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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Emotional · #2314942
An old man still has hope.
For Harry Winslow, this getting old shit was getting old. People said it was better than the alternative, but Harry wasn't so sure they were right. In fact, the older Harry got, the more sure he was they were wrong. He was making his way down the busy sidewalk with his walker going as fast as he could. People were passing him on both sides and from both directions. They looked at him and looked away and Harry saw himself as they saw him. He was an old man with a walker with no hope left, no dreams left, no joy left. Or so it appeared. But it wasn't quite true, as far as hopes were concerned, this old man still had one left.

When did this happen to him? When did he get so old? He had been young his whole life, and then one day he wasn’t anymore.

Getting old is like falling asleep, he thought. It happens slowly, then all at once. Harry liked that one! He was going to use it.

He remembered being a young man on stage, the lights, the grimy mics that hummed and that bitter fear in the back of your mind that you were about to bomb. And then you're introduced, and the applause begins, followed by laughter, followed by more applause and more laughter, and then they're on their feet and in that moment, you know, you just know you were never going to die. You were too young to think it was even possible. They loved your funny stories too much, and you had a million of them.

Harry tried to look ahead to see how much further he needed to walk. All he saw were heads and faces. He was out of breath now and wanted to sit down. The club used to be right here, didn’t it? Christ! They didn’t move it, did they? He looked to his left and there it was, Chan’s Chinese Laundry and Comedy Store. He worked his way left saying excuse me, excuse me and made it to the front door.

IHe walked inside his old haunt and found it still smelled the same.

“Jesus, Harry!” Stu said from the front counter. “I thought you were dead!”

“I thought so too, then I found out I was only living in Iowa.”

“Heard it, Harry. What do you want?”

“I want one more chance,” Harry said.

The phone rang. Stu picked it up. He listened for a long while, then said, “I don’t give a rat’s ass, Lebowitz. Be here by eight! You hear me, Lebowitz? Hello! Hello!”

“Who was that?” A man asked, stepping out from the back room. He carried a clipboard and had a pencil behind his ear. He looked like he'd just woken up or hadn't gone to bed yet.

“Lebowitz,” Stu said. “He says his son got run over by a garbage truck.”

“So, what are you saying, Stu? He isn’t going on tonight?”

“He said his son’s dead, Mr. Ross.”

“So… no? He ain’t going on tonight?”

“He seemed pretty upset.”

“Well, what do we have here?” Mr. Ross asked, turning to Harry.

Harry waited for Stu to introduce him and when he didn’t, Harry said, “Harry Winslow, Mr. Ross. I’ll be filling in for Lebowitz tonight.”

“Harry Winslow! I thought you were dead!”

“I thought so too, then I found out—"

“You were only in Iowa. Heard it.” Ross turned to Stu. “Who else we got?”

Stu was silent.

Harry said, “So this salesman knocked on the front door of this house, see, and a nine-year-old kid answers. The kid has a cigar in one hand and a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels in the other. The kid says, What the hell do you want? The salesman says, Hello son, are your folks home? The kid blows a smoke ring at the man’s face and says, I’ll give you three guesses.”

“I heard a different ending. Heard it twenty years ago!”

“No,” Harry said. He looked at Stu. “It’s, ‘I’ll give you three guesses!’ Much funnier that way.”

“Maybe you’re right,” Mr. Ross said. “What else ya got?”

“I walk out there in my walker, real slow. Dead silence. I say, ‘Getting old is like falling asleep.” Give it a three-count, and say, ’It happens slowly at first, then all at once,” Harry lifted his walker up over his head and waved it around.

Both men laughed. “I think I heard it,” Mr. Ross said.

“No,” Harry said, “You haven’t.”

“What’s with the pajamas?” Mr. Ross asked.

“It’s laundry day Harry said, and both men laughed again. “It’s part of my act,” Harry added. “How many stand-ups do you see on stage wearing pajamas and pushing a walker around? Huh? I’ll tell you how many—None!”

Both men studied him without speaking. “I don’t know…” Ross finally said. “Can you give us a tight ten to twenty?”

“I can give you a tight two hours,” Harry said. “These kids with their fake driver’s licenses, you think they ever heard my jokes. I got a million of em!”

“Be here by 7:30,” Mr. Ross said.

They all shook hands and Harry left the club. Going home, he knew he still looked like an old man with no joy and no hope, and no dreams, but he wasn’t like that. Not anymore. Not even close.

--951 Words--
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