I’m Old Boy. 

In the assisted living, they give me the journal, for a doodling. I write camphor, cancer. Camphor, cancer. I don’t give a shit. I’m Old Boy. 

It’s Tuesday. And right off, things go bad.

Somebody swiped Rundy’s anxiety candle. 

“Who’s fucking with my aromatherapy?” He wants to know. 

I used to drink. I don’t have the mind for it. My back’s fucked. I sleep out in the banquet hall, like a plank, waiting on them lunch ladies. I flash peepers and spot Rundy beneath the salad barguzzling stuff—working up to frenzy. He monograms his onesie with ranch dressing, and banishes a spare bottle to the nebulous domain of his nethers. He’s big into spiritual growth and looking to boogie. I double-up on Depends, in case he tries to slip me the big banana.  

I got no man-panties. Nothing to hide a half-master. I seen them old gals in whale drawers, and make for jumping ship. It gives you pause. Each Tuesday. Thursday. Wednesday. You get the whole goddamn picture. I heist contraband from the staff kitchen. Heist a tomato-mayo sammie. Right beneath my gown. Wake up. With a tomato-mayo sammie stuck to my chest. 

I hang with Rundy. My roomie. This tragic melon-brain. He traps rats. And makes chess sets. With taxidermied rats. It gives you pause. He’s whiplashed. Too many U-turns underneath the sheets. I whip hell on him, for telling lies on my momma. I’d rather not go into it. We’re the best of friends. 

We burned down our lives in Homochitto, Mississippi. 

We mess around. We don’t go to “Seniors on the Move.” Melvin, this drowning goon, crapped out during water aerobics. With the floaties. And a Baby Ruth. And an empty wallet. All this for posterity. During the Ouija séancefor MelvinI make the board say, “Black Jesus,” which really gets the geezers riled and moaning. 

They drag me to Dr. Hypnos, who dims the lights and gets “professional.” Talking all slow and sad, like he’s got a line on me. Wanna talk ten years gone. Like I’m some kinda folksy mumba-chumba with my Rascal scooter and my “FAARTS” vanity plate. My ten year plan is to be dead for at least nine of them. He says, “Something’s got to change,” and right now, that something feels a lot like me.

I see now, I got off on the wrong foot here, talking out my buns. Which chafes. ‘Cause if you’re going to say anything, you might as well say the motherfucking truth: 

My line is cut. 

The cable is buried. 

Sickness got me here. 

My life is gone.

I came off a spree once, and found my son dead in his room. His big old moon cat sitting on top of him, staring at me. Staring through my shame. I think shame broke my mind.

I burned down my life in Homochitto, Mississippi. 

My boy: there was ruin in his face even I could not tell you of. 

But I have lived through things that might have killed you. And I have sharpened tooth on stone. I will wait for you behind happiness. I will take you from everything that’s gone wrong.  

Mike Itaya lives in southern Alabama, where he works in a library. His work appears or is forthcoming in decomP Magazine, Queen Mob's Teahouse, Swamp Ape Review, Heavy Feather Review, and The Lindenwood Review.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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