His stomach growled. The old man hadn’t eaten for days. Cupboards were bare. Couple of beers left in the refrigerator. Some out of date orange juice. An empty bottle of vodka. No one came to check on him. There were no phone calls. His boy did not come home. Had been gone for days. Some kind of drinking binge. The old man couldn’t remember the last time he saw him.
He sat in the dark. Tried to sleep, but, his stomach churned loudly. Started thinking of when she was alive. Used to fix him chicken livers fried in Crisco. Mashed potatoes with home made gravy. Biscuits from a tube; she’d ask him to pop it open. The old man was hungry for old times.
There were no lights on 10. The highway was bare at that time of night. Just a few truckers trying to make it home. The old man decided he would try to walk it. Go down 10 to the all night grocery store the next town over. He carried a flashlight. He had not been out of his trailer for months. Boy always ran to the store for him. Picked up essentials; beer, pop tarts, TV dinners, things you could microwave. He wanted chicken livers. The way she used to make them. The old man would not settle for less.
Bars closed at two. Last call had been made. Boy got in a shot and an Old Style. Halfway flirted with the woman seated next to him. She showed little interest. He was trying to decide whether to drive or not. It was a long trip by foot from downtown. Too lazy and too late; he started his Maverick up. Pulled out of the parking lot slowly. Was careful of every move he made. A cop car passed him. Boy was beginning to sweat. Turned on the radio. Some Johnny Cougar song was on. He sang along.
The shoulder of Highway 10 was soft. The old man kept stumbling on the loose asphalt and sand. His legs were trembling. Hands shaking. He came to the bridge that ran over the river. The water made noises. It talked to him as he rested. Told him, this is it old man. You’re not going to make it. He gulped for air. A rain drop fell. Then another. He soon sat there in the pouring rain. Opened his thin lips and let the water fall into his soul. Trucks drove by. Splashed water up on him. He could feel his pants touching his wet skin. He called out, whew. Come on now. Don’t stop, he begged the rain. It cleansed him. Made him feel alive again. And then it stopped. The old man sat there on the concrete. Soaked. He no longer felt victorious. Sadness had come over him. Shame. Here he was. An old man walking a road at three in the morning. You should no better, he said. You should no better. Defeated, he decided to walk back home. He cried out, fuck it.
Boy pulled up in front of the trailer. Lit a cigarette and walked up to the door. It was locked. He knocked. Dad, he said. Open the door. It’s me, took another drag from his smoke. Come on now. Open this door, he banged a little louder. Lights came on next door. He went back to the car and pulled out a Mexican blanket from the back seat. It had colors of red and aqua. Blue and bright yellow. Had tassels the bottom. He wrapped himself up in it and reclined back in the driver’s seat. He mumbled as he fell asleep. Never can count on anything, he said. Never.
The sun came up a few hours later. It woke the boy up. Checked his watch. It was 5:40. Turned up the radio. News came about an old man being killed in the early morning hours on Highway 10. Ran over by a semi. His name was not released.