For an hour he drank beer on the stoop and worked a bet with himself: rain this afternoon, yes or no. A gentleman’s bet. No money involved. How did you pay yourself if you lost? He kept close watch on the sky. Man, if this wasn’t the prelude of a storm. Uneasy clouds, holy shit, heavy cow teats the green of moldy bread. Out west these same clouds were spinning tornadoes. Damn the poor bastards who lived in that part of the country. Damn the stupidity of it. Everyone’s insurance rates going up, not just them with their houses and barns blown away. He finished the last of the beer and leaned over to place the bottle with all the others on the steps below his bare feet. This minor act of acrobatics caused his back to do that twinge-click thing it had been obsessed with of late. His right side seized up. His eyesight brightened just a touch, then dimmed to subnormal intensity. Something not right inside, an inescapable conclusion. Well hell. Always one thing or another. His lousy back, his faulty eyes. His creaking knees. Don’t forget the knees. A body falls apart all at once. You hit a certain age and the warranty expires. Who’s responsible for the overwhelming design flaws. Give that guy a pink slip, ha ha.
The wind set the empty bottles to ringing. If that wasn’t a sad song to hear. Made a man gloomy. Made him thirsty when the other six-pack was in the apartment five flights up. Fifteen stair per flight, seventy-five opportunities to lift a man’s bulk with tired legs and bad knees. The ungodly ascent wasn’t getting any easier, someone had to be messing with the gravity. Better just to lean back into the cement steps and remember how good that last bottle had tasted. Sure and why not. Memory had more value than experience. The entirety of life eventually fell into memory. You did something once, then played it over in your head. You smoothed out the rough spots and added a few pleasing flourishes. You turned memory into something worth feeling good about for a change.
The wind caught in his throat. Stretching the kink from his leg he inadvertently kicked the empty beer bottles and sent them crashing into the lowermost step. The explosive sound startled the crap out of him. Made him bite his tongue. Always something. The brown shards caught stray bits of sunlight that slipped through the clouds. The fragmented glass glittered like bits of alien treasure. Like radioactive smoke. Like a dream from another planet. His eyes refused to move, they were ensorcelled by a magic vision.
Frozen in place his eyes failed to note the Grim Reaper as It manifested across the street and waved a lazy Hello with one bony hand. . .