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Roger C Simmons

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Going Fishing
By Roger C Simmons
Saturday, March 15, 2003

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A story about an elderly man suffering from Alzeihmer's disease.

There were little pieces of hard white candy stuck to the front of his…shirt…the kind mama used to make. She used pure, fresh ingredients, not like…
“Stop that, Daddy, I'm trying to button your shirt!”
Mama had one blue eye and one that was gray. He could not remember which was which now, or why she did not call him anymore or at least write. She never answered his letters not a one. “Mama?”
“Grandma died a long time ago, Daddy, don't you remember?”
He rubbed the callused palm of his right hand over his face. Whiskers! Had he not just shaved? How could hair grow so fast? “Come on, your breakfast is ready.”
The “girl” grabbed him by the arm and led him down the hallway much too fast! He had a hell of a time keeping up with her, his feet shuffling across the parquet flooring as he walked. Who the hell was she anyway? What the hell did she have to do with him? Some goddamned hotel! Whatever happened to the room service? When was the maid going to make up the bed? Hard to entertain this way, surrounded by...
“Do you need to use the bathroom first?”
What kind of indelicate question was that to ask a man of his position? This girl talked like a goddamned whore. What was he doing with her or, better yet, what had he done?
“Okay, Daddy, sit down.”
His stomach growled. It had been a hard…he liked eggs; fresh from the hen house; with little bits of straw still stuck to the shell. He liked them fried crispy in butter. Boy, could mama make butter. Even if it did take her all day, it was worth…
“Here's your cereal. Now try not to spill it down yourself.”
“You don't need salt and pepper, Daddy, it's cereal. Be careful!”
What was she talking about? Where were his eggs? What the hell was he supposed to eat this crap with…swimming around in milk, little pieces of cardboard. Not the proper way to start the day off. He had to work, damn it! He needed his nourishment. “Eat, daddy.”
With what? The round thing, the pointed thing or the long, narrow thing? Or maybe he should just try dipping in with his fingers.
“Damn it, he wet the bed again! I warned you the next time that happened he was going to a home.”
“Quiet, Frank, he'll hear you.”
“Hear me! Hell, what difference would it make if he does? He doesn't have the faintest idea what I'm talking about. He doesn't recognize you, me or the children for that matter. He wouldn't recognize his own mother if she were still alive.”
Mama…mama used to make blueberry muffins, with fresh blueberries. He picked them himself. They used to turn his fingers purple. They would stay that way for days after. God, how he loved blueberry season…
Maybe that's what he would do today. To hell with work! The business could take care of itself. He deserved a break. He had certainly earned it. Or instead, maybe he would go fishing. There was nothing quite like the taste of fresh brook trout fried in butter, whole, with the eyes still in the head.
“No, he's my father!”
The man laughed. “Yeah, and I'm your husband. I'm afraid what it comes down to is a choice between him and me.”
“No, Frank, that's not fair.”
The man shrugged his shoulders. “Whoever said life was fair? Unfortunately, I don't see any other way.”
The door slammed. The girl began crying. Why were the guests in this goddamned hotel always fighting? Life was too short. He closed his eyes. He felt so tired. The spoon fell out of his hands to the floor, splattering milk and mushy cereal.
“Oh, Daddy!”
* * *
It had turned unusually cold; at least unusual for this time of season. His teeth chattered together. He would have to hurry before he caught his death of cold. If he did, mama would apply one of those smelly mustard plasters to his chest. God how he hated them! Nonetheless, it was still worth the risk. The blueberries were plump and ripe. Some of them a bit overly so he noted as the purple juice ran down his hands onto his shirt cuffs. Mama was a good washer lady but he doubted even she could get the stains out. Probably whip him to boot. But the blueberry muffins she made…pure Heaven!
“Damn it, Daddy, what are you up to now?”
“Put those back in the carton. Now! And get your head out of the refrigerator before you catch your death of cold. Another bout will probably finish you.”
What did she want now? Could she not see he was busy? It was getting so a man could not find no peace no more…nowhere! It was getting to be…
Taking a large plastic Ziploc baggie out of a kitchen drawer, she took the blueberries out of his hands and dropped them into it before snapping it closed. “Come over to the sink and I'll wash your hands. Oh, Daddy, you wet yourself again. Why didn't you tell me you needed to use the bathroom?”
On the family farm they used to have an outhouse, a two-seater. It was his Daddy's pride and joy. It used to have a quarter moon carved in the door. Used to smell like hell in the summer and freeze his tail off in the winter. Thank God they had finally moved to a house with in-door plumbing.
“Come on, we'll change your clothes.”
Change…yes; he could use a good change. Maybe he would go to the movies; only cost twenty-five cents, including popcorn and a soda. Fatty Arbuckle! God, he loved Fatty Arbuckle…it was a shame about the scandal involving him and that girl. Or maybe he would see the Keystone cops. That Max Sennett! Now, there was a man who knew how to make a funny movie.
* * *
