Old What’s-His-Name

For decades it seemed that time had no purchase on the old man, save for the barely noticeable graying of hair and beard.  He worked the bar of the White Horse six days a week, knowing each patron by face and preference, yet  universally cold and rude to all.

To the men of the town, he was a fixture like the city gate or the statue of Lord Nelson. He was familiar to them, but engendered no fondness. The old man was tolerated but not liked.

During a rare December ice storm, he had taken a bad fall, breaking his left leg under him. Bound to a hospital bed, the vitality drained from him like water through a sieve. A week was like a year as he lay there, his hair turning white then vanishing altogether, his skin like bruised fruit.

Yet he would not die, the tenacity of life long outlasting any reason for it. Years and years of wasting until the day he finally died, emaciated and almost unrecognizable.

The wake at the White Horse was remarkably well-attended, but within a year the old man was forgotten. There was not even a photograph to remember him by.


Sunday Photo Fiction



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  1. James

    Well that was terrible. I was hoping for redemption of some sort.

    True story. Many decades ago, I went to a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. It was hard to find and you had to enter the place through the kitchen off an alley.

    Going upstairs, there were tables to eat at and the rudest waiter in the world. It was all for show, of course. He’s call you names and throw your menu at you from across the room. I have no memory of whether or not the food was good, but I can still see my menu flying through the air at me.

    • J Hardy Carroll

      Ha. I knew a guy like that in Portland, a barman named George who was a fixture at Hung Far Low in Chinatown. Totally rude, but knew what I was drinking the second time I came in.

  2. Joy Pixley

    Such a melancholy and true portrayal – life lived beyond reason, since he cares for nobody and nobody cares for him, but stubbornly refusing to end. What kind of life that must have been for him, so unhappy and making everyone else unhappy too. I appreciate how you ended it. It sounds like he wasn’t even worth telling awful stories about once he was gone.

    Also: great description on the vitality draining like a sieve, and the skin like bruised fruit, it adds to the sadness.

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