YOU JUST NEVER KNOW

Bob and Joe are about as unlikely a pair as a cowboy boot and a Ked’s sneaker.  Yet every morning they hold court at the local Starbucks.  As customers dash in and out, there is a continual stream of “Mornin’ Bob.”  “Hey there, Joe.”  “How you guys this mornin?”  Each recognition makes Bob puff his large chest out further than the buttons on his monogrammed shirt, lean back in a chair half his size, and wait for his next admirer with one wary eyebrow raised.  Joe, as shy as Bob is bold, just beams like a low watt bulb by his side. 

As I leave, Bob asks me to join them.  Before I can answer, he huffs, “Oh, she won’t sit with us.  She’s always too busy.”  I plunk my coffee right down on their table.  He proceeds to make wisecracks about the ‘regulars,’  “Here comes Smiley,” he says, indicating a blonde who scowls past.  “Never seen her smile.  Not once.”  Sure enough.  She blows past us with neither glance nor grin despite a, “Hello,” from Bob.

His monologue continues while Joe nods sweetly in agreement, rarely speaking.  I figure his wife of 50 years must pick out his clothes.  They match, they fit and they’re always clean.  With his diminutive physique, she could still probably shop for him in the boys’ department.  They’re probably the same clothes he wore before he retired from the construction business.  “I was in cement,” he tells me with considerable pride. 

They’ve been friends since they rode the school bus together in 4th grade.  65 years later they’re still school boys, joking and telling tales about the locals.  Of course when you’ve lived in a town 75 years and know everyone, I don’t suppose it’s gossip, rather facts.  Bob’s married three times but says he’s, ‘keeping this one because I’m too tired to look anymore.”  Mid-conversation, he bolts outside for a smoke; his 5th of the day though it’s only 8 AM.  Joe’s dimming blue eyes follow his lumbering frame out the door, then he leans in, “You know, Bob was a BIG lawyer in town.  Litigation,” he whispers.  “But I think he has Alzheimer’s.” 

This throws me.  “What makes you say that?” I laugh.  “He forgets everything, and can’t find things to do,” he explains.  “What kinds of things does he forget?”  Joe is silent a long while.  He’s forgotten the question.  “The hardest part about getting old is finding things to do,” he continues.  “What do you like to do? I ask.  “Oh, I go to the Y with my wife.”  “What do you do there?” I prod.  He looks at me blankly.  I persist, “Well, when do you guys usually go?”  “Um.  When I finish my coffee, I guess,” he says.       

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