Time was wasting away and here he was still empty-handed. His stomach growled. It did not look as if he were going to have any luck at all today. He heard a door open and then slam shut, followed by the sound of running feet. Probably those kids going skinny-dipping again; on an afternoon like this…God, he wished he were brave enough to do it himself…his white tail bobbing up and down in the cool water like some type of strange fish.
The door opened. “Mom! Grandpa's doing it again…he's fishing in the toilet.”
More footsteps.
“Daddy, give me that thing!”
She snatched the string out of his hand and tossed it into the wastebasket, paper clip and all. “Not a single bite,” he said.
“I'm not surprised,” she answered. “What are we going to do with you?” she asked, to no one in particular.
“We're going to take me home?” he asked, a half-smile crossing his face.
“I don't know. Maybe…”
* * *
He loved taking car rides. He only wished the young man behind the wheel would put the top down so he could feel the full force of the sun beating down upon his face. Just as well, he burned easily. He was forced to wear a hat whenever he worked outside. His Mama used to say he had woman's skin. Mama!
He took a sharp intake of breath. He had not thought of it before but maybe they were taking him to see his Mama. Yes, it had to be! Smiling, he leaned back into the worn material of his car seat. After all this time, to have her hold him in her arms and call him her “little boy.” Good gravy, things were finally starting to look up for a change.
“Don't look at me that way,” the man in the front seat said. “It's the best thing all ways 'round. Best for him, for you, and for me…and the children…at least think of them if you don't give a damn about me.”
She started crying.
“Oh, for God's sake, Irene!”
He closed his eyes and tried to tune the two of them out; concentrating on the sound the tires made on the roadway. His father had owned a car once, a Model-T. Boy, he sure knew how to pick things.
* * *
The car door slammed shut, waking him. “We're here, Daddy.”
“Your new home.”
“Yes, Daddy…come on.”
Taking him by the arm, she led him up the red brick walkway, through a metal gate to the doorway. The driver of the car followed behind him carrying a suitcase. The house she was leading him to was big and painted off-white. This definitely was not his home; there were no blueberry bushes.
Where the hell were they taking him? There was a name hanging on the wall, but the letters were too fuzzy, he could not make them out. He squinted…now he could almost read it; it said Happy something or other. He laughed. How could words make a person happy? Like his Mama used to say, words were only so much hot air and, as it was, most of the time they did not even float.
The girl led him down a hallway into a room. It was a small and cluttered with a picture of horses on the wall. He hated horses. When he was younger, one had thrown him off its back and broken his collarbone. He was laid up in bed for three months as a direct result. Three months of his life! Damned horses! What he would not give to have those three months back.
“Hello, Mr. Gilbert, my name's Linda. I'm the social worker for Happy Acres. If you'll follow me, I'll be glad to show you around your new home.”
Thank God, she was finally taking him away from those goddamned horses. But, to where? “Mama?”
“No, Daddy, she's…oh, what the hell's the use?”
What the hell was she talking about, he wondered, as he followed the girl out of the room. She was blonde and quite pretty, but a little on the plump side. She reminded him of his first girlfriend. Now, what was her name? Rebecca. Yes, that was it; Rebecca. Rebecca was a pretty, freckle-faced farm girl and as plump as a turkey. How the hell had he managed to let her slip away? But if he had not, there would never have been his Martha. Dear, sweet Martha…why the hell had she left him? Abandoned him without a word. Some life! Why was it the people he loved the most were always going away? Rebecca led him up a hallway covered with bright, flowered wallpaper and filled with people in wheelchairs. The place smelled like a barn, only he knew it could not be. It reminded him of the farm.
His heart skipped a beat. They were getting closer now he could sense it. Not much longer now and he'd be talking to Mama. There was so much he had to say, where would he begin?
Reaching the end of the hallway, they rounded a corner. Halfway up the new corridor, she led him into another room, only this one had two beds in it; both empty. Closing his eyes, he bit his bottom lip.
“It's all right, Mr. Gilbert, you'll get used to it here. It just takes a little time to get readjusted.”
The toilet flushed. There was still a chance. The bathroom door opened and a man entered the room, his shirttail sticking out of his open fly.
“Mr. Gilbert, meet your new roommate, Mr. Sol Solinski.”
Sol nodded his head. “You Jewish,” he asked.
Shaking his head, he walked over to the window and looked out. God, he was getting tired of these hotels, all filled to the brim with untold strangers.
“Here, Sol,” Rebecca said, moving toward him. “Let me help you with that.”
* * *
The food was not so bad. It was not as good as mama’s used to be, but he could not complain. Even if he did, who was there to listen? He was worn out and could not find any help. Whenever he asked for what he needed, they just ignored him…acted like he was crazy. Well, he was not crazy, just worn out. In the end, he had to find the things he needed himself. And it was not as if he were asking for much.
His fingers did not work so well anymore but, with patience, he was finally able to tie a knot around the end of the paper clip. Testing it, he tossed it high into the air. Just missing the ceiling, it made a pretty arc before clinking to the floor. He smiled. Yes sir, it would work just fine.
Hell no, not today! Today, he was going…fishing!

