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Published by Anne Marcotty
An old man walks along the road--what's his story?
An old man walks along the road--what's his story?

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Published by: Anne Marcotty on Feb 13, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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by Anne Marcotty page 
I am driving to work. It’s February and a cold drizzle is alling. I pass through Durham center, pastthe tack and eed store, the Dunkin Donuts, the town green with the pre-Revolutionary War townhall, the Durham Market, the library, the pharmacy and dry cleaner, and the Mobil station. TenI’m driving through the north end o town, Route 7 on my way up to Middletown, past little vinyl-sided houses with winter-barren vegetable gardens next to old swing sets. One house has bunnies orsale; another, with a hand-painted sign or resh eggs, has a beagle barking at the trac through achain-link ence.Ten I see my guy. I see him almost every day, the same guy, walking along the same stretch o road, at the same time. I think o him as “my guy” because I am oddly comorted by his brie butregular appearance in my daily lie. I think I would notice i I hadnt seen him or a while.He’s an old man—eighty at least—and short. His ace is a dried apple, shiny and wrinkled, withan overly large nose. He wears a red and black plaid jacket, blue work pants, and a green woolen cap with ear aps, pulled down low. He walks with a rolling gait that’s neither ast nor slow. Every day,I wave to him and he waves back with a sti little salute, just as I’ve seen him wave to some o theother route regulars.Te part o my mind that is not occupied with preparing or my morning meeting, or busy considering all things with National Public Radio, has probably wondered about him, but I havenever been aware o the wondering beore. On this day, because o the rain, he has an umbrella, andon this day, when I see him, he’s not walking. He’s standing still, looking at the pair o donkeys wholive in a pen in ront o the gray house on the hill. I see this old man standing with his umbrella inthe cold winter rain, looking at the donkeys as though they were really something worth looking at. And I begin to wonder about him.His name is Mario. Tat suddenly seems very clear to me. And he’s lived in Durham all his lie. Helived there back when it was all arms. Farms and cows and a couple o stores and a church, that’s all.“Mario,” his mother would say when he was twelve, or so, “go down the market. Ask Mr.
mario.indd 14/24/06 8:49:12 PM
by Anne Marcotty page 
DiNapoli does he have a piece o prosciutto that maybe he can’t sell at the regular price. Youknow—the little end piece that don’t look so good on a ancy plate.” She would give him a dime andfve pennies and he would walk down Route , back beore it was paved and beore it was calledRoute 7. He would jingle the coins in his pocket as he walked, kicking little rocks while bluebirdsswooped back and orth across the road, going about their business o catching ies in the meadow. When he brought back the greasy paper parcel, his mother would take the tough, salty piece o endmeat and ry it up with peppers and onions rom her garden. “Remember this, Mario. It dont taketoo much meat to make a good meal.” She said this every time. When his mother died, Mario had just returned rom Europe, now a veteran o the war. Hissisters, both married, nagged at him to get his suit fxed or the uneral, “so she can be buried withthe respect she deserves,” they said. He had been away. His suit needed cleaning.On Tursday, he took his suit down to the dry cleaners. He thought maybe they could do whatever it was dry cleaners did, but aster, on account o his mother being dead and the uneralbeing the next day. He said to the young woman—a girl, really—behind the counter, “I’m sorry i this is a bother to you, but I could sure use your help. You see, my mother, she passed on just twodays ago, and I—““Ohhhh,” she said, touching his orearm. “Your poor mother may she rest in peace.“So could I have this suit, ah, cleaned beore her burial tomorrow?”“O course. I’ll make sure o it mysel. You poor thing, with your mother passing on and all. I’llmake double sure o it, you just leave it to me.”Mario looked over her head into the steamy gloom o the back room, wondering what wasmaking all the clatter and hiss. He had never been in the dry cleaner’s beore. Te kerosene smellprickled his nose, and he rubbed it. Ten he looked at the girl, seeing her or the frst time. Shesmiled at him as though she had been waiting or him to notice her; then, maybe remembering hisdead mother, her smile became a sympathetic pout. Mario decided that she looked fne either way,and he hoped she would smile at him again.
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by Anne Marcotty page 
She was not a pretty girl, not in the way he was used to thinking o as pretty. But she had clear,resh skin and bright eyes. And she was plump, the eminine shape that he preerred. He tried notto notice how her blouse was ull to bursting in the ront. He ocused instead on her hands, which were sot and round and made him wonder what they might eel like, i he were to hold them.“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he blurted, and turned to leave. When he reached the door, he stopped,embarrassed at having reerred to her as i she was his reason or returning the next day. “I’ll see thesuit tomorrow—I’ll be here. For the suit. omorrow,” he stammered. She smiled again and he ed,his ace burning.Tat was how Mario met his wie, Marie. Mario and Marie. Tey laughed about that a lot. Tat was a big joke or them, a big, happy, see-how-everything-turns-out-perectly kind o joke. At thetime o Mario’s mother’s uneral, Marie was only 6. He waited two years to marry her and almostevery day o those two years he walked down the paved road now called Route 7, to the dry cleaner, where she lived with her amily in the house above the store. He would go ater he fnished his day’s work, whatever it had been that day. He mended ences and built sheds, he dug holes and carriedboxes, cleared brush and worked a mowing machine at haying time. He could do a lot o things. He went wherever there was work and did whatever he was asked.He also kept up with his mother’s garden, but it didn’t really come back to lie until Marie cameto live with him. As a wedding present, he gave her a pair o kittens, which she named Jack and Jill,and she laughed merrily at their rantic little games. Her delight, her vivid sweetness, flled the house.He lost himsel in her, burying his ace against her back at night. Her sot curvy esh made himthink o ripe tomatoes, all ragrant and hot rom the sunny garden.Tere were no babies that frst year. It didn’t matter, there was plenty o time or that. Mariehad her garden and her kittens. And Mario had Marie. Tey were nice to each other; they said nicethings and took care with each other’s eelings. Marie made sure he had long underwear and glovesin the winter. Mario brought her some chicks in the spring so she could have resh eggs whenever she wanted. He fxed up the chicken coop and built strawberry rames or her garden.
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