The middle nineteen-fifties
A little five year old boy dressed in a soldier suit plays with his steel Tonak army truck in the backyard of an old nineteen-thirties bungalow, He drives it along beside him on his hands and knees upon the path of the sidewalk from the small stoop stairs to the passageway next to the wood frame garage. The small yard area is colorfully abloom with all manner of tulips, gladiolas and petunias, the collection of which his jungle. Here and there along the path large polyethylene soldier figures wait on the periphery in ambush. One by one they fall to the presence of another similar army green plastic figure in the back of the army truck is loud given voice by the little boy. “Ratatatat!“, the boy exclaims as he reaches over to knocks them down as he scrambles past pushing the cab of the truck with his other hand. He is stopped by the sound of his mother’s voice, “Willie, its lunchtime!”
The initial twenty-first century twenties
A somewhat overused Ford F-150 pickup truck bumps over part of the curb into the parking lot of a Walmart. Its driver grimacing as his body jerk slightly on its bench seat from the shooting pain of being twisted by the impact. Slightly shaggy gray shaggy temples and a hound dog sagging pattern of wrinkles upon his face suggesting the obvious that he is a middle aged white male edging up just beneath the knife edge precipice of seventy years of age. An identity badge with the same face but in watch cap and heavy overcoat swings violently as the truck hits another pothole.
Willie enters into what seems one of the less prosperous members of the chain.The threshold of electronic detectors that forms the entrance to the left of a long row of checkout counters are crammed with traffic that would shame the average trailer park. He asks one of the greeters standing before same where he might find replacements for his Water Pic. The kindred spirit also in gray locks automatically waves the man past with his painted on smile. Willie enters the warren of aisles traveling in the general direction of an overhead sign half way into the store that says pharmacy. A short line of a couple of customers stands before an counter by a half door. No one is behind the counter. They stand oblivious of each other until Willie walks towards the front counter, then casting angry looks challenging his approach. The general attitude seems dismissive of his presence.
A low voice purposefully sharp above a whisper spitting out, “Those damn ‘boomer’ try to get away with everything!” Willie looks over the counter and sees some activity in the back between the shelves of drugs. His “Miss, miss!“, getting no response. “Miss, I just want to know where the dental product are?“, again getting no reaction. He looks around past the restless crowd and sees a young Hispanic stocking another aisle next to the pharmacy area. He walks over and asks the young man who as he sees him coming turns tail and walks over to another customer. He walks about trying to find the brushes but only finds a complete unit. He picks up a box and goes back to the line which is not two people longer and gets in behind. After fifteen minutes, his turn comes up and a very blase unaffected woman in a white lab coat tells him that they don’t sell refills. After forty minutes of futility he leaves without his prize. Trodding back to his vehicle in the cold feeling the particles stuck in his dental,s permanently taking up residence.
A TV announcing virus epidemic blaring nonstop with alacricy within his trailer. The announcer stressing the point that the virus seems to be fatal to the baby boomer generation. A mass panic ensues by toilet paper counters across the nation and after a couple of weeks after being raided the supermarket shelves are left bare. He managing to navigate the nervous throng and snag some foodstuffs just before the last of same disappear. The usual routines now absented by the disconnection of all in public that was not so long ago taken for granted. Things that made up the fabric cloaking his sense of self leaving him naked to the cold winds of chaos. Gangs of rotten kids now patrolling his neighborhood at night looking for adverse opportunity. All the worst circumstances formerly on record sneaking back from history past. One anonymous group conspiring to rock his trailer to and fro unexpectedly in the dead of night chanting ‘boomer remover’. No police available during the day to investigate. Just leave the details on our hotline and we will make a note of the incident and call you back. And, of course, no call back!
An old forty-five! Blunt cold steel instrument, heavy in his hand, yet compact. Seven reasons why the outside world should think twice about messing with him. Never fired in anger, at least by him. Comforting to know and much to the surprise of parties yet known that he will be taking a few of them with him if they continue their pursuit into the confines of his humble home. The tick of the wall clock in time with his aged heart passing the early morning shadowy darkness. The cold enveloping his bundled form and those same few thoughts within. What will one of his dwindling supply of tomorrows bring that will prove to be different that the long lost inventory of former today’s? The emptiness of streets of now day to the specification of night. Something to give pause as being remarkable as if the sun as he once knew it was a myth and a light switch just suddenly summoned the light of day and at some point recalled the night. The day maturing in the distance by itself no longer accompanied by visible humankind. The possibility of knowing another no longer alive.
A tap, tap, tap breaking the momentum of his thoughts hidden in the shadows betwixt the streetlights from outside through cotton curtains streaming in. No reason for it and no evidence the next morning found. Just something more to keep him on edge and rob him of more sleep. No rest for the wicked or comfort for the sane. Just that nagging soul of his furiously reminding him again that things would never be the same. The picture postcard style of reminiscences all scattered about to bring him an interlude of peace. Who had he loved? Cough. Where had they first met? Cough. An absent mind purposely unawares, Cough, cough, cough! Where does it go from here? The virus tickling the bad of his sore throat toying with him? His hand automatically to his forehead seeking an unsuspected storehouse of heat. Cough . . , cough . . , cough . . ., cough, cough! This physical exclamation coming in a distended Morse code. Can you believe it? He calls out into the dark. What in this solitary world could have stolen in when my mind was absent and bestowed such an unwanted gift. A momentary flash of the instant where the lights of his tiny realm suddenly go out and the entire world is pitch black dark. Followed at great length of a few palpable seconds with the dynamo hum of the refrigerator coming back on, The streetlamps without visible once again.
His heartbeat restored as he thinks back turning from the previous instant to recall a time when he last dared to spend money. To walk across a strange parking lot after securing services from some state compliant faceless entity to secure his health. His health might be better served had it been replaced in the fertile soil of simply a few years back. Oh how one takes for granted those times that somehow are forever now lost. Grim reminders in old movies from times before he was born that his parents once knew. What did the make of them in their own times he wondered? All those deep moments of hidden meaning inferred by their actions in life that he would never have an inkling of or come to know? Ahem! Another squelched cough-like exclamation. The response of his body in natural rejection of something unwanted plaguing his throat. “Tick tock!”, said the clock! Time is running short says his head. Where could it end up but in some unpresupposing, far from dramatic, less than impressive, clock spring unwinding! Cough, cough, cough! Silence. The short list of three different restaurants of recent years visited standing under the big top like high wire stations of trapeze. Cough, cough. Jumping to catch the swinging bar and fly over to the next reminisce and then the next. Turn and perch on that narrow parapet above an anonymous faceless crowd of untold numbers of strangers past met. And then jump forth again to swing back in the other direction. That burning dryness of throat and lungs expanding like Hitler’s tanks mercilessly across a once fertile future plain of undiscovered possibilities.