Zest Lit Issue 2, October 2013 - Page 46

Young as You | M E Kopp

‘That’s not you’, the young boy jabs the photo. He hovers over the old man, who sits in a plastic lawn chair, and breathes hot youth down the man’s sagging neck. The boy is six or seven, or maybe even five or eight, but it really doesn’t matter to the old man; he’s never been good at telling time.

‘Sure it is, Cowboy. That’s me.’ The old man says.

‘That don’t look anything like you.’ The boy’s right, really. But the old man can’t see anyone but himself staring back in sepia. ‘You were never young as me,’ Cowboy croons.

He’s the only one hanging out at Grumps’ place. All summer, neighborhood kids come and go throughout the sweltering afternoons: they stretch out on the shady front porch, slurp on Grumps’ freezer-burned Popsicles, and dig through junk in his garage. Grumps tells tales to all the neighborhood kids, but they never begin with when I was your age. Not like the stories over-rouged old women and flabby old men told while sunning their skinny white legs outside Trinity Nursing home. Nope. When Grumps told stories about the great flood of ‘67, how the Mississippi swelled into the kitchen and he swam around to make a jelly sandwich, or about the bullet Uncle William took during a Jesse James shootout, or even about his pinky sliced clean off by a hockey stick during the Olympics trial, the kids all just assumed he’d always been old.

‘Sure I was, young as you I was,’ says the old man. He crouches forward in his lawn chair. Thin ribbons of vinyl squeak and bulge beneath him. ‘Of course I was as young as you.’ He nods solemnly