The Old Man / The Old Woman
The old man was hunched over the table with three empty pint glasses in front of him, the others had already been cleared away. He was making a dopper from the ends of all the fags – some of which lay in the ashtray, others he picked out from the gaps between the wood on the table. He’s fumbling and shaking whilst bits of old tobacco fall in what little pint he has left, after some time he licks the dirty paper together in one big slow slurp and shuffles inside to bum a match of one of his friends.
“Oi! Fred, you know you can’t do that in ‘ere mate. Go on outside!” The barman hollers over to the old man in a familiar way. He points to the door.
“Yeah, yeah…” The old man mutters under his voice as he shuffles back outside, leaving a trail of smoke hanging in the air behind him. The barman wafts the smoke out with a bar towel – Not to much success.
“Psh… Bloody ‘ankers s’lot’o’em…”
The old man sits back down to his ale, still muttering to himself and puffing away on the flat grubby cigarette. He is thinking of nothing. He is sitting there just like he has sat there hundreds of times before. His mind is numb and his body sore – Not that he can feel that at this point. When the pub closes he will once again walk the half mile to his house and collapse into bed. He will once again wake up his wife, who will once again get angry and shout at him. And the old man won’t listen, once again.
The old woman walks up the street from the news agents clasping her packet of super kings in one hand, her black leather hand bag in the other. She’s the kind of woman who divides her time up between watching soaps and complaining about the weather. Right this second she is walking on the shaded side of the street and she is frowning and thinking – “God it’s so bloody hot.” Now and again she says it aloud, with emphasis on the word bloody – “God it’s so BLOODY hot.” She has spent the first part of her day doing menial tasks around the house. Her daily two o’clock trip to the newsagents signals the change over to the second part of her day.
Now she is sitting in the living room with a cup of instant coffee reading the various local newspapers. Every ten minutes or so lighting up another cigarette she has purchased with her pension money. Her mind never wonders, her eyes are stuck to the newspaper like glue. Even the daytime television on in the background at almost full volume doesn’t distract her attention. The occasional word or phrase will leave her mouth, that no one is around to hear: “Terrible”, ”Makes me sick”, “They should all be shot”… Things of that nature.
The furrow between her eyebrows deepening as she frowns her way through each day. At five o’clock the soaps start, from now until 9am this has her full attention. The paper is put in the bin, long before her husband has time to read it. The fiftieth or so cigarette is lit up along with the tenth or so cup of coffee. Her evening has begun. Her husband hasn’t come back from work again, he’s at the pub and the old woman knows this. It was a long time ago that she stopped worrying about him not coming back on time. In fact now she wouldn’t mind it if he never came back.
- “Bastard” She often thinks to herself. “He doesn’t love me… I stopped loving him when he stopped loving me.”
The old woman goes to bed early. She reminisces about her younger days, when she was beautiful, when she smiled, when she went dancing, when she was in love.
“Too late now.” She thinks.
By Oliver James Philp
Photo: Christian Bittencourt