Barney lived at fifty-two.
He had been a neighbour
for thirty years or more
yet we hardly knew him.
A smile or a nod in passing
was the most we ever got.
Out of the blue he sent a card
with a door key inside and a note;
“I’ve got to go away –
There’s lots of food at home
I shan’t be needing it now.
Help yourself before it goes off.
It’s been nice knowing you.
Say thanks to Doreen.
All the best.
p.s Keep an eye out for my cat. ”
“Baldy from fifty-two’s sent us a card
And what’s all this about
‘Thanks to Doreen’?”
Doreen took a sip of tea,
“It’s not Baldy it’s Barney.
He told me yesterday.
We went shopping.
He asked if I did not mind
He needed a ‘woman’s eye’.
Between you and me
I think he’s got a fancy piece.
He bought a blue suit,
Wanted a Hawaiian shirt
To wear with it
I told him it looked daft
for a man of his age
He sulked then settled for
a white cotton drip dry.
He acted strange in the food hall
shifting tomatoes from ‘vegetables’ to ‘fruit’.
They told him to put them back in their ‘proper place’.
He just said, “That’s what I have done.”
He filled the trolley with all kinds of daft stuff
catering size baked beans, family packs of cornflakes
and a carton of luxury salmon for the cat.
There was too much to carry, we came home in a taxi.
Between you and me he’s losing his way.”
“He sounds crazy. You should have told me…”
“I tried to last night but you didn’t listen
you were shouting answers at some dumb quiz. 
Then you asked for a cuppa.
So I saved my breath.”
At number fifty-two the bags
stood just inside the door.
Barney, in his new blue suit,
trousers hitched at the knee,
crisp white shirt,
Merchant Navy tie,
sat in a leather armchair,
not moving, not breathing.
His diary open:
“I lived the dream today,
went shopping with a woman
as if we were partners.
She was only a neighbour
but it felt good anyway –
just like having a family.
I bought a “Suit you, Sir” suit
and irritated her
by saying I thought a
Hawaiian shirt with hula dancers
would go well with it.
We squabbled like real couples do,
had coffee in the cafe
and fun with tomatoes.
Bad news from the hospital, 
but not unexpected.
It’s curtains for me,
I’m quitting while I’m ahead.
I will not live imprisoned
In a stagnant mind.”
On a side table:
An emptied bottle of Zopiclone,
a half-full bottle of Bushmills.
At his feet, a letter:
“We regret to inform you…
Vascular dementia…”
No trace of the cat.


© coolhermit 2023
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Hi Coolhermit,
what a wonderful description of the final hours of a desperate old person fearing to vegetate in some so called caring situation.His way out is not an easy decision to make, but at least he did it in the way he wanted it to be..I fully understand his feelings, which are so eloquently described in your story.Well done,and thank you for sharing.Be lucky, Peter (aka Pommer)


Wonderful funny surprising stuff. So bloody readable! Cheers Albert 🙂

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