I would be most grateful for feedback on this very short story that I have struggled with on and off for about two months. I think it finished now but am totally open to suggestions. I am hoping the point of it is clear or that some reflection on elder life is teased out of readers. It's a true story.
His middle-aged son brought the dogs for a visit every Wednesday afternoon, Scotch Terriers who looked just like the picture on the old Black and White Scotch whisky bottles. I’d be drawn to my second floor window by their ecstatic yips.
The old man would be at his open window on the ground floor, leaning out, waiting, calling them by name, Maud, Billy, over and over, his quavering voice filled with longing, his magnificent head of white hair streaked with traces of a youthful auburn. His son would hold each dog up in turn for him to pet with his crippled arthritic hands.
Someone told me they were like children to him after his wife died. He held on to the marital home until he was no longer able and his son then moved him into our no pets allowed independent senior living building five years ago. Word had it he signed over his house to his son with the understanding that he took care of the dogs and brought them to visit.
Last month he graduated from our building into one with a higher level of care. A couple of small trucks and a station wagon showed up with the whining dogs peering out the open window. Ten minutes later his son emerged from the building carrying a large suitcase. Next came the old man, tottering along on his walker, his extraordinary hair like an orange-streaked cloud at sunset. He was stooped over, reluctance in each uncertain footfall, losing more and more ground as he fell further behind his son.
But catching sight of the dogs he straightened with some effort and his eyes lit up, Maud, Billy! and they bounced out of the open car door to greet him, trying desperately to climb the walker to get at his face. His son folded the walker into the trunk as his father clung to the car door, looking up at my window. I saw tears lodging in all the folds of his face and I nodded, absorbing a little of his pain and fear.
As his son helped him into the back seat the dogs fell onto his lap in spasms of joy, his words were blurred and hoarse under the excitement of their yelping.
The station wagon moved away and was quickly out of sight. No one stands around outside to say goodbye to anyone leaving here. It’s like it’s contagious and no one’s been vaccinated.
The trucks immediately disgorged their drivers and the two men vanished into the building. Shortly afterwards, the windows to the apartment were thrown open and the accouterments of his left-behind-life were tossed onto the lawn.
Where are you taking all his stuff? asked Bertha, who patrols the grounds of our building like a border guard, all ninety years and ninety pounds of her. The men looked at each other then at her.
To the dump, lady, to the dump, one of them said impatiently. They loaded the two trucks with boxes of dishes, cheap shelving, metal tray tables, a saggy couch, an over-used easy chair, pantry items, an old mattress, a melamine headboard, sad linens, a wonky kitchen table with rusty kitchen chairs, photos in frames of weddings and children and soldiers, many albums, scrapbooks, magazines, an old console television and a stereo turntable, rickety bookcases, books, a giant bag of dog biscuits.
It took a week to air the place out for I heard the old fellow smoked like a chimney.
Professionals then came to dismantle and eject all the cabinetry and fixtures and cart it all away, some of it falling apart, missing knobs and drawer fronts.
A few days after that a pair of plumbers came. I could hear the hammering and the sound of things being torn apart, next I heard a clinking and clanging an hour or two later and looked down below and caught a glimpse of copper and for a few seconds thought it was the old man’s head protruding from the window.
But no,various lengths of copper piping were being passed slowly and carefully through the apartment window from one worker to the other.
They were then wrapped like treasure in flannel sheets before being reverently placed inside a van, to be auctioned off, no doubt, to the highest bidder.