My Long Walk Home
A fictional short story by Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel
My hand reached for the withered door. If the wood had consciousness, it would have thought it saw its reflection.
Darkness was blown out by the breeze that flowed through my nostrils and lit up my eyes. I smiled while the world outside came into focus. It was time for my long walk home.
I paused at the curb and waited for a car to pass.
“What was that again, Fred?” were the words gargled from my rusty pipes.
I was relieved that the gentleman across the street could hear me above the engine still reverberating in the car’s wake.
“Sure was – brutal one at that,” I smiled, waved and shifted my weight to the cane assisting me on my way.
At the corner, my head was pulled to the side by curiosity. A teenage boy was hanging out of a side window, desperately clutching the long grass to pull his body free. My eyes squinted to wrap my mind around this peculiar maneuver. An instant later, my head was lured in the opposite direction to see a man enter the front door.
Shaking my head as the lad hopped away and into his pants, I shifted my weight to the cane. It assisted me another way to pretend I didn’t see a thing. But a belly laugh blew my mouth open.
Joyce was tending to her tulips. Once my memory pieced her together, I tried to flee, but it was too late. That added 20 minutes but it could have easily been 60. The whole time she kept turning up the same dirt.
I dusted off and continued on my walk home.
A young man, grinning ear-to-ear, hammed it up for a pretty lass to snap his picture. He pulled a real estate sign out of the ground and pointed to the word “sold.” As if it were my reason for being, they recruited me to take a snapshot of the two of them in front of their home. I held up my shaky hands and snapped away hoping one of the shots wasn’t too blurry.
I tried to make my break – in slow motion – before they analyzed my work. But a tender touch halted me. The woman planted a gentle and kind kiss on my cheek that made me feel like all of the spring bloomed in an instant.
Ten steps down the road I managed to swing my cane in my hand. It was a daring maneuver. One that I didn’t repeat. The smell of flowers, or maybe it was her perfume, danced in my head.
Another fella on the opposite side of the road was walking one of those “don’t mess with me” dogs. Then, my eardrums were pierced by so much yapping I could have sworn it was my late wife scolding me. The thought of her yammering away made me feel warm all over.
Several miniature dogs ran up to the invisible boundary separating the big dog from their onslaught. The big dog cowered and whimpered, wrapping his body around the man’s legs, nearly tripping him. It was shameful.
Then, with a touch of bravado, the big dog extended his leash and stopped just before the imaginary line where the other dogs clamored. With leg raised, the big dog brought silence back to that curb.
I smiled and tipped my hat to the man. He looked rather relieved.
Ah, the dandelion house came into view. I loved the dandelion house because it sang out its unabashed brilliant color for the world to see …and judge. I would never keep a lawn like that, but I was glad they did.
A small group of little girls called out – “Lemonade!”
It sounded perfect to me, so I trekked over to their makeshift stand. I noticed that the plastic tabletop, where they mixed their concoction, was filled with Kool-Aid packets and lots of colored powder that had spilled. There was no lemonade in sight. They were silent, bursting with anticipation as I raised my Dixie cup and threw back the refreshment in one big gulp as if I were downing a shot with my war buddies. I went bug-eyed. I gasped and asked if they had water. Of course, they didn’t. But they sure had a whole bunch of sugar and who knows what else to make their “lemonade” as sweet as could be – much like their precious souls.
“I think you just rotted my teeth out,” I said, setting up my joke.
Then I pulled my false teeth out of my mouth giving a gummy laugh.
Those poor little girls ran every which way, shrieking for the whole neighborhood to hear. I moved with a fleet of foot that I hadn’t known for decades.
A house and a half separated from the mayhem I caused, I slowed to catch my breath.
As I stood still, drool fell from my mouth onto my shirt. I’ve learned to accept my undesired lack of bodily control at times. Then my stomach lustfully cried out, “Where’s the barbeque?”
A moment later, I quickly ducked and almost shouted, “Incoming!”
Someone had lit off fireworks, and the series of explosions that ricocheted through the trees scared the crap out of me. Hell, it was broad daylight and at least two months before Independence Day.
I pressed onward with my journey home, my heart still racing, my mind flashing back to…
As I walked with my cane again, the hammering of roofers drew my attention upward. When I neared – it took a while – this small group of 20-somethings sat down in a row across the peak of the rooftop for a water break. I thought it was strange that they looked straight out, nobody talking at all. They looked like birds on a wire.
My eyes followed their line of sight to a house across the street. People were on an opposite low hanging roof over a front porch. I squinted and realized that that roof was shingled with bikinis so small it left little to the imagination.
Right in front of me, a teenage boy rode his bicycle straight into a mailbox. He caught the attention of roofers and bikini girls alike.
“Son, are you okay,” I asked with genuine concern.
I could tell he was hurting badly, but he shook it off as if it were nothing and acted all cool as he pushed his bike away, flipping it back on its rear wheel, holding the crumpled front end by the handlebars.
The roofers hammered away again as I turned the corner, heading for home.
At the end of my street, I was reminded it was trash day. Old lady Thompson had left hers on the curb already. Every week, her trash amounted to nothing more than a stuffed little plastic grocery bag. It made me wonder how that could be.
Although I am old as well, I have always referred to her as “old lady” because she was old the day we moved in all those years ago. But she was young at heart. Everyone loved her energy. There she was weeding her flower beds. That spunky thing popped up when she saw me coming and asked if I could start her lawnmower. Chivalry washed over me, so I even offered to mow her grass. Although there wasn’t much grass to mow, I couldn’t do it, and we both knew it.
“No-no, I really enjoy cutting the grass,” she insisted. “I just don’t have the strength to start this mower anymore.”
So I played hero one more time.
Halfway down the street, a group of young boys and girls lined up on a lawn to race from one driveway to another. I watched them do this back and forth several times as I walked by them. Then, one of the boys stumbled and skidded his knees across the concrete driveway. He stood up, paused and looked down. When he saw blood, he cried until some lady threw open a door and ran to his rescue before I could get there. She held his little sobbing face against her as she kneeled low to comfort him.
His sob muffled.
When she stood to take the boy inside, she smiled at me and said, “It’s good to see you. It’s been so long.”
Finally, I arrived at my driveway.
I paused for a car to pass.
“What was that again, Fred?”
Fred repeated himself.
“Sure was – brutal one at that,” I smiled, waved and sauntered up the hill to my porch to sit in my chair.
With the sun on my face, I closed my eyes and leaned my head back.
When I heard car doors shut and a bunch of footsteps pitter patter up the drive, I rose to greet them.
As they poured up the hill, I rose even higher.
That’s when I saw me on that porch, head back and eyes closed.
I had a smile that radiated like the sun. Much as the smile I felt as I drifted through my porch roof, higher. Not just higher but all around and through and through. I seemed to be everywhere and touching everything. And everything was touching me.
That’s when I realized that this wasn’t about me. It never was.
The harmonious connectedness of everything, as one thing, was something that that old mind on that porch could never comprehend.
But now everything made perfect sense.
It was beauty words cannot describe, and minds cannot comprehend.
I was home.
By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel