He was old. There was no question about that, once you took a glance. Creases ran down the sides of his mouth to make rivulets for his tears. It embarrassed him and he wiped his face on the paper napkin while he dined alone at a small table in the bustling mega-store
It was an immense Target store in a strip mall near Venice, Florida. It looked twice the size of the Target in Davenport. It had a small restaurant, so I sat at a table, reading and nibbling crackers while my wife and daughter shopped.
The old man harrumphed as he ate his luncheon of Chinese cashew chicken and rice from a cardboard plate. He apparently was irritated at me because I was eating only munchies. He wanted company, I could tell, so he scooted over to me. He needed to talk.
“I eat two meals a day at this Target,” he said. “Good reason. Been doing it for nine years, ever since Margarete had a stroke. She’s been in the hospital that long. I’m with Margarete all the time; that’s why I get my meals here at Target because it’s so close to the hospital. She doesn’t recognize me.”
He pulled out a big white handkerchief and wiped away the tears. Unexpectedly, he leaned back in his chair and said, “Jokes keep me going. Here’s a good one.”
He asked what kind of wine they serve residents of a nursing home. “Twice a day they get a glass of elderberry wine. Get it, ELDER berry!”
A shopper resting nearby didn’t smile.
Randy Wayne White, Davenport’s most prolific writer, has come up with his 25th hardcover book, “Mangrove Lightning,” a Doc Ford novel. You’ve heard of Randy, the Central High grad who has been on the New York Times best-seller list. Critics are calling this latest novel his best.
Aside: He is in Central’s Hall of Honor — with good reason.
Don’t you just hate it …
WHEN YOU GO down to the Davenport levee and see that awful dock that used to welcome patrons to the gambling boat.
WHEN ANOTHER car sneaks into the parking place that you have been waiting for on 3rd Street in Davenport — the spot you waited for to see a show at the Adler.
WHEN PEOPLE put their bags and jackets on the seats surrounding them so no one can sit there.
WHEN YOU wake up from a dream in which you have so much money that you can take a trip around the world — and realize you're in your snug little bed at home.