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Reviewed by David Thompson 12/4/2007
This is a painful reminder of the evening I took my own father off to a nursing home. I have often wondered why it fell to me to have to do such a thing, but it had to be. The doctor said if I didn't, he was going to hurt my mother. Did he know inside that I was the one? If so, did he forgive me? Will I ever find the needed answers to such questions? You have actually set me to thinking about what was on my father's mind that evening in September of '97, if anything at all. At the time, I was certain he didn't know. How could he? After all, on the way there, he looked over at me and said, "Who are you, anyway?" "David," I said, "I'm your son." "Well, I'll swear...I didn't know that," was his reply. Those words will ring in my ears until the day I'm laid to rest.
Reviewed by Jack Lowe 10/2/2007
Mr. Simmons, you've written a sharp, sympathetic story about a vital issue we're facing today. My late grandmother struggled with Alzheimer's Disease for years before passing. You've handled the topic well.
Reviewed by Jerry Engler 8/10/2007
I see one of your characters gave you a review. Interesting twist. It would make you wonder who is nuts. The story was well-done both from the perspectives of the elderly victem and his family. You shared good understanding with informative and entertaining story telling.
Reviewed by Sol Solinski 4/11/2007
Hahahahahahaha. I spent half of my English class reading this fucking terrible story. You don't capture Alzheimers at all. All that comes across is your love of mama's food, who you then fucked Freud style
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 3/16/2003
so sad this one; alzheimer's disease is a cruel affliction, and you caught what the person with alzheimer's goes through. outstanding write! (((HUGS))) and love, a new friend in texas, karen lynn. :)
Reviewed by Helga Ross 3/16/2003
This is wonderful! You really tell a good story. A fine example for me, having only just begun.

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