well, you are rather old.’

‘One is as old as one feels,’ said Gerald. ‘And I can’t find this blasted remote. You’ll have to stick to watching this game show.’

‘I suppose I’ll have to. Sit down and watch with me, Gerry. You haven’t even sat down in that new armchair Sarah bought you for your birthday. It looks sad, it needs to be sat in.’

‘No, it’s an old man’s armchair.’

‘Oh, not this still, Gerry. It looks comfortable, anyone would be happy to sit in it.’

‘It’s a present that represents my age,’ said Gerald. ‘And I won’t validate it.’

Although it was still steaming, Margaret downed the rest of her tea. ‘Is this because Sarah called you a cantankerous old fart? It was only a joke.’

‘I’m off out,’ said Gerald.

‘Where are you going?’

‘I’m going to hang out at the mall,’ said Gerald.

‘You’re going to “hang out at the mall”?’

‘Yes, Margaret.’

‘Alright, Gerry. You go “hang out” at the mall. Go smoke some dope with the gangstas and listen to some sick choonz.’

‘You appear to be rather well-versed in the lingo, Margaret.’

‘We have four grandchildren, I pick up on this stuff.’

‘Enjoy your game show, Margaret.’

‘Enjoy loitering, Gerald.’

Gerald put on his shoes, which took several minutes, made absolutely sure he had everything he needed. Keys, wallet, ID, bank card, spare plastic bags, and an umbrella just in case. After heading out the door he patted himself down one more time to make sure he had everything and then began walking, trying to not allow himself to hunch or shuffle. He walked with confidence, with grace, and sure it was difficult and strained his bones, but it made him feel good. He straightened his tie and cocked his hat to one side. He looked downright sharp if he might think so himself. He observed his garden, which was almost picturesque with its menagerie of flowers, colouring the outskirts of his lawn in a pink, red, and yellow choir. It had taken him months to grow them, and having them bounce so merrily in the breeze gave him a sense of accomplishment. They were alive because he himself had made it so.

As Gerald walked, he studied the kids playing in the street from earlier, whose ADHD had now driven them to playing another game involving three balls and a bat. Obviously, they had just dug out whatever implements they had on standby and tried to make a game out of it. The game had no rules that Gerald could identify, and it was just a mess of dumb boys mishitting the ball and throwing the balls at each other in a tantrum. Gerald reflected on how much more fun he could have made the game for them. He would be able to outline rules for them, structure it in such a way that they would be able to have both interesting and safe fun. He could probably even make it educational in some way. He shook his head knowingly at their ignorance and reflected on that old chestnut, youth is wasted on the young.

It was a long time before Gerald reached the mall, longer than it used to, and when he arrived he was quite ready to go home. He didn’t outwardly admit this to himself, but his creaking bones grumbled. Gerald went into the nearest clothes shop. He could do with some new socks, and maybe shoes if the sales clerk played her cards right. He browsed the shelves and looked at what was in stock. Black T-shirts read ‘LOL, GTFO’. Gerald had never heard of this brand name before and didn’t think much of its minimalist design. White block capital letters on a black background, how incredibly original. He moved over to another section, passing over juvenile T-shirts adults were actually expected to wear. The T-shirts were emblazoned with absurd images such as sad-looking Tyrannosaurus Rex's and disgruntled cats. He passed by jeans which had been deliberately made to look shoddy, ripped at the seams and punctured with messy holes of varying sizes. Even the socks and shoes had wacky, almost indecent imagery and colour schemes. He frowned and settled on a nice collection of sensible brown and grey socks. Sure, they didn’t have malformed pictures of sunglass-wearing ducks which said ‘winning’ in speech bubbles, like the others in this section, but they were fit for every occasion. Truly, it was Gerald who was ‘winning’, and not the suckers who bought this loud and abrasive merchandise.

