They tell me I am losing things. At first it started out small: a name here, a birthday there. Then the things got a bit bigger, somewhere in the neighborhood of where did I set my keys and where did I park my car. No one was too concerned. “Papa’s getting a touch forgetful,” as my granddaughter would say. At least, so they tell me.
But you. You seem to forget nothing.
You say I live in apartment A. Caught me milling about in the entryway, heard me yowling for Mrs. Herman. Mrs. Helpson. Mrs.—Hellman. You sit there laughing at me; you know the name. You think this is funny, do you? I must say, I find your smug attitude intriguing. I was a young whippersnapper like you once. Must have been. With a handsome face and a voice that would charm any of the fairer sex. That is no more.
One day you’ll be like me, Sherman. Don’t think you won’t be.
Oh dear. I’ve gone and confused your name again, haven’t I? Forgive me. They tell me I am somewhat forgetful. That’s why they moved me into this smaller place. Less to forget, Kate says.
But I can tell by the look on your face that you think this is a mistake, and I quite agree. A man needs the familiar. A man needs his own home. A man needs—a man needs…
I knew a man like you once. Do not look so surprised—or perhaps you are hungry; never could tell the difference. Yes, this man was so intelligent. A good friend of mine, was Albert Lingus. But my wife and I moved away, and eventually old Albert and I lost touch. A shame, really. He was a good man. A smart man. You would have liked him, Sheldon.
He’s probably long since dead, as soon I will be. Yes, long since dead. I think I died when my memory started to go. Can’t be sure. But I heard someone call this the long goodbye, that, day by day, moment by moment, I would slowly yet surely cease to be myself. That’s my definition of dying.
So, you sit talking with a dead man, Seamus. What say you to that?
You don’t say much, do you? At least, not to me. With your roommate you seem to never shut up, if you don’t mind me saying so. Poor Dr. What’s-His-Face. Seems like a good man, that doctor friend of yours. I wonder if he could have a look at my knee. It’s been ever so stiff in the mornings, and I can scarce get out of bed. But I suppose that is a typical dead man problem.
Do you fear death, Sheridan? No, I suppose you do not. I can tell you, in case you are afraid, that it is not too bad. Now you are the nuisance in the corner, shoved aside by everyone saying how much they’ll miss you when you’re truly gone, but ignore you whilst you remain. Remain. Like I’m a stain on the underarm of a shirt, waiting for vinegar and elbow grease to wash me away. I suppose when I am gone for keeps, people will be sad at first, but relieved mostly. “At least he isn’t suffering anymore,” they’ll say. At least. Least. I am the least.
But I am jabbering now. So good of you, really, to allow an old man into you flat, to sit at your table and tell horrendously boring stories over a cuppa tea. Very good of you, sir. And very good tea, too.
I forget where I put my tea. Must have been lost it in the great move. Maybe it was shipped off to the wrong address, and now a family of three is enjoying a nice strong cup of my own special bled.
I blend my own tea, Sheldon. Have I told you that? Ah, but I think you knew anyway. You have a way of knowing things before a person knows themselves. Like that time, glancing at my hands and knowing I had recently fired a gun. How did you know that, you clever man? Even my family didn’t know it was I at first. That poor dog was not a dog, but I’m told we’re to keep that hush-hush. You won’t tell anyone, will you? Ah, good man. You’re a good man, Sherman. It was just a flesh wound, anyway. Jeffy will recover soon.
Was out gardening—or was it getting the mail? Can’t remember. But I could swear it was that ferocious dog mauling a boy, like when I was twenty-three in the old house. I shot the dog. Shot Jeffy. It was an accident, mind. You won’t tell anyone? Thank you, Shirley. You’re a good fellow.
Did I finally get your name right? No. Well, blast. But I can see by your eyes that you are growing weary of my idle chatter. So good of you, really, to be honest with me. Honesty is a trait missing in so many men nowadays. You are honest, my children are not.
Have I told you about my children? There is Jeffy. Someone shot him in the buttocks, poor fellow, we cannot figure out who. He lied to me. Said I was too forgetful to be left alone. Then Kate—Kate’s my daughter, I think you’ve met her on the stairs—she lied and said that the house was too much for her to take care of. My wife never had any such trouble running the farm and keeping the house and raising her children. I think Kate merely did not want the responsibility. I wish she would have come out and said. So, here I am, living in flat A. Is this flat B? Very lovely, very lovely.
Oh, and I see you play the violin. And were those eyeballs in the fridge when you opened it just now? I could have sworn I saw human eyes staring back at me. They must be part of one of your experiments Kate warned me about. Yes, Kate warned me about you.
“Dad,” said she, “leave Mr. Homer alone.” Then she went on to Mrs. Hattford—oh, you know who I mean!—about how odd you are. And, judging from the eyeballs in your ice box, I can say, with confidence, that you are an odd man. Yes, perhaps even a dangerous one. In fact, did they say you shot Jeffy? Someone I know shot Jeffy, I am quite sure of it.
Don’t stare so thoughtful at me, sir. You look as though you know something I do not, vexing man. Did you shoot Jeffy? No, you don’t need to answer that.
I have people who know where I am. They’ll be back shortly. In fact, I think I hear them coming now. I think I just—I think I’ll just…
Oh, Katie! Is that you?
Must be her. Fine tea. Must dash.