Fat rolls ring the back of the old man’s head in front of me. On the round of the rolls, his stubby white hair sticks out like soft quills. In between the rolls he’s bald. Kinda odd.
As if he can feel my eyes on him, he leans against his cane and pivots away from the deli line. Looks at me and smiles.
“Lots of good stuff.” He says. He nods.
“Yup,” I say.
“Love that meatloaf, but too much salt.”
“Uh huh,” I say, wondering So what?
“Got kidney problems, can’t eat meat. Can’t eat salt. Them kidney stones…” he says sighing. “Painful as hell, couldn’t pee for a week. That’s hard ‘cause they make you drink gallons of water. Wash them stones out. I’m awake all night…can’t pee…gotta pee. Dang pecker’s rawed sore inside.”
What?!? I think, eyes wide with OMG.
”And that there ‘tato salad,” he half turns, pointing with his chin.
“Love them ‘tato salads, too But, can’t eat that, neither. My wife made ‘tato salad that you’d remember ‘til your dying day. Creamy and crunchy. Almost killed my heart though. Too much… whatchachallit… cholsterol? That’s what the doctors say. But she didn’t make it with that. Just mayonnaise and egg and celery. And them sweet little pickles. All good stuff, ya? Doctors say eat more vegetables. Well, ain’t celery and pickles and ‘tatos vegetables? Humph…They don’t know nothing.”
Oh, Lord! I think, looking around to be rescued.
“And that sausage,” he says nodding toward the deli case. “Reminds me, my mother made sausage, made it spicy. I remember that. Long time ago. Had lottsa fat; that’s what made it good. She’d add jalapeno–‘the spice of life’, she’d say ‘til the day she died. Weird, she died on the toilet. Couldn’t make it through that last long sausage, I guess, haha. Ya, loved that spicy jalapeno!”
Crap, dude! I don’t even know you!
“But my stomach’s old now. Doctors say no jalapeno. And no spice. No spice?? They say it makes my stomach bad. Gives me diarrhea. Makes me fart. They say that’s what makes me puke. They want to operate, but not ‘til I get over the runs and the farts. Phhhugh…they don’t know nothing, do they? Been eating jalapenos my whole life and I never shit my pants before….”
Please hurry, please hurry, I’m thinking to the line.
“Now, Bernadette…she’s my wife. There’s a woman who could shit and fart and puke! She had cancer and died. Where were the doctors then?”
Enough! I think, turning to leave. Right the the counter guy calls “Next!”
The old man hobbles to the counter.
“Gimme some of them ribs,” he says, pointing with the hand holding the cane. And I’d like some blood sausages. In the old country we ate blood sausages. And a few of them jalapeno meatballs. My wife could make some spicy meatballs, too! And does that ‘tato salad have pickles? Celery? I like it with vegetables. I’ll take some of that.”
# # #
Jackie Rogers is both a business writer and creative writer/poet whose work has been published in Talus and Scree International Literary Journal, Manzanita Literary Journal and Dime Show Review, among others. Under separate grants, she taught poetry at Preston Prison and taught elementary school children in Calaveras County, where her work was featured in the Calaveras Enterprise.
Photo credit: Steve Buissinne
Audio: Susan C. Ingram