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Stories

Old Man Shmoll

1 – A Failed Life

Old Man Shmoll had spent many years living alone in the aging little house. The isolation had turned a once vibrant, active and optimistic young man into an unhappy and embittered old man. After his wife had died many years ago, Shmoll had gradually sealed himself off from the outside world. He barely had any use for it now.

Peeking through the dusty living room curtains, which he always kept shut tight, the old man could not escape the pressing feeling that his life had been a failure. In recent years, as the last of his family and old acquaintances he mockingly referred to as friends passed away or simply slipped unnoticed from regular contact, he had become more and more obsessed with this idea of a failed life.

Old Man Shmoll had his daily routines of course. These kept him moving through space at least; giving him some way to pass the slow and agonizing crawl of time. Shmoll had been performing these mindless tasks for so long that he no longer knew why he’d started them in the first place. He was here, he performed his daily chores, and life continued on its gray monotonous course to oblivion.

He was in good physical shape for a man his age. Years of perpetually nervous energy drove the man to walk constantly. This kept him healthy beyond his years, a fact that he cursed daily. “If only I could get some horrible and fast-acting disease,” he would think in his darker moments of self-reflection. His daily walks made him a well-known if peculiarly unfriendly sight in the sagging neighborhood. Some of the hardier souls still attempted to make personal contact with Shmoll on his daily walks; the old man ignored them and silently cursed them for their sunny dispositions.

One time in a moment of rare hope, Old Man Shmoll bought a little dog to keep him company. It seemed a good idea at the time, and he soon became quite attached to the pup. Tragedy had its nasty way with him though, and in an unfortunate senior moment, the old man accidentally forgot to close the screen door in the back of the house. The springs on the door had long since decayed and the door had a mind of its own. The pup saw his opening and disappeared into the summer night, never to be seen again.

It was 1:00 PM. The mail would soon arrive. Old Man Shmoll took perverse delight in separating the junk mail from the legitimate mail, and then, once he had them in two neat piles, tearing each and every piece of junk mail into tiny pieces. He paced the living room impatiently. “Where the hell is that damned mailman?” he muttered, peering through the curtains between paces.

His impatience was suddenly interrupted by a ruckus from outside. He looked out through the curtains and saw a gang of teenagers noisily parading up the street. This intrusion was enough to make the old man angry. His pulse quickened and his frown deepened. “What now,” he thought, annoyed. He approached his front door and opened it a crack, just enough to see outside.

The teenagers were close to his property now, pushing and shoving playfully the way teenage boys often do, their noise level rising as they grew near. Shmoll watched them with growing rage. How dare these punks disturb his carefully planned day? And now one of these juvenile delinquents was actually on his lawn! They were pushing and shoving each other onto his GRASS! What nerve! His face reddened as his anger grew. He had been hoping that the boys would simply pass by his house, leaving him alone in his misery. But they weren’t leaving!

Gritting his yellowed teeth, Old Man Shmoll tore open his door and poked his wrinkled gray head out. “HEY YOU PUNKS, GET OFF MY LAWN!” he shouted.

2 – Punks

There were four of them. Teenaged punks the lot of them, thought Old Man Shmoll. One of the youths, apparently the ringleader, began to mouth off, shouting obscene insults at the old man, who repeated his angry call for them to leave his property. The punks laughed at him.

Shmoll felt his face getting red as his anger grew. “I’m warning you punks, GET OFF MY LAWN NOW! I’ll call the cops!” he shouted.

The ringleader whispered to his friends, then turned to the old man, smiled, and defiantly spit on his grass. The other three mimicked him and also sprayed their spittle on the lawn.

“Why you,” sputtered the old man, so enraged now that he found it unable to complete the sentence. If only he were younger, he’d teach these punks a lesson alright. But alas, he was not physically capable of taking on all four strapping boys. “God only knows what drugs they’re on anyway,” he thought.

The boys were now doing a little dance, laughing while deliberately stomping their feet on the man’s grass and repeatedly spitting and swearing. “Hey old man, fuck you!” they called out boldly, extending their middle fingers in unison. Old Man Shmoll was fast losing all sense of reason and proportion. His anger was turning to rage. He turned back into the house muttering “I’ll show these punks who’s boss, dammit.”

“Aw, don’t go away mad old man,” taunted the ringleader.

“Yeah!” chimed the followers.

Suddenly the red-faced enraged Shmoll burst out the front door swinging a baseball bat. The bat was heavy for the old man, but he had enough strength to swing it back and forth.

The follower punks backed off a few steps, worried that the crazy old man would do something REALLY crazy, but the ringleader, by now full of himself, stepped forward. “Come on old man, whatcha gonna do?” he taunted, waving the old man forward.

Old Man Shmoll ran directly toward the punk ringleader, swinging the bat back and forth with some difficulty. “YOU FUCKIN’ PUNK!!” he shouted, and in his rage found new strength to swing the bat with renewed vigor.

SLAM! The bat struck the surprised boy square in his temple, sending him sprawling into his friends. Shmoll wasn’t even thinking anymore. He was completely in thrall to his rage. As he approached the fallen, bleeding, and now screaming ringleader, the followers backed off. “Not so tough now, eh punk?” said the old man, and he stepped forward and swung the bat wildly through the air. This time, the makeshift weapon caught one of the followers on the wrist, breaking it with a sharp CRACK, causing the boy to clutch the wounded limb and fall to the ground.

“AHH HAH HAH HAH!” screamed the old man with insane glee, and he lifted the stained bat over his head once more.

One of the boys ran off down the street crying, and the other boy who hadn’t been hit by the bat tried to run but Shmoll’s bat caught him on top of his head with a sickening THUD. The boy dropped straight to the ground, the top of his skull caved in.

The ringleader was trying to stand up now, blood running from the wound on his temple down his cheek. “Ppp-pplease don’t hurt me no more man,” he begged, crying.

But Old Man Shmoll was in no state to offer mercy. He swung the bat again and caught the boy square in the back of his head. The boy crumpled in a heap, silent at last.

Shmoll lifted the bat but not one of the punks was left standing. Shmoll felt his anger leaving him just as suddenly as it had arrived. He let the bat drop and surveyed the scene.

By now, some of the neighbors had seen the incident and Shmoll could hear sirens racing toward him. “No matter,” he thought. “Fuckin punks think they can get the better of me, do they,” he fumed silently, and returned to his house.

Epilog

Old Man Shmoll got up early as always, carefully stretching his creaky old bones. He used the toilet, with some effort as usual, and sat on the edge of his bed waiting.

Soon the prison guards would arrive for the morning head count. Then would come breakfast. It was the highlight of the old man’s day.

THE END.

© 2006 Michael S. Cohen

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