The Old Man

Bobby knocked on the door, and when there was no answer, he rummaged through his keys and unlocked it.

"Bobby," a voice called from inside.

The man was overweight, and was sitting in a recliner by the window in his shorts and an undershirt.

"You didn't answer the door?" Bobby said, walking in with a bit of a defiant strut.

"You didn't give me enough time."

Goren eyed the man carefully. He'd made no attempt to get up, of that Bobby was certain. "Did you eat?"

"No, not yet."

"Whattaya got in here?" Bobby walked to the kitchen quickly. He opened the fridge and then the cabinets, and found nothing much to make a meal out of. "Dad, don't you shop anymore?"

"I was gonna go last Saturday, but the diabetes…"

"The diabetes," Bobby said with a disgruntled tone. "You taking your meds?"

"Sure, sure."

"Binge on something you shouldn't have?"

"Oh, you can't slight me for having a couple of scoops of ice cream, now can you?"

Bobby rolled his eyes and shook his head. He rooted in the freezer and found some frozen pork chops. "All right, look I'll make you some dinner."

He spent the next 45 minutes cooking and cleaning while the man he'd always known as Dad watched a steady stream of mindless television programs.

"Look, I'm gonna bring you some groceries," Bobby said over dinner. "You're gonna end up in the hospital again if you don't start eating right."

"No, Frank'll do it."

"You saw Frank?"

"Sure, he came over on Tuesday."

"He came to see you. He ask you for money?"

"Oh, you know, he had a good tip on a horse. I spotted him a twenty."

"Yeah, I'll bet he placed a bet for you, too. How much did you give him?"

"Only a hundred."

"Dad, you can't afford a hundred dollars on a horse! You've got bills to pay!"

"Bobby, when that horse comes in…"

"When is the race?"


"You said he got the money from you on Tuesday. When's the race?"

"Oh, you know, I don't remember. I think he said Friday."

"Today's Saturday, Dad."

"No. I got it wrong, then."

"Dad. Look. Don't give Frank any more money, okay? He's just gonna blow it."

"No, he'll pay me back."

Bobby got up from the table, rinsed his plate and loaded it into the dishwasher. Then he walked off, wandering down the hall and into his father's room. He went straight to the bathroom and found the plastic pill sorter that the old man kept. It was supposed to contain all the pills for a month, in compartments for morning, noon and night. Opening it, Bobby saw there was no rhyme or reason to the assortment of pills inside.

"Dad, what happened to your pills in here? They're all out of place."

"Oh, the cat."

"The cat?"

"Knocked 'em on the floor. I had to pick 'em up in a hurry so he wouldn't eat them."

Bobby sighed heavily and carried the container and all of the prescription bottles he could find back out to the kitchen. He sorted them out on the table, counting them as he went along. "This one, did you miss a dose?"

"No, I've been taking it."

"No, there are too many. You must have forgotten some."

"Bobby, I don't need you to tell me—"

"Obviously, you do, Dad, because you missed a couple of doses. This is your blood pressure medicine. You screw that up, you could die, don't you realize that?"

"I didn't screw it up."

Bobby angrily sorted all the pills into their compartments and then showed the old man the remaining pills in the bottle. "Explain that, then."

William Goren shrugged.

"Look, Dad, I'm really concerned that you're not taking care of yourself. Did you think about the—"

"I'm not going to a home."

"All right, what about a nurse?"

"Some stranger coming in here day and night? No thank you. You don't have any idea how invasive that would be, do you?"

"I think someone like that could help."

"I'll be fine. I've got you and Frankie."

"Dad, my job… I can't guarantee I can check in all the time. Sometimes, I might go undercover."

"What the hell is that, like a fucking movie or something? Geez, Bobby, you're full of yourself."

"No, I work in narcotics, now. And guys go under all the time."

"Do me a favor and put me on your life insurance policy," the old man said with a laugh.

Bobby frowned and suppressed his anger. "Okay, look. I'll buy you some groceries. I'll be back later tonight. Answer the damn door next time. I'll have my hands full."