he liked the end of Summer best, no Fall, maybe it was Fall, anyhow, it got cold down at the beach and he liked to walk along the water right after sundown, no people around and the water looked dirty, the water looked deathly, and the seagulls didn't want to sleep, hated to sleep, the seagulls came down, flew down wanting his eyes, his soul, what was left of his soul.
if you don't have much soul left and you know it, you still got soul.
then he'd sit down and look across the water and when you looked across the water, everything was hard to believe. say like there was a nation like China or the U.S. or someplace like Vietnam. or that he'd ever been a child, no, come to think of it, that wasn't so hard to believe; he'd had a hell of a childhood, he couldn't forget that. and the manhood: all the jobs and all the women, and then no woman, and now no job. a bum at 60. finished. nothing. he had a dollar and 20 cents in cash. a week's rent paid. the ocean....he thought back over the women. some of them had been good to him. others had simply been shrews, scratchers, a little crazy and terribly hard. rooms and beds and houses and Christmases and jobs and singing and hospitals, and dullness, dull days and nights and no meaning, no chance.
now 60 years worth: a dollar and 20 cents.
then he heard them behind him laughing. they had blankets and bottles and cans of beer, coffee and sandwiches. they laughed, they laughed. 2 young boys, 2 young girls. slim, pliable bodies. not a care. then one of them saw him.
"Hey, what's THAT?"
"Jesus, I dunno!"
he didn't move.
"is it human?"
"does it breathe? does it screw?"
they all laughed.
he lifted his wine bottle. there was something left. it was a good time for it.
"it MOVES! look, it MOVES!"
he stood up, brushed the sand from his pants.
"it has arms, legs! it has a face!"
they laughed again. he could not understand. kids were not this way. kids were not bad. what were these?
he walked up to them.
"there's no shame in old age."
one of the young boys was finishing off a beercan. he threw it to one side.
"there's a shame in wasted years, pops. you look like waste to me."
"I'm still a good man, son."
"supposin' one of these girls put some pussy on you, pops, what would you do?"
"Rod, don't TALK that way!"
a young girl with long red hair spoke. she was arranging her hair in the wind, she seemed to sway in the wind, her toes hooked into the sand.
"how about it, pops? what would you do? huh? what would you do if one of these girls laid it on you?"
he started to walk, he walked around their blanket up the sand toward the boardwalk.
"Rod, why'd you talk to that poor old man that way? sometimes I HATE you!"
he turned around and saw Rod chasing the girl. the girl screamed, then laughed. then Rod caught her and they fell in the sand, wrestling and laughing. he saw the other couple standing upright, kissing.
he made the boardwalk, sat on a bench and brushed the sand from his feet. then he put on his shoes. ten minutes later he was back in his room. he took off his shoes and stretched out on the bed. he didn't turn on the light.
there was a knock on the door.
the door opened. it was the landlady, Mrs. Conners. Mrs. Conners was 65, he couldn't see her face in the dark. he was glad he couldn't see her face in the dark.
"I made some soup. I made some nice soup. Can I bring you a bowl of soup?"
"no, I don't want any."
"oh, come on, Mr. Sneed, it's nice soup, real nice soup! let me bring you a bowl!"
"oh, all right."
he got up and sat in a chair and waited. she had left the door open and the light came in from the hall. a shot of light, a beam of it across his legs and lap. and that's where she sat the soup. a bowl of soup and a spoon.
"you're gonna like it, Mr. Sneed. I make good soup."
"thank you," he said.
he sat there looking at the soup. it was piss-yellow. it was chicken soup. without meat. he sat looking at the little bubbles of grease in the soup. for some time. then he took the spoon out and put it on the dresser. then he took the soup to the window, unhooked the screen and quietly spilled the soup onto the ground. there was a small rise of steam. then it was gone. he put the bowl back on the dresser, closed the door and got back on the bed. it was darker than ever, he liked the dark, the dark made sense.
by listening very carefully he heard the ocean. he listened to the ocean for some time. then he sighed, he sighed one large sigh and died.