When I’m Sixty-Four (Fiction from 2001)

I can feel the sweat pour down my body from the mid-day desert heat.  It’s a strange feeling to be sweating so much when the sky is black.  The Iraqi’s had lit the oil wells on fire and we hadn’t seen daylight for at least forty-eight hours.  The bombing could still be heard in the not so far distance as the road from Kuwait was being pummeled, preventing any escape.  The Iraqi soldiers, not much different from us, were certainly praying for life during what could be their last moments.  The smell … the smell of … coffee?  The smell of coffee?  Ah!  Coffee!

I rolled over onto my side as my sleepy mind raced back to the present.  The dream had been my trapping of the past while the smell of coffee was the gateway to freedom.  To open my eyes would be the total submission for participating in another day.  A deep breath brought the coffee back into my system and I gave in without a fight.  I opened my eyes…so far, so good.  My eyes are generally cooperative; it’s my body that puts up a fight.  Modern medicine could only do so much.  The rest was will power.

I really wasn’t in very much of a hurry, so I opted to daydream for a bit.  For some reason, I thought back to my Olympia, Washington days some twenty-five years earlier.  The aroma of the Batdorf and Bronson roasted coffee probably induced this.  There was nothing quite like it and it stood out as one of the finest products ever to come out of Olympia.  Every morning I was graced by the memory of those days.

My thoughts turned to a class I was taking at night at The Evergreen State College back then.  I couldn’t quite remember the name of the class, but in it, I was asked to write a paper about what I thought I would be doing in the future.  It was called a dream paper.  As far as I could recall, I wrote my paper about what I would be doing at age sixty-four.  I had some pretty lofty goals for myself and I had hoped to have them all achieved by that age.

I remember writing that I would be a successful author of fiction novels.  I wasn’t so popular as to have lost my ability to be private, but I did have a loyal following and the bills were paid.  I would have occasional interviews to do and the publisher required me to attend a few book signings at some of the major venues.  Overall, I had become a real writer in the aspect that it was listed as my occupation on my tax forms.  I had even watched a few of my novels become movies.  Of course, they weren’t always true to my intent, some were better, but I was still proud.

My wife and I would be living in a rehabilitated gothic style gingerbread home in the heart of Old Town Key West.   We bought it years ago when a hurricane devastated the Florida Keys, leaving ruin and plenty of good bargains.  Most of our windows were left open year-round and we had a steady population of cats, some ours, and others as boarders whenever it was excessively hot or unbearably, at least for a cat, rainy.  The steady breeze kept the home cool even on the steamiest days.  A writer could write here.

Besides the cats, we never had an end to visitors.  Even though my wife had retired as a therapist, neighbors still sought out advice as often as they could.  At least they thought it was advice.  My wife had a knack for getting these people to answer their own questions.  Sometimes they didn’t like what they told themselves, but they’d get over it.

Our day would begin with coffee and the sharing of a newspaper, the real kind made of paper.  After this, I would go off to write for the morning while my wife would enjoy one of her many hobbies.  We would meet again for a lazy lunch and spend the afternoon together doing woodwork, shopping, kayaking, or just laying around.  At least this would be our goal.  Inevitably, we would have a guest or two or more to entertain instead.  That was fine with us.  We had plenty of time.

Our children and even a grandchild or two would be completely grown and many of our days would be spent with whomever was visiting at the time.  We always had a few spare beds and an honest welcome mat to greet them.  Some of them would complain about the distance they had to travel to visit us, but it never stopped the visits.  The complaining would usually dry up by the first sunset.

We especially cherished the visits by the littlest ones.  There were few things more pleasurable than to walk Duval Street or stroll one of the beaches with our grandchildren at our proud sides or in our arms.  There was little doubt that these were the cutest children present.  The many comments we’d receive were solid proof of this fact.  Life was good and we made sure everybody knew it.

Evening meal was the only serious event in our house where all present in the house was expected to attend and be seated.  We always thanked the Lord for our blessings and ate like we meant it.  Every night was a variety, but Sunday’s dessert was always a different variation of Key Lime Pie.  A good pie was always brought back for an encore performance and sometimes even found its way into one of my novels.

After evening meal, coffee or cocoa would be poured and I would sneak off for an occasional cigar during an evening walk.  I usually reserved this for one special day a week where my writing went exceptionally well.  Cigar or not, however, we seldom missed a sunset on clear nights.  These were the nights the Lord showed us his artwork and after all these years, it still left us awestruck and feeling very small in the universe.

Then as a finish to a perfect day, my wife and I would read until we both would silently feel the time for sleep had come.  Our years together had perfected this shared feeling and we would then fall asleep in each other’s arms, knowing the world had bestowed its best upon us and thankful for it all.

This was what I wrote those many years before and I smiled at how naïve I had been when I wrote it.  I was forty then and I guess I still had illusions that I could get a classic home for cheap.  Imagine me thinking a hurricane would lower prices in the Florida Keys.  The truth was, I had paid a high price for my home.

“Dazeodrew!” my wife called from outside the bedroom.  “The kids will be here soon and if you plan on writing this morning, you’d better get up!”

I reopened my eyes and smelt the coffee again.  This time the smell was intermixed with the fresh smell of the ocean breeze from the ever-open window.  One of our many cats crawled across my chest and seemed to smile at me as if it knew what I was thinking.  I had to agree with the cat.  Life was good, especially here in Key West.

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