He took his socks to the till, where a young man with piercings beeped his socks through the thingymajigger. He looked bored, and Gerald couldn’t help but study that zombie expression. The till operator’s hair was dyed black, although streaks of brown revealed its true colour underneath. The hair was flopped over his right eye as if the young lad was hiding something, his lip was pierced and his ears had ludicrously large bits of wood set inside the earlobes. Gerald remembered that, at this lad’s age, he was wearing suits and ties and looked altogether more sharp and sophisticated. He supposed that this was what the youth of today deemed ‘cool’ and he tried to understand it, but in the end settled on the idea that his own generation genuinely did have a better sense of taste and style. The lad simply looked ridiculous. Gerald paid for the socks and left, having not exchanged even a word with the boy, who refused to even make eye contact.

Gerald wandered around for a while, breathing in the atmosphere and took to looking almost exclusively at the young folk. He saw swarms of them everywhere. They hung out together in large groups, slapping each other and holding their phones out to take pictures of themselves. They laughed and squawked, none of them offering any sort of intellectual discourse that he could decipher. They made references to the pop stars and several times he heard ridiculous slang words such as ‘Pewdiepie’ and ‘gangnam’. They accused and shamed one another of not being internet savvy. A lot of the time he saw them hunched together, none of them speaking, and all glued to their phones, only breaking the silence occasionally to draw a specific group member’s attention to something apparently interesting on their phone screen. The chosen member would study their comrade’s screen, smirk, offer some monosyllabic commentary, and then reabsorb themselves in their own device. They never once looked up at the studious old man, who to them might as well be a piece of furniture.

Gerald ate lunch in McDonald's, a place he never frequented, but wanted to experience first-hand – it was where all the youth of today went, he decided. There was no difference between the workers and the customers. All were young, spotty, and would often give one another ‘the lolz’ and announce their fears of themselves going ‘viral’. Gerald chewed in silence and wondered if he really was that old, whether the English language had changed so much that he had no idea what these people were even saying anymore. Should he give in, embrace his age and isolate himself from these new senseless specimens? Or should he attempt to understand this new-fangled, absurdist world? Could he even hope to fathom its language? He finished his meal, dumped the remaining contents into the nearest bin and vacated the ‘restaurant’.

He took a bus to get home because his feet were hurting, and when he sat down he had to hear the tinny noise of what sounded like a very angry young man speaking very quickly into a microphone. A repetitive, almost alien-like beat pulsed and throbbed throughout the song, and the perpetrator of this noise was a hooded teen, sitting by himself at the back of the bus. His head was hanging down, and he swayed it from left to right as he held his phone out, lost in the depths of his chosen genre. The lyrics spoke of ‘fucking bitches’ and ‘ain’t never gon’ be...’ something about a quartz? Maybe? For several minutes Gerald suffered the attempt at music, wondering what happened to good music like The Beatles. When the next ‘song’ started, even more angry and confusing than the last, he had to speak up.

‘Could you turn that down please, young man? This is public transport.’

The hooded teen lifted his head and exhaled some high-pitched noise between the teeth. Gerald had never heard a human make such a noise before, and he assumed it was some form of Tourette’s syndrome. The teen said nothing, but he did slightly turn down the volume. Gerald didn’t feel like battling further, so he accepted this as a small victory and turned back around and looked out the window for the rest of his journey. When Gerald arrived at his destination, he barely noticed his shuffling, hunched walk – he had forgotten all about that new, confident walk he wanted to pull off. As he rounded the corner, he saw that the boys outside were still at play, and now they were running not only all over the street but all over his lawn, stamping on his beautifully crafted flowers.

An eruption of volcanic rage made him spew out, ‘Get off my lawn!’

The kids scattered from sight like cockroaches, but Gerald didn’t look at the mess the kids had left, he looked at his hands. His gnarled, wrinkled hands. He was worse than an old man, he was an old man cliché.

On walking in, Margaret asked him whether he enjoyed his loitering. Gerald didn’t answer but sat down in the armchair Sarah had gotten him. Margaret was right, it was very comfortable – comfortable enough even for this cantankerous old fart.

 

END

